I have found it so hard to write about my feelings and my journey to finding peace and joy again after losing Papa. In my previous post, I wrote about not being able to feel anything at some point. And I want to say today that it is getting better but I would be lying. But…
Today, January twenty-nine, Papa would have been one year older. It’s needless to say how much my heart wishes he was here and my mind is blowing with ideas of messages I would have sent him.
Today, in memory of him, I want to share this beautiful piece my sister wrote about him and fatherhood in general long before we knew he was sick. I am SO glad he was able to read it and grateful we expressed our gratitude towards him when he was still with us. This was posted previously on another blog but I wanted to repost (with narrative tenses) it on this special day.
How many times do we hear stories of African stay-at-home husbands/fathers?
Well, if there is one thing I am grateful for, it is growing up having Papa as a father. Despite him being strict, Papa was a very good man. He was also extremely funny although it didn’t take much for him to put his serious face back on lol. On top of all that – and this is something those who knew him could testify to –, Papa was one of the most intelligent and resourceful men I know – the know-it-all, fixer-upper type of person – hence the nickname, Rumenyi.
For the first years of our lives (my siblings and I), Papa was self-employed; he ran his own business. However, despite his job, we were always his priority. You know how little kids usually tend to call their mom when something goes wrong; we were more likely to run to Papa because there isn’t one thing in this world he didn’t know how to fix. As a matter of fact, Papa performed a lot of the care work at home. Among other things, Papa would wake up early to fix us breakfast before driving us to school. He was our nurse – why go to the doctor’s when Papa has umuti w’Ikirundi for almost everything. Besides, Papa had a passion for cooking – he was a great cook by the way – therefore, he knew the kitchen better than anyone else did. Moreover, Papa was not the type to spend the night mu kabare. Instead, he would come home early and have dinner with us.
Then, one time, Papa had an accident. The injury cost him his business. This marked the beginning of Papa’s life as a stay-at-home husband/father. Despite his recovery, Papa never really went back to work ever since. Now that he spent even more time at home, Papa would monitor everything around the house; supervising everyone of our domestic helpers. In other words, Papa always found a way to wisely spend his time. Always! Whether it be fixing things. Reading something. Making his own little researches on pretty much anything. Plus, Papa was a self-taught, self-proclaimed nutritionist who spent the majority of his time educating himself and everyone else on healthy eating.
Some of you might be wondering where Mama was during that time. Because yes, I have a Mama I am extremely thankful for as well.
Mama is a hard-working, successful woman and has been our family’s primary bread-winner for the longest time. Her job has always been very demanding; plus, she travels a lot, making it hard for her to be there as much as she wanted to. Later on, Mama was assigned to work in a foreign country. At that time, our parents decided we were all going to move. Assuming Papa and Mama came to an understanding that it would be best if their kids went to live abroad, Papa still wasn’t compelled to leave Burundi as well, but he did. He could have chosen to stay and start over his business. However, when asked why he chose to move knowing he would be compromising his own career, Papa said that, with Mama working and traveling all the time, his responsibility was to look after us.
In the eyes of Abarundi though, our family’s structure was abnormal. What man stays at home and takes care of his family while his wife is out making money? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t personally know of many stay-at-home Burundian dads, but I can only imagine how hard it might be for them to endure all the negative comments from ignorant people. In our case, many are those who pitied Papa and blamed Mama for the whole thing; seeing her as a bad wife and an even worse mother.
However, if anyone asked my siblings and I, how living in a not-so-traditional household has affected us, they would be surprised by our positive response – and this is not me defending my parents, it is simply the truth. Looking back at my life, I don’t see a single time I lacked love and attention from my parents. Maman always made sure to make the best of the time she got to spend with us, so never did we blame her for her absences or questioned her love for us. In the end, our parents’ attitude towards the whole situation was the reason my siblings and I were neither bothered by nor ashamed of it. If anything, it was the most normal thing ever to us; only to realize later how it disturbed others instead.
With that being said, shout out to all the stay-at-home dads out there and mine in particular. In a world that says, “real men ought to financially provide for their families”, I salute those dads for shamelessly owning their choices and challenging ridiculous social norms. I honor their selflessness and celebrate their commitment to their families. I thank Papa for being such an example to my siblings and I, especially my brother who grew up seeing that manhood is much more than what society narrows it to. Overall, I praise Papa and Maman for teaching us that partnership is about compromises and teamwork, regardless of who does what, as long as the job is done.
I am sure many still consider the traditional family as “the way things should be” but I am here to say this: I was raised by a stay-at-home dad and a workaholic mom and besides me being a feminist, I think I turned out great – and so did my siblings.
P.S.: If like me you grew up with a stay-at-home parent who went out of their way to make sure you were cared for and you are lucky to still have them around, I hope you let them know they are celebrated. Chances are, you wouldn’t be who and where you are today if it wasn’t for them.
I cry every time I read and it makes me feel EXTREMELY grateful to have had such an example in my life. Papa might not be here on Earth with us but I know my siblings and I will make sure his presence, love, and name are never forgotten.
The beautiful piece was written by @inarunyonga