When Jennifer and Robert met, it all seemed okay until Jennifer got a job that required her to be away from home for months on end. Because they had children, Robert decided to move his dental clinic to their apartment. This way, he would be able to work and also take care of the children. 16 years later, the couple have overcome this and many other hurdles and share their story with Phionah Nassanga.
At the beginning of a relationship, couples have little or nothing to worry about. At this stage, they are just getting to know each other and usually nothing the other does makes a big impact.
This was the case when Jennifer Mirembe and Robert Kironde met. In the beginning, all seemed like a bed of roses until 2010 when Jennifer got a job with ICCO (Inter Church Organisation for development Co-operation.
“In March 2010, I signed a contract with ICCO as a human resource manager. In 2013, I was put in charge of 10 countries, a promotion that called for keeping late hours and a lot of travelling,” Jennifer recalls.
At the time, Robert was also managing a dental clinic at Arua Park in Kampala. However, the couple had also been blessed with three children but due to their busy schedules, Robert says, they hardly spent time as a family.
“My wife would leave so early in the morning when the children are asleep and come back late in the evening after they have gone to bed. I, however, would leave at about 7:30am, drop the children off at their respective schools and then leave work in time to pick them,” he says.
Robert turned into a babysitter. “I was a house husband for five years. I would take the children to hospital, school and ensure they were fed,” he says.
Because of this, he was forced to shift the clinic to their apartment in Katwe, Kampala. It was challenging, but he had to oversee the clinic and the children as well. His wife had turned into a workaholic and because of her many engagements, she turned out to be a stranger, especially to the children.
“When she started travelling a lot, the children and I used to miss her and each time she came back, we would celebrate, but time came when we no longer missed her. The children and I started accepting that mummy was no longer present since even when she was in the country, the children would hardly see her,” he explains.
Jennifer says as a mother, her children’s resentment started affecting her. But Robert says much as he was supportive of his wife, at some point he was forced to confront her boss. “The girls were growing, but she was never home,” he says.
Mirembe tried adjusting her working hours, but would still carry work home. Meanwhile in 2018, she became pregnant with their fourth child, something she says brought her closer to the family. During her pregnancy, her trips and working hours were rescheduled. Robert also moved the clinic out of their apartment and asked his wife to work with him as a human resource manager, an offer she turned down.
However, in January 2020, Jennifer’s contract was terminated. To Robert, this was a blessing in disguise. A time for him to reunite his family.
“When her contract came to an end, my wife and I decided to go for a holiday in Dubai. I realised we needed time to rethink our relationship because for many years, we had hardly spent a day together,” he says.
Soon after the couple returned from Dubai, a lockdown was announced, which gave Mirembe a chance to mend her relationship with the children. Today, the couple work together at Dino Dental Clinic.
Robert and Jennifer met in December 2003 when Mirembe had gone for a dental checkup.
“I was in a taxi heading to Jubilee Dental Clinic, when I saw a sign post reading Dino Dental Clinic. Saving myself the distance, I decided to get off the taxi and go to this clinic. Little did I know that inside this clinic was the love of my life.”
Love at first sight
“The moment I saw her at the reception, I immediately liked her and when I said ‘hey beautiful,’ I meant it. After attending to her, she went to the washrooms and when she came back, I asked her to dinner,” Kironde recalls.
Jennifer accepted and even wrote her phone number on a paper before she left.
For their first date, the two went to a Chinese restaurant on Bombo Road in Kampala. Jennifer says it was her first time to taste Chinese food but she enjoyed it.
Kironde reveals that Mirembe passed his first test. “I was tired of women you take to expensive places, make orders but they leave all the food on the plate. That she ate all her food was a plus,” he says. Passing that test earned Mirembe several dates and in January 2004, Kironde proposed marriage but she kept him guessing until March when she said yes.
Having found the love of his life, Kironde thought the rest would be a walk in the park. He was wrong. Mirembe was 26 while Kironde was 34 and while this age gap did not bother them, a number of people were against the relationship and voiced their opinions. This bothered Mirembe, who opted for a civil wedding.
“On the morning of May 8, 2004, I received a call from Mirembe and all she said was, “Do you love me? …If you do, let us get married tomorrow,” Kironde recalls.
Without asking why, the couple had a civil wedding the following day at the then Crane Chambers, on Kampala Road. At midday, they were pronounced husband and wife.
“When our families got to know about our relationship, resistance started coming in, yet I did not want to lose him. Therefore, I opted for a civil wedding first,” Mirembe says, adding that none of their family members knew about their civil wedding until September 11, 2004 when they said their vows in church.