Running a home: Three men share their story

Nehemiah Matembe, 70, a retired civil servant. He is the husband

to Miria Matembe, a former minister for ethics and integrity.

Briefly take us back to your early days when you and Miria had just started a family?

We got married about 40 years ago and were blessed with four boys. Our eldest son is approaching his 40s’, and the last will be making 30 years soon. I was a “hands” on kind of father. I did whatever I could to help my wife to raise our sons. I remember the kitchen was my laboratory where I often dashed to mix for them milk when they were babies. We used to share household chores.

How was it like the raising boys?

It was not that difficult. It was like raising any other child despite the fact that they were all boys we taught them certain aspects of life right from a tender age including how to do housework. I remember pining up a duty rota bearing work each one was supposed to do from time to time. For instance, if one was supposed to clean the house that day, they had to without fail. As time went on, they learnt how to do work with minimum supervision. From time to time, they keep telling Miria and I that they are grateful for this previous training we gave them because it has helped them run their own. My sons are married now.

Who paid the bills right from the start?

It was my duty and responsibility to pay the bills. I was however lucky that the company I worked for at the time, Uganda Breweries Ltd, had certain benefits for the staff. Therefore, utilities such as water, medical bills and electricity were catered for by the company.

What was Mrs Matembe job occupation at the time the boys were growing up?

She was working as a lecturer at the Uganda College of Commerce. Since she was just starting out in her career, I decided to take care of the other expenses including the school fees of the children.

For how long were your solely contributing to the home?

Until the time she started aancing in her career. Once her income started growing, contributing in the home became a joint effort.

Since she was also working, wouldn’t she help with some expenses?

What I would say is that she was partly running the home. Just like myself, she was looking out for everyone’s welfare.

Are their particular responsibilities that you leave for Mrs Matembe?

Yes, 90 per cent of the cooking and supervision of the kitchen work is all for her. On the other hand, I handle maintenance of the house including the plumbing and repairing of doors.

Do you consider yourself as the traditional kind of man?

I am not really an old-style kind of man. For instance, if I wanted a cup of tea, I will not wait for my wife to make it for me, I will prepare it myself.

What family values do you hold?

The Matembe family values are based on integrity and loyalty. We normally aise our boys to look beyond themselves and focus on these values.

Swaib Semiyaga, 31, assistant lecturer,

department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Makerere University

How much do you take care in the family?

As the man of the home and head of the family, I know that my responsibility is to take care of most things in the home and this includes providing the basic necessities including food. It is something that I learnt as I was growing up. Girls took care of their obligations such as cooking and washing clothes while the boys used to do manual work such as fetching water. We knew that a boy could not go to the kitchen to cook food when the girls were there. As boys, we knew that our role was to fend for the family.

Does that include paying utility bills?

Yes, I do that as well. I pay the water, rent and electricity bills.

What is your wife’s responsibility in the home then?

She takes care of our children and the home. Since they are still very young, we decided that she stays home to take care of them until when they reach a certain progressive stage. Before the children came into the picture, she was worked as a teacher.

Does the responsibility of solely looking after the home at times take a toll on you?

Not really because my salary is able to sustain every need in the house. Besides, my partner is very understanding. If I am not able to fulfil a certain obligation, she will not put me under pressure. Instead, she will be very sympathetic towards me.

What is the toughest thing about being a man?

Providing for a family is not a simple thing. As a man, there are so many things that you are responsible for in a home including utility bills such as electricity and water and not forgetting the medical bills. Also, balancing responsibilities is not an easy. One may for instance concentrate on work and the family is deprived of the man’s attention and love.

So, how have you managed to create a balance between your family and work?

Whenever I am home, I endeavour to give my wife and children all my attention and when I am at work, I focus on doing it. Otherwise, the other thing I have learnt to do from time to time is understand my kind of work.

I always endeavour to explain to her what I am up to. In the long run, she is often sympathetic instead of critical towards me.

What values are you instigating in your children?

I run my home in a somewhat traditional way because I want them to understand the background they are coming from. I am teaching them how to greet and receive visitors and how to be apologetic, appreciative and prayerful.

Dr. Alex Kakoraki, 47, a general practitioner at Murchison Bay Hospital in Luzira

How do you split the responsibilities with your spouse?

We are fortunate to be staying in a government house and it is also responsible for taking care of service bills such as water, health and electricity. However, things such as food and school fees are a joint spousal effort but it is predominantly me.

You mentioned earlier on that taking care of the home bills is a joint spousal effort? How do you feel about that?

I love it. It makes running the home a lot easier because both of us are sharing responsibilities. At least I am able to know how she is spending part of her salary. This is unlike other wives who work and their husbands totally have no clue as to how their wives are spending their money. So, once again, I applaud my wife for making a contribution to our home.

Besides making contributions in a home, what other things are expected from a wife?

The most important thing I want to point out is that wives ought to be submissive to her husbands. It does not matter whether you hold a high office job as that of Jennifer Musisi or Allen Kagina. Don’t take your authoritarian attitude back to the house and try inflicting it on your husband. Your marriage will fail. Instead, when you are home, know that your husband is the boss. Listen and be obedient to him. Know that he is the one wearing the trousers and not you.

From the previous years you have had raising a family, what would you regard as the hardest thing of being a man?

That for me would be balancing work and family related issues. You will find that there are so many assignments on your desk whose deadlines you’re supposed to beat in time but again, your wife and children are in need of your attention back home. So, as the man of the home, you are supposed to find a way of balancing all this and I must admit, sometimes we succeed and at times fail.

Briefly, tell us in which manner were you raised by your parents?

When I was growing up my parents made sure that each one of us in the home was well versed with all sorts of chores. This included digging, cooking and washing. My father in particular was a no-nonsense man who did not care whether one was either a boy or girl. All they were interested in seeing was one doing housework well. This is something I am incorporating into my children. I am teaching them how to survive in all conditions.

What would you say is the biggest mistake that most parents are making today?

I would say it is leaving their children at the mercy of maids and teachers. I have personally come across parents who send money to teachers to buy for their children edibles just because they are slaves to work.

These are children you will find are turning out rowdy and undisciplined. Parents who are more involved with their children bring them up better. Despite of busy schedules, my aice to parents is that they should always get time for their kids.

Are men not fulfilling their family obligations?

Annette Kirabira, a counselling psychologist and founder of Rahab, an organisation says:

“Men’s roles have evolved over the years. In the past, men went out and brought food home as the women stayed back to look after the home and children. Things have changed now. Some men are falling short of their responsibilities. Some think that just because they leave money home, the women should handle everything else and yet it should not be the case. The grooming from fathers is somewhat lacking in homes and the reasons are several. Some simply do not know what to do, in other words, how to parent while others are working hard to make ends meet, therefore hardly having time for their families. On top of that, today’s media is influencing many things including how parents ought to run their homes and then there is this aspect of the career woman where by some men will leave their wives to take care of some of the home things just because they are working.”