Kenyan Granny’s abandoning husbands in Kenya to live with their children abroad
Many people visualise their 60s as a life of pure bliss; growing old with their spouse and spending the better part of their days on rocking chairs sharing light moments, enjoying a comfortable life in the countryside and occasionally enjoying the tapping feet of their grandchildren.
The reality is largely becoming a mirage today given the reality that more older couples are not growing old together, but getting divorced or separated.
According to clinical psychologist Gladys Mwiti, more and more women are leaving their old husbands.
As Dr Mwiti of Oasis Africa Counselling Centre based both in Kenya and the USA explains, women in their late 50s and 60s are increasingly abandoning their husbands here in Kenya in the guise of visiting their children abroad.
These visits range from six months to two years, and with time, the women become permanent residents of the Western countries.
“There are many older Kenyan women living in the USA — many of them illegally while some can’t even speak English — living with their children. They continued stay becomes a burden to those young families,” she says.
Initially, Mwiti points out, older women would leave the rural areas to live with their children in the urban areas, but now, they have upgraded, and travel abroad at will, like rich tourists.
Ideally, visiting a child abroad should last a few weeks after which the parents go back home. Some will camouflage their extended visit in the name of taking care of their grandchildren (nannies abroad are expensive), overstay their welcome and come up with excuses for not returning home such as ill-health.
The stay with the children is not usually rosy. Sometimes the women question their children’s mode of dressing, which they consider ‘immoral’ and may cause tension as they ‘interfere’ with the couple’s daily routine.
But why are these women running away from their husbands of decades?
Some of the women The Standard talked to say they are out to revenge over their men’s neglect over family or their philandering ways and lack of appreciation.
“I cooked for him, ironed his clothes, encouraged him and was there for him through hard times and good times…but all he did was cheat on me again and again. I want him to realise that I was very important in his life,” says a 61-year-old mother of six who visited her children for short and long durations before getting permanent residency in Canada.
She now says her husband has the freedom to do what he wants. Unfortunately, the husband is now retired and old, so the girls he used to date in his younger days will not give him a second look.
This trend — of older women running away from their husbands in Kenya to live abroad — is spread all over the country, from Kisii to Kiambu and Coast to Western and other regions.
Gidraph Wairire, a sociology lecturer at the University of Nairobi reckons that late divorce or separation is a reality, for several tangible reasons.
“Some might genuinely want to make an extra shilling by working abroad, but a good number of them have no more feelings for their spouses and run off,” explains Dr Wairire.
This getaway, Wairire notes, is usually a relief for the women who might have suffered years of an unfulfilled marriage, frustrating relationships and fizzled marital bliss.
On the flipside, older men too, leave their wives at their sunset stage for younger, prettier and more vibrant partners.
For example, Mercy Iganjo’s 66-year-old husband left her for a younger woman he met over the Internet after 26 years of marriage.
Iganjo, 57, and her husband have not divorced because of Iganjo’s staunch catholic beliefs, but the marriage is basically over, her dreams of getting old together melted into thin air.
When children are growing up, couples get a reason to stick together despite growing apart over time.
This ‘distance’ between couples will gradually expose the façade and the marriage will likely disintegrate.
“If a couple allowed some distance between them in their young marriage, then they will drift apart and split when they are most vulnerable, even at 60 years,” Mwiti says.
Further afield prominent people who have divorced after years of marriage give reasons of ‘incompatibility’. This is a result of allowing distance to grow between them over the years.
In 2010 and in their 60s, former USA vice-president Al Gore and his wife Tipper announced their divorce after 40 years of marriage and last year, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 65, separated from Maria Shriver, his wife of 25 years.
But late divorce or separation can be prevented, says Wairire, through frequent marriage enrichment therapies for couples to ensure their flame is not snuffed out in their sunset days.
“We tell couples that sex doesn’t end at 50 and menopause is an illusion. Sex is like old wine, that gets better with time, and they should appreciate this at their old age when they have less responsibilities,” she notes.
UK’s The Telegraph reports that three years ago, 11,500 people in England and Wales aged more than 60 were granted a divorce. In 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, that rose to almost 14,600.
“The reasons are varied, but for many disillusioned spouses, the basic answer is because they can,” says the paper.
Source: The Standard