...reads the title of a feature in Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper. The article interviews three women who have university degrees, a rarity amongst many Kenyans, who have happily decided to quit their jobs and stay home to care for their children. Their reasoning includes tension of wondering if the baby was ok with the babysitter, a baby drugged by the nanny in order to force him to sleep, higher rates of medical problems when leaving the baby with the househelp, and the discomfort of leaving the child until he is old enough to attend school.
“'I decided to raise a family first, as one of our lecturers who encouraged us to start families before we got immersed up in our careers, advised' says Felishinah, a mother of one daughter."
This coming from an educator in a country with an estimated 40% unemployment rate, one of the highest in the world. It ranked 16 out of 198 countries with high unemployment in 2008.
As a single woman without children I obviously do not have the authority to comment on what a mother feels when she leaves her child to go to work. And by no means am I discouraging women from being a stay at home mother if that suits their family dynamic. However, I am appalled that a prominent Kenyan newspaper would run a story encouraging the country's successful young women to quit their jobs and return to the home and remain dependent on men for support. The women of this country have come so far in recent years and I believe this article is masking a deeper agenda of a deeply patriarchal society trying to marginalize women's roles in business and politics.
The Saturday Magazine article proclaims: "It isn’t easy for professional women to put their jobs or businesses aside to raise up kids. But some young Kenyan mothers are brave enough to take this leap and take care of their children and husbands."In a society where single women over the age of 30 are the minority and women traditionally remain at home with the children, I find this statement very contradictory to reality. I applaud the women working in the male dominated business world in Kenya for being "brave enough" to make the life choice to pursue a family and career.
Furthermore, the issues the women gave throughout the article of why they as mothers do not feel comfortable leaving their children alone with the househelp seems to stem from a more systemic social problem rather than a need for all working moms to give up their goals in order to save their children. If the Kenyan government would stop pocketing millions in bribes and use those funds to provide social services for their citizens instead then perhaps families wouldn't be employing underpaid and unqualified women to watch their children. And if companies paid their employees living wages then their staff could afford to put their children in daycare or pay more competent and certified people to watch their children.