**”I always knew I wanted to live in my own house. I didn’t mind living in a rental house while my husband and I were getting started, but I knew that eventually, I wanted our own house.
My husband on the other hand was neither here nor there. Many times I had tried to have a conversation with him about us saving towards owning our own home, and many times he would just shrug his shoulders and grunt, having no definite opinion about what he wanted. He didn’t mind renting and neither did he mind owning. This nonchalance frustrated me for years!
Anyway, after seven years of marriage, I realized that we were never going to own our own home if I were to go with him. Yet it was something that I deeply desired. I had to do something.
Previous Investment Ideas
So I started saving intentionally. A few months later, I told him I was saving for our own home, and as usual, he grunted, saying that we could do better things with that money.
Thing is, he had always sold me these investment ideas that I had financially contributed to but most of the time, they amounted to nothing. We would almost always lose the money. So this time round, I was wiser. I was not going to be sold into those grand investment ideas of his. I was saving for our own home.
At that time, we were living in Umoja estate in a two-bedroom house with our three children. Plus a house girl. And occasional visiting relatives from upcountry. Obviously, the house was too small for us.
So one day, together with a group of my chama friends, we went down to Syokimau. This we did on several other weekends and a few months later, I identified the piece of land I wanted and bought it. Two other chama ladies did the same not too far away. Slowly slowly, I started constructing a four-bedroom house.
What’s with Fundis Anyway?
For eight years, I diligently denied myself all luxuries as I put up the house. I was not in a hurry. Whenever I got money, I poured it there. Almost every other weekend I would be there, checking on the construction. But I must say in those eight years I almost fell into depression because of the fundis. Fundis and their long-winding stories and lies. Those people can really spin fibs! And they can really steal from you! Robbery without violence style. Worse, fundis who kept on telling me “mzee yako ako wapi yeye ndiye anaeza hii maneno ya mjengo”. Fundis who don’t take women seriously; especially ambitious women homeowners.
Many times, I would ask my husband to accompany me to the site but as usual, he would shrug his shoulders and grunt. He would complain that Syokimau was too far (not true). And too dusty (somewhat true). That Mombasa road traffic was too much (true). That there was no ‘life’ in Syokimau (not true).
But I wasn’t going to sit around and watch my dream ebb away and live a life of regret, wishing I had done something during my productive years. I was able to build the house while I was still working, so why not?
In the eight years it took me to construct the house, he only came to the site six times. But it didn’t bother me. I had made peace with his attitude. I had accepted that this would be a solo project of my own undertaking. I had my vision and I was going with it. So I soldiered on. My husband never contributed a cent.
In fact, what kept me going was my kids. Many times I would go to the site with them, and they would have these grand visions of their own bedrooms and the large compound where they would ride their bikes and kick ball. It inspired me to work even harder.
When the house was nearing completion, I did a search of the best schools around Kitengela/Athi River/Syokimau area. I started hustling selling mtumba clothes, with all the profits I made going into a separate account, since the school that I identified was slightly more expensive than the one where they were. Knowing my husband very well, I knew he would complain, whine and tell me he wouldn’t pay an extra shilling in school fees. But not worries, for the supplement from my mtumba side hustle would cover that. I also saved all the money I got from my chama merry-go-rounds.
Eventually, when the house neared completion, I told my husband about it. This time he didn’t shrug his shoulders or grunt. He just looked at me and kept quiet.
By the way, our marriage was not an unhappy one. My husband and I were friends. There are many issues we agreed on, and many others that we didn’t agree on. This one was one of the latter. But we were good friends, so that helped a lot. By now, he had made it very clear that he would never agree to move to Syokimau, come what may. Me I had just said sawa tu.
The Day we Moved out of Umoja
One Saturday at the end of the month, a truck drove into our estate and straight to our gate. Together with the kids, we packed all our things and emptied the house. Save for my husband’s clothes. And off we went into our new, beautiful four-bedroom house in Syokimau.
I will never forget the looks in my children’s eyes as they saw their bedrooms, their colorful beds and curtains, the spacious compound, everything. They cried as they hugged me. It was surreal. They could not contain their excitement.
Meanwhile, I sent a message to my husband.
“We’ve moved into our new house in Syokimau. Should you need us, you know where to find us.”
He didn’t reply.
Two days later, my husband knocked on our door. With his suitcase of clothes.
He didn’t say a word but got in, made his way to our bedroom, unpacked his clothes and hang them in the closet. Though he spoke to our kids and tried to show his excitement as well, he didn’t speak to me. And I understood where he was coming from, so I didn’t push it. I chose to let him marinate in his own thoughts and figure out what he wanted. With me. Us.
He never left. It’s been nine years since.
Today, our firstborn is in university, while the other two are almost clearing high school.
It took time for us to be ‘okay’ I must admit. Our marriage experienced tension for about a year. It was not easy and we almost went our separate ways. I cannot explain why he came home and decided to stay, but I can only guess.
Eventually, the place grew on him and he built his own social life around the neighborhood as more and more people settled in. In fact, he is one of the respected neighbours today since we were among the first to settle there. He is the OG ‘mwenyeji’ and feels proud whenever people consult him on issues.
One day, three years after living in the home, I remember him inviting one of his friends over, and during their conversation, him saying that he was glad we had moved into the place. As he said so, our eyes met and ‘locked’ for what felt like an eternity (though it was just a second or two), and I lack words to describe what exactly I saw in his eyes, but from that moment on, it gave my heart so much peace. His eyes had told me something.
Was it Worth it?
So, was pursuing my dream worth almost losing my marriage?
One thing that I know for sure is that I knew what I wanted and I had to go for it.
What I will say is that women, if you have a dream to pursue, go for it. We make too many sacrifices for all those around us, denying ourselves at the expense of other people’s happiness. Women, it’s okay to be selfish sometimes. If you want to go on holiday by yourself, go. If you want to walk into that fancy restaurant and spend Sh9,000 on a meal, dessert and a ka-wine, si you just do it? If you want to do something that your heart has always desired, do it. You don’t want to grow old regretting, wishing you had done something that you didn’t do because of reasons XYZ. But of course, be reasonable even as you nice yourself. But generally, sometimes you just have to do what you gotta do. Sawa?
**True story of one mom.
What do you think about her move? Do you have something to say about it? Comment down below on your thoughts.
If you have a story that you would like to share with other women/moms, you can email it to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also like to watch Lillian Mbuthia’s story below: