Sunday September 10 2017

When you work miles away from the family

Florence Wamuyu Githinji, a Kenyan who has

Florence Wamuyu Githinji, a Kenyan who has worked in Uganda for 13 years. Photo by Godfrey Lugaaju 

By Phionah Nassanga

Many will wonder how a loving mother would choose to leave their children and family behind to pursue a career opportunity. However, the need to further one’s career and supplement the family income often leaves women with no choice but to engage in a tricky balancing act.
Maria Nakayiza, a mother of five working with Malaria Consortium, only travels back to her family over the weekend. “We are normally assigned to carry out research in different parts of the country and this can be as far as Kotido, Kisoro, Bundibugyo. At times, I am away for weeks or even a month depending on how much work I have to do but then over the weekends I have to get back to my family to fill that gap of a mother and also monitor how things are being managed in my absence,” she says.

Sonia Mukasa, a newlywed, tells of her experience. “I work as far as Mbale and my home is in Bulaga, Bulenga in Wakiso District but I get to Kampala every after one or two weeks to attend to my marital duties such as looking after my husband, washing, cleaning in and around my home and also spending some time with the family.”
Mukasa says if she is to travel back home, then that is on a Friday evening after work at around 6pm. “I sit on the bus for about five hours. I get to Kampala at around 11pm or midnight, get onto a taxi to my next destination; that is if the taxis are still available. If not, then jumping onto a boda boda is the only option. I travel back on Sunday evening,” she explains.

Florence Wamuyu Githinji is one of the many women who work far away from their families. Githinji is a mother of one, who left her family back in Nyeri Kenya to pursue a career as well as earn a living in Uganda. That was in 2004. Githinji who works as quality Assurance office at International Health Sciences University has been in Uganda for the past 13 years; away from her loved ones. At times, the mere thought of it is enough to tear her apart.
“I gave birth in 2008 to my first born daughter, but at just two years, I had to separate from her, taking her back to Kenya to stay with the rest of the family as I had to resume work. As a mother, it has never been easy for me to spend a day without my child. Missing out on her child’s milestones has been the biggest challenge.

From changing her diapers and watching her learn to speak her first words, Githinji reflects on what she has missed, now that her child is nine years old.

Githinji's family.Courtesy photo

Githinji's family.Courtesy photo

“Despite the fact that my child is with her grandmother who provides all the necessities to see her happy, the truth is that we have a distant relationship between child and mother. I only get together with my family once a month and only for a few days. However, when we meet, life is about us and for that short time I try to make up for lost time. Much as I cannot compensate for all the time I am not with her, I make sure we enjoy each other’s company,” explains Githinji.

“My only prayer is that by the time she becomes a teenager I will be by her side to monitor her through the adolescence stage since it is the most challenging,” she adds.
Like Githinji, many women find themselves at crossroads with mixed feelings, where one needs to be a good mother, wife and also achieve more with their career opportunity. Below are some of the common challenges and how to deal with them:

Social complications
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs one can do especially when they have to do it from a distance. “Long distance parenting can make you feel as if you are losing control of your every day duties as a mother, when you see your children start to act in an unexpected manner then you will start blaming yourself and feeling guilty,’’ says Maria Nakayiza.
Sonia Mukasa emphasises that much as one makes trips back home to spend time with the family, at times one may fail to live up to that obligation because by the time one gets home they are already tired. What they need is enough rest away from work yet a lot also awaits them to accomplish in only one to two days.

Economic challenges
Some people will have to travel to more than one destination before they can reach home which makes it expensive for them. “Imagine when I have to journey to and from Mbale every weekend and then to my home area, I end up spending about Shs60, 000 just on transport costs,’’ reveals Mukasa.

What human resources managers consider
According to Deborah Maitum, a human resource manager at Old Mutual, employees are given transfers based on their ability. Gender is not put into consideration. “One’s efforts towards the growing of the company is also accounted for and whoever is short- listed is then subjected to interviews,’’ she explains. However, she notes that many women who are highly talented turn down job offers, fearing to leave their families behind especially if they have very young children and those that have just got married will prefer risking their career opportunity to losing out on family time.

Family counsellor
Sister Lawrence Nakiwu, a counsellor and home administrator at Mapeera Bakateyamba Home, says it is advisable for women especially mothers to keep around their children to monitor their every stage.
“This will help you to mould that young child in to what you want them to be before they grow up. This is because children are born with a bulk mind that can just be filled with anything bad or good but if you are around, then you can guide them.

“The world is changing fast and parents work so hard to sustain their families, and because of that, many women will work as far as they can as long as they are providing for their families and they are happy at the end of the day. However, this has left these women worn out as many think of the well being of their families forgetting about themselves,’’ comments Nakiwu.

Consider the transfer
Once an opportunity knocks at your door give it a chance because it comes once in 10 years of your career, transfers come with promotions meaning there will be an increment in one’s salary. With that, one can as well relocate with their families and also some companies offer free accommodation so before turning down the opportunity, find out the benefits.