Moil and Matrimony: The Sunday School Teacher’s Tale

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I heard you took the Night Nurse out for dinner. That was very nice of you. She deserves it. She helps me out a lot, you know? Whenever I need to take time for myself, she takes my three kids without a question. We’ve only just recently become fairly good friends, even though we’ve been aware of each other for years. We’re both in the Kenyan Association here in Atlanta. I like her because she’s a simple, God-fearing woman.

Her husband and mine couldn’t be more different…but so alike in so many ways. Unfortunately, their similarities are not positive ones. My husband is a “gentleman”. He comes from a good background, he doesn’t drink or do drugs, and he has a good office job. The Night Nurse’s husband…well, I’m sure she told you he changes positions every few months? That’s why they are struggling financially. But me and my family? We’re doing very well. Or at least I believe we are. My husband doesn’t let me handle the finances.

In fact, my husband doesn’t let me touch any money at all.

When we need sugar and milk in the house, he goes to buy it. If the kids need school supplies, he goes to buy it. What kind of a wife doesn’t even shop for her own groceries? The kids go to a great private school, but they are the ‘poorest little rich kids’ you’ve ever seen. They don’t get to do half the things their friends do.

I don’t have a debit card or access to our bank account. Or his bank account, I should say. You see, I come from a somewhat well-to-do family myself, but I married my husband right after university. I thought that being married would give me some freedom…but honestly, my marriage is a prison.

You asked me in what ways are my husband and the Night Nurse’s husband similar? Maybe this is a Kenyan man thing, but my husband doesn’t believe in celebrating me…or celebrating us. Our anniversary is not even a discussion. We’ve been married 9 years and never celebrated our anniversary once. He says it’s a waste of money. Since I’ve gotten married, I’ve never gone shopping for myself. I have never had a job. I finished university and got pregnant soon after we got married. I’ve been a mother almost since the beginning of our marriage. And my birthday? Forget about it. This is how I celebrate my birthday every year. This is why the Night Nurse is such a dear friend to me:

There are certain stores all around Atlanta that give you free things on your birthday. So every year, the Night Nurse watches my kids (because my husband can’t be bothered to) and I take myself out. I treat myself. How does a woman with no money treat herself? Well, I make sure I carry my ID wherever I go and look for deals. So I’ll get a free drink here, a free item off of a menu there…just to feel like I too have been out for my birthday.

I know my husband hates me. He’s all but told me. But he won’t grant me a divorce. And my parents won’t let me come back home. They keep telling me to stay and pray and try to work things out. But how do you work things out with someone who despises you? I don’t even know what I’ve done to this man – and I’ve asked! I cook, I clean, I’ve birthed three kids for him. And still he treats me like…like I am nothing.

Do you know how I get by for the miscellaneous things for the kids? And you know kids always need something. Every week, they need money for an activity, or Spirit Week, or what have you. You know what I mean, of course.

I teach Sunday School at a very prominent Atlanta church and they pay me per hour. So every week, I get a check for the three to four hours I teach Sunday School. I make about $70 a month. My husband doesn’t know, otherwise he’d make me stop. He doesn’t want me to earn. He doesn’t want me to have a life outside of his.

Do you know why he won’t grant me a divorce, even though he’s just as miserable in our marriage? It’s obvious: He doesn’t want to pay child support and alimony. He would rather the five of us be miserable in this house than to part with a dime. And me; I’m trapped. I can’t go back to my parents because they won’t have me, and I have to keep a roof over my kids’ heads. The easiest thing for me to do would be to take the kinds and to leave him, but that’s not so ‘easy’, is it?

Besides, I don’t know if I will get the support I need. I mean, if my own family will not support me, how can I expect strangers to? And people can be so judgmental when it comes to marriage and divorce…especially we Africans. So I don’t talk about it. I just shout and praise and pretend everything is all right. But really, I’m just waiting for the moment that he signs those papers.

I’m still young.

 

 

Y’all….

I don’t even know what to say. Except to say this: Man or woman – ALWAYS earn your own money. Don’t ever let “love” make you into someone’s slave. Don’t let “love” rob you of your freedom.

If the Sunday School Teacher were your child, would you let her come back home? What would be your advice to her? Can you see yourself turning your daughter away and hiding her unhappiness?

  • Ama

    No I would not turn her and her children away, if she found the courage to escape.
    But if she can find a way of earning, (teaching the very scripture that keeps her bound), away from that mean husband of hers, what prevents her from taking online courses to be a qualified teacher or some other profession? What is keeping her from opening a bank account in her own name?
    Sorry to sound judgemental and I know it is not easy to just up and walk away, but she is one of many women who “like” their gilded cage.

    • I think there are some women who do “like” their gilded cage, but I don’t think the Sunday School teacher is one of them. I think in her case, this “failure” is a function of going directly from your parents house to your husband’s house. She has no credit and no real work experience to maintain her present standard of living for herself and her children.

      Sure, it would be admirable for her to say screw it all and get a job flipping burgers seeking shelter from one homeless shelter to the next with 3 kids in tow, but they would probably resent her for it…not see it as gallantry.

      I dunno. It’s hard. The more I listen to people, the more I discover how twisted this path we call life is. Nothing is ever cut and dry. 🙁

  • K

    Very sad that both ladies seem to have no support: friends, family or otherwise etc. I think suffering through something alone makes it even worse and really sad that their kids will have no other point of reference. Maybe if their church offers counseling, they should take advantage of it, just the ladies, without their husbands… that may open up some help and other options to them.

  • I would NEVER want my child to feel trapped and alone in this world. They can always come back home to rest, regroup abd figure out the next steps. Always. I

  • Amanda

    I absolutely love this series Malaka. I dont even know what i would do in a situation like this but i think these women are very brave.

    • Thank you, Amanda! I’m almost sad to see the series end. I hope each of these women finds their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or at least a rainbow in some cases. 😔