MAINA: Fatherhood is more than just paying bills

Tuesday January 8 2019

I realise that it was not as if my father did not want to spend time with each of his four children. He simply did not know how to do that.

I realise that it was not as if my father did not want to spend time with each of his four children. He simply did not know how to do that. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH 

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My friend tagged me along over the weekend for an alumni activity at his former primary school.

We arrived a little past 10am carrying goodies to gift the pupils who had performed well in the previous year.

As I sat at the front with the alumni team, my eyes rested on the parents who sat on one side of the hall. Something gnawed at my conscious but I couldn't quite figure it out.

One of the speakers mentioned it in his speech; "...this habit has to stop. School activities are not a women and children affair. Fathers need to show up and be present for their children. Apart from this gentleman, the rest of the parents here are mothers. It's not right."

There it was!

I have been preconditioned to expect moms only at such events and maybe that is why it took me a bit longer to notice the glaring absence of dads among the parents present.

You see, this scenario was not different from when I was growing up.


Although my father ensured that our school fees was paid well in advance, I can count on one hand the number of times he showed up for a school event.

As an ardent pupil, most prize giving days found me bagging a few of those coveted gifts and a photographer was always on standby to capture these precious moments.

I kept these photos in my photo album—a present from my father--but he is nowhere in those pictures.

My mother came for visiting days, academic days and even attended the few disciplinary cases we had amongst my three siblings and I.

The only one of us who was lucky enough to see my dad at school meetings was my brother whose high school was located deep in the heart of Murang'a County.

This was miles away from home and too much a hustle for my mother to attend.

But even then, my brother did not get alone time with dad because I always tagged along for these visits. At the end of the visit my father would say something like, "Work hard, you know education is all the help you will get from me, right? Have a good time."


My father loves us deeply and we have no doubt about that. If there ever was a father of the year award, he could easily bag it.

That said, his level of involvement in our individual lives especially when we were growing up was wanting I have merely a handful of memories when my father and I had a deep conversation--just the two of us-- on anything. Nearly every recollection I have of time spent with him was always in the company of others—his friends, my siblings, his employees.

When I got to my teens, I became more assertive in curving out some alone time with my father. I took the initiative to swing by his workplace after school or during the weekends.

Once there, I would “develop” a crave for fries or tea.

My father was the good cop, he hardly denied us anything so we would wind up in the local cafes, just the two of us.

At the café, dad and I would talk hours; I would eat too much before heading back home with a wide smile.

Looking back, I realise that it was not as if my father did not want to spend time with each of his four children.

He simply did not know how to do that.


He was already struggling to ensure we had enough time, but as an entrepreneur his hours were impossible.

His day started at 4am and he often got home way past 10pm. He couldn't afford to take leave days or weekends off.

Every day was a working day.

That explains why he missed our school meetings, but it also explains why we were never sent home on account of unpaid school fees.

On the other hand, I managed to get a few hours with him all to myself, middays and late afternoons when he wasn't so busy. Which means that he had time to spare in the course of the day, right?

But how many dads will look at a free hour in their day as an opportunity to hang out with one of their children? Not many really, and my father was no different.

I am lucky to have grabbed a few of those hours with him because the things we talked about over fries and too much ketchup are what make me the woman I am today.


A colleague was telling me about this father of three who gets visibly relieved whenever arrives home and finds the children asleep. Never mind that these are the same children whom he tirelessly toils for from dawn.

My friend, a father of adorable twins, confessed that his children make him nervous. "They are so little and clueless about a lot of things, what can we talk about?"

Dads, it is wonderful that you are doing your best to ensure that the children have everything they need and trust me, they will always remain indebted to you. The sacrifices you make are no small feat.

Still, children need to spend quality time with their fathers—individually. My friend has a point; children are clueless about a lot of things so let them learn these from you.

The upkeep you strive so hard to provide has a time cap and if you fail to bond with each of your children today, what remains when they no longer need your assistance for food, clothing and accommodation?

It may feel intimidating especially if you have not already established a close relationship with your children over the past years, but do it anyway. Surely, it won't be the first scary thing you have encountered. Remember when she went into the maternity ward to have that baby? And let’s not even get into the wild escapades from when you were young, naive and hot blooded.

A lunch date with your child--just the two of you? A parent-teacher conference? A drive with your teen? An evening poker game with your son? In 2019, go for it, you got this!