With mothers inserting razor blades in their step children’s private parts and others scalding them severely, one stepmother disproves the belief that all stepmothers are from hell, saying she found little difficulty being a good stepmother to her children.
I do not know of a woman that sits back and says, “Oh how lovely it would be to be a stepmother.” Most women’s wishes start and stop at being good mothers to their own children and not to children fathered by their partners with other women. The closest many women get to accepting to raise a child that is not their own is when it is a relative’s child or an adopted one.
Yet still, it is true every woman is hurt by the knowledge of a step child but the depth of this pain differs from woman to woman depending on her age, childhood background and culture.
For Annet Nakibuka ,48, a food supplier in Katwe, taking care of her sisters’ children prepared her for her destiny of raising three step children.
Nakibuka met her current husband in 1997 when she already had two children. “We worked in the same area in Katwe. He had previously informed me that he had three sons and I was okay with it,” she says with a straight face.
At this point in time however, she did not know a time would come when she had to care for her stepchildren since by the time she began living with him, the children lived in Fort Portal with their mother.
With her consent, Nakibuka’s husband brought his three sons to live with them. “I had no problem with this,” she calmly narrates. Another explanation as to why Nakibuka considered raising her three stepsons with no fuss is the fact that her mother was the third wife to her elderly father.
Although uncertain, Nakibuka is convinced, their mother or father must have prepared her stepchildren for her entry into their lives. “When they were coming, they must have been told they were coming to their father’s home and that there would be another mother,” she says.
“When the child comes, you first study their behaviour,” shares Nakibuka.
Like one’s children, stepchildren also have differing personalities ranging from being friendly and welcoming to being frightened, reserved and rebellious.
Once she started living with her three stepsons, a cordial relationship ensued with her co-wife, their biological mother. “To date, their mother visits me. When she visits, she carries along matooke and a hen for me because she knows I am taking care of the children,” she recalls with a bout of laughter.
There was barely any trouble between her biological and stepchildren given that her children were at school and barely at home. When it came to punishment, she says she punished her children more than she punished her stepchildren. “This way, I ensured they all understood that a wrong was a wrong regardless of who had done it,” she explains.
Nakibuka only had one child with her husband, but he went on to have other children with other women. Lowering her glance every once in a while, the 48-year-old says, “Most women find problems with their co-wives, habouring hatred and harmful thoughts for them.
My husband would and still informs me when he gets other children and I am not frustrated about it because once the stepchild is born, there is nothing I can do about it.”
In her opinion, Nakibuka is convinced the stepmother is the source of most problems that ensue in the stepmother – stepchild relationships.
She, however, confesses, “I have had a rebellious step son. When he was in Primary Seven vacation, my oldest step son spent all his time watching television and he did not listen when I told him not to. I gave him a beating then waited for him to report me to their father. He did not.”
Nakibuka also had a difficult time when she wanted her three step sons to learn the welding trade like their father but neither they nor her husband saw any good in this. But she stuck by her guns and after a long time, they learnt how to weld.
Today, two of her step sons earn a living from welding, one in Fort Portal and the other in Katwe. “My third step son just completed Senior Four,” she says, the delight evident in her voice.
Although it seems like Nakibuka had it the easy way, she points to ignoring her co-wives as the source of her peace.
A stepmother’s story
For Racheal Grace Ajok, step motherhood is a rocky past she never wants to revisit. Ajok recounts,
“There are certain things I do not like sharing with people and that includes my personal family affairs but I thought I could share this experience as a wakeup call to other women. I have been through so much for the past five years and I would not want any woman to go through what I have been through.
I got married to Ken when I was 36.
He was 51. I chose to settle down quite late because I had gone through a number of relationships that never flourished into marriage. I decided to focus more on taking good care of myself and developing my career.
I did so until 2010 when I met Ken at a one week business workshop in Kampala. He always greeted me when he saw me or sat at the same table for lunch, he would tell me bits about his family. Ken told me his wife had died in 2008 and that he was now looking after his 23 and 16-year-old daughters.
That was all he revealed about his family. At the end of the workshop, we exchanged contacts and about three months later, he called, asking me out on a date, which I turned down. His persistence is what made me give in, eventually.
He took me to one of the fancy eateries in town and at the end of the date, asked me if I was interested in becoming his wife. I hesitated. I remember him looking me straight in the eye and promising to love and take good care of me. This softened me.
We had the introduction ceremony and wedding concurrently a month after I accepted his proposal. The hell started after our wedding day when I moved to his house in Mukono.
His daughters who were once kind, sweet and gentle towards me suddenly became so cold. They never greeted me in the mornings or when I returned home from work.
Their father had a couple of times introduced them to me before the introduction and wedding and they had seemed fine. Once I moved in though, they became hostile. Sometimes, they intentionally refused to eat the food I prepared and when I called them, they would at times pretend not to hear.
I will never forget a time I came back from work, hooted the car many times and the older girl who was home deliberately refused to open the gate for me for about one hour. Eventually, when she opened, she adamantly stated not to have heard the car hooting.
I forgave all those occurrences but there is one I have refused to forgive and forget.
It is when I overheard them telling their friends that I was just some desperate prostitute who had married their father for his wealth. This was while at a brother-in-law’s wedding. I remember crying myself to sleep that night even though my husband said he would deal with them.
This is the same promise he continuously repeats when I complain about the girls but he does nothing. He just talks and lets them be. I cannot scold them because they are big girls. I am just hanging in there because I am hoping the situation will change. And also because their father loves and adores me very much. It is because of him that I still tolerate them.”
A stepchild’s tale
She convinced dad to throw me out
A 20-year-old high school boy from Kampala, narrates
“My mother died when I was 15 years old. When I was 16 years old, my father remarried a woman named Stella.
Right from the very first day she came to live with us, she showed a total dislike towards me and my younger sister who was 10 at the time. I still remember that day how she looked at us like some sort of rubbish. She had hateful eyes.
During the weeks that followed, she made us do housework like slaves. We mopped the house, washed the dishes and clothes including hers, cooked food while she did nothing. Her only work was to sleep, eat and shout at us.
The climax of her wickedness was the time she told my father that I had tried to poison her. This was after she had suffered a stomach upset. As much as I tried to explain to him that she was telling lies, he never believed me. He took her word against mine and threw me out of the house.
I went to stay with my aunt, his older sister, who is now taking care of me. He sends money for my school fees and upkeep to my aunt who is very nice to me. My sister still stays with him because he refused to give her up. I am really worried about her and I hope someday she leaves that house. “
As told to Esther Oluka.
• It is not aisable for the husband to keep inquiring from the step children on whether they ate or how they are treated. Even when the child reports being punished, it is important to inquire why the child was punished. The father should also take some time to study the child’s behaviour.
• All children whether your own or another woman’s usually get offended when you aise or restrict them on something but with time, they analyse it and realise the aice was for their own good.
• When it comes to stepchildren, do not think of their mother. Consider her nonexistent for whenever you put your concentration on her, the pain and hurt of your husband’s unfaithfulness is refreshed and you take it out on the children.
• Avoid emphasising it to your children that those are their half siblings. This is only likely to bring hatred and dislike among the children. Treat your children the same way you treat their half siblings since they are all children.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor