Woman feeding her kids

I’m telling you my darling, the best thing you can do for yourself is to be emotionally and financially independent and build a life that you can be proud of. I had it all at one time my darling.

I enjoyed the perks of being married to a wealthy man. I enjoyed the security and luxury it offered. I was happy knowing that my needs were taken care of, unlike when I was younger and I had to fend for myself because my mother was a housewife by my father’s insistence, and my father would sometimes trade his salary for alcohol, leaving us with no money for food.

I lived in a huge, 5-star mansion; my wardrobe was filled with designer clothes, the garages had a fleet of expensive cars, and off-course and we were part of the elite class, a celebrated and highly-esteemed couple in the city’s business and social world.

I never imagined that my life would turn out that way as a 20-year-old clerk working at the Post Office. I hated my job, especially my boss who was a misogynist at heart. I kept working so that I could support my mother and myself as my father was unreliable. However, I longed for a man who would love me unconditionally and take care of me. I longed deeply for the kind of love.

After I got married, my husband’s success in the business was booming, so he made the decision that I quit my job to mind the home while he worked for us. I didn’t think twice about it. I didn’t want to work anyway, but because my husband loved me so much and went out of his way for me, I was happy to make the necessary sacrifices for him.

As time went on, I became disillusioned with the life I had chosen. I thought that being married was all that I needed to make me happy, but I would still feel lonely and unfulfilled. I frequently dismissed these feelings because they made feel guilty, as though I was being ungrateful for all I had.

Having my children made me feel alive again like I was living for something meaningful. As a mother, your baby depends on you for all their needs, they love you unconditionally, and they need and want your support and company. That is what I loved the most.

I worried a lot more about my future, even though I had no reason to. I realized that I had nothing to fall back on in case my husband became incapacitated and couldn’t work. I had no formal qualifications; I hadn’t used a computer in so I was completely unemployable, and honestly, I didn’t know how to make money. All I knew was how to entertain the wealthy fellow housewives and how to be the perfect wife and mother.

My husband and children were my life.

So when my husband spent many hours away from home and became hot-tempered and secretive about our finances, I started worrying even more. He was always drunk, and starting becoming verbally abusive to the children. Not that he was ever the stellar type father to them through the years anyway; he was more like their meal ticket, keeping them clothed and fed while giving all of his affection to his work. I was too afraid to say something then because I didn’t want to ruin the life we had, especially because of my absolute dependence on him. And with his change in character, I didn’t want to probe it further for fear of what I’d find out.

One day, while I was re-organizing our cupboards, I found bank and business letters and MVG cards from a number of casinos. I opened all of the letters and found out that he had withdrawn thousands of shillings from our investment accounts, including our savings for retirement. He had placed his business assets and some of our possessions as surety for his gambling ventures.

I couldn’t believe it. I was angry and afraid. I didn’t know that my husband had a gambling problem. I always knew that he had an insatiable love for money, but he worked hard for it.

I felt angry and betrayed because I had given up my life for this man, only to have him piss everything all at casinos. And I was fearful of what would happen to me and the children. We would be destitute if he were to lose anything in a bad gamble.

My fears were realized when that bad gamble became a reality, and indeed, everything was lost. There was not a single cent left in our bank and investment accounts, and our home was eventually repossessed to cover his debt. I thought we owned the house after 10 years of living in it, but it turns out that he faulted on payments.

He couldn’t deal with the problems that he caused, so after a couple of months, he plunged a bullet through his skull, leaving me alone to live with the mess that he created.

I tried to turn to friends for help, but off-course, none of those relationships were real. We were just a bunch of ‘high society’ women who secretly hated each other but needed each other to forget our domestic problems. So they all turned their backs on me. And to make matters worse, I couldn’t find a job. 

I have no family to turn to. My parents died years ago. I should’ve place importance on my education. I should’ve been economically emancipated. I didn’t realize that my relationship with my parents, particularly my father, affected me so much. I did everything I could to be loved, but I failed.

Now I’m living destitute, having to stand at traffic lights with a cardboard sign that reads ‘no food, no job, please help. God bless’. Do you have any idea how that saps every ounce of dignity I have left? To be looked at like filth, to be judged by people who sometimes say to me ‘you’re a pretty woman who should live a privileged life. Why are you poor? You couldn’t use your privilege wisely?

This is my reality now, and I’ve got to survive. In the midst of the indignity, as well as the real dangers of being a woman on the street, I’ve got to keep my head up and control my present to try and salvage my kids' future.

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