Irene Tapteger Choge, 29, is a journalist with NTV. She is mom to 6 year old Cheryl. In this interview with Mummy Tales, Irene talks about how she manages to balance her busy schedule as a news reporter, and motherhood.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
When I am able to give a voice to the voiceless through my stories. This is what drives me.
What is the most memorable story you’ve ever done?
The story that won me the FGM award and it was titled: ‘Dissent Over the Cut’.
I was able to tell the story of a beautiful little girl, the age of my daughter who is caught in the midst of a clash between modernity and tradition. Part of her family wants her to undergo the long-held traditional and cultural practice of FGM, while her father is strongly opposed to it. Telling her story through the experiences of other female characters was amazing. The story won me a media award last year.
Journalism includes working lengthy hours –early mornings to late nights especially when there is a breaking story. Sometimes it requires you to travel for weeks on end. Is it possible to have a successful career in journalism and still be a good mum?
Whatever your career field you are in, there is no option of being a good or bad mum. You must be a good mum, and at the same time you can still have a thriving career. Personally, I have learnt the art of M-mothering.
When I am away from my daughter, I set aside 15 minutes each evening to talk to Cheryl –just before she sleeps. I find out how her day was, find out if she has completed her homework, if she has eaten her supper and generally update each other on the day’s activities. We then, together with the housegirl take turns reading the bible and praying. We then say our goodnights. All this happens over the phone.
On days that I am around, and because I arrive home when Cheryl has already slept (her bedtime is 8pm), I call her on phone just before she sleeps and enquire about her homework and her day, and how she’s fairing generally. Even though this is the time I’m usually preparing for the 9pm bulletin, I still have to find time to talk to her and wish her a good night.
The most important thing that I remind myself is that I was a mother before I became a journalist. My bond with my daughter had already been established. And even after journalism, I’ll still be a mom. The only thing constant in my life is me and my daughter -and our relationship.
What is the longest time you’ve ever been away from your daughter?
The time I was away for two weeks, when she was five years old. During this time, I learnt the value of having good neighbors. This is because a toothpick pierced my daughter’s finger and ingrained itself deep inside. My housegirl sought the help of neighbors who immediately took Cheryl to hospital where she was treated and discharged. My neighbors took care of them throughout that episode.
How do you ensure your daughter will be okay when you travel?
I explain to both my daughter and the housegirl why and where I will be going. My daughter knows my off days and this is when we spend more time together, so if it happens that I will be away during such a time, I let her clearly know that it is because of work related duties that I have to be away.
I always shop enough and make sure they will not run out of anything while I’m away. I ensure they have everything they need (including sufficient airtime). I also make it a point to always inform my neighbors each time I travel. In addition, I have a good support network of family and friends who check on them every so often when I’m away.
How about when you are around –what is your daily routine with Cheryl like?
When Cheryl wakes up at 5.30am, I prepare her for school, making sure she is neat and presentable, and then I then sit with her as she eats her breakfast. I take this time to bond with her, as that’s the only meal we’ll have together for the day because I leave the office at 8.30pm and by the time I get home she’s already asleep. It’s also during this breakfast time that we pray together. When through with breakfast, I ensure she’s gotten onto the school bus.
I teach Sunday school at St. Luke’s ACK Tena Church and Cheryl is one of my pupils. It is during Sunday school that I am also able to gauge how she’s doing –how she learns and interacts with other girls and boys. After church, we ride the bike together or play outdoor games.
Your advice to fellow moms about housegirls?
Housegirls are part of the family. An important part of the family. Treat them as so.
What is the most important piece of advice you’ll give to your daughter?
That she should learn how to love, so that she learns to love herself. If she loves herself, then she’ll respect herself and will push herself to success and will also love other people.
Your greatest moment as a mum?
It is the time when Cheryl wrote me a letter when I had traveled out of town on assignment. I’d been away for two days when she wrote me the letter saying she missed me and she was looking forward to my return back home. Even though she has written me countless letters, there is something about that particular letter that warmed my heart. She gave me the letter immediately I arrived home. She had been keeping it under her pillow for those two days. That letter is very dear to me.
And finally, I heard you mentioning something about publishing a book someday…?
Yes I will. And the book will be about the letters Cheryl has written to me. My daughter loves writing, and I have many letters from her. I’ve kept each and every one of them and I intend to publish them one day. I’m still thinking of the title of the book. So far I have come up with two: “Letters to my Mom” and “Letters from my Daughter”. I’m yet to decide which…”
2016 update: Below are more articles on other mummy journalists I have featured on this blog.
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