I am an orphan. My mum died in 1988. I was only seven years old at the time. Mum was not married and so she left me in the hands of my grandparents and my aunt, her sister,” Carolyne starts off our interview.
Although she was an orphan, her guardians pampered her with love and they filled the gap left by her mother. “I was lucky my guardians showered me with love and it was hard to tell I was an orphan,” she explains.
Carolyne says she preferred spending most of her free time at her aunt’s home playing with her cousins. Her aunt loved her and treated her like one of her own. She adds that her aunt’s big heart saw her accommodate two other orphaned children (a girl and a boy) from her husband’s side.
“We grew up together as a big family,” she says, revealing she was the oldest of the children.
After form four, Carolyne joined a teaching college in Meru and in 2000 she graduated with a certificate in teaching. Two years later, she got married to her then boyfriend.
“This was an achievement since marriage was the next big thing after graduation for most girls at the time,” Carolyne offers.
She says that although their friendship started in church, they didn’t do a church wedding and instead preferred customary marriage according to Kikuyu customs. It was a plus that her husband was from the same locality and her relatives had no qualms giving her hand in marriage to him.
The marriage was off to a good start as they were blessed with their first son – Gabriel Njoroge – in 2003. Three years later, their second-born, Leonard Nduti, was born.
To an outsider, Carolyn’s life was perfect: a loving, responsible husband and two healthy children. Carolyne reveals that her husband had money as he worked in the matatu industry and they thus never lacked. But for Carolyne, her marriage was far from perfect – her husband was a philanderer.
“I had caught him red-handed cheating on me and I forgave him several times. However, what broke the camel’s back is him cheating on me with someone I considered a cousin – my aunt’s niece who we were brought up together in the same house,” she says.
Carolyne took up the matter with the extended family but the pair was not willing to stop the affair. Caroline didn’t have a job then as her husband had forbidden her from working. It is for this reason and the fact that she loved him that she decided to give him time to change as she tried to reach out to her relative to discourage her from the affair.
“I don’t like confronting people but I considered the lady a relative, so I decided to talk to her personally but it was in vain. The affair continued and at one time my husband was considering moving in with her,” she says.
When she learnt of this turn of events, Carolyne beseeched him to marry another woman, but not her relative, if she did not satisfy him.
“I didn’t have issues having a co-wife or even cowives but not someone I saw as a cousin. He was free to be an African man. I reasoned that with that kind of an arrangement, our boys will be able to see him often,” she explains.
Things got out of hand in 2008 when her relative started sending her abusive text messages. Carolyne decided to leave her matrimonial home and rented her own house. At the time, the situation had taken a toll on her as she had developed stomach ulcers.
“I left my matrimonial home with my boys carrying only our clothes. Luckily, my aunt volunteered to stay with my children as I looked for a job,” she recalls.
In January 2009, Carolyne secured a job at a school in Nairobi and since the school was sponsoring staff children, she went for her children in the village and started living with them.
Just as she was settling into life as a single mother, her husband came looking for her. “I have a weakness; I don’t carry grudges. I forgive easily and so in late 2009, my husband came looking for me in my house. We talked at length with him pleading for forgiveness. I accepted him back,” she says.
Carolyne admits that she still loved her husband and in this state, she believed that he had changed. After all, he was the father of her two boys and it was her prayer to have him back. In mid 2010, Carolyne realised that her husband was still seeing her relative.
“I told him to choose between my cousin and me. To my utter shock and disappointment, he chose her. Lucky for me, I was preoccupied with my job and raising my children so I chose to concentrate on these,” she says revealing that this really helped her recover from the heartbreak.
This also came with the acceptance that she could not force him to love her. And so when her husband came back two years later on bended knees seeking forgiveness, he found a woman who had fallen out of love. What stood him in good stead, however, were his sons.
“When he came back to my life the first time, I let him in because I loved him. The second time I allowed him in my life because of the love I had for my boys. I am a strong believer of the family unit and I believe it’s the responsibility of both parents to raise their kids. I wanted my children to grow up with both their parents,” she says.
But he wasn’t coming alone. Her husband came carrying a seven-month-old child, a product of the relationship he had with Carolyne’s relative. “I accepted her. After all, she was my niece if not my daughter. We even employed a house girl to look after her,” she says.
Her husband would flee with his daughter a year later after a disagreement with her. The cause of the disagreement? She had refused to have sex with him without protection.
“I was well aware of his philandering ways and I was adamant about using protection as I didn’t want to contract sexually transmitted infections. I think he had reconciled with my relative and he was looking for an excuse to run away. By now, my first-born, who was then nine years old, was tired of him and he told me never to allow him back into our house,” she recalls.
Carolyne admits it wasn’t easy to make up her mind but it has been six years since she last heard from him and she is quite at peace. She notes that the sour relationship between her and her ex-husband affected her first-born son, as he was old enough to understand when things were not okay.
“My son doesn’t want anything to do with his dad. I remember when he was very young, he asked me to leave his dad and go look for another dad elsewhere. He seems to harbour anger within him but I always try to talk to him out of it,” she says.
Carolyne notes that although some of her friends were advising her to sue for child support, she decided not to do it. “I have left it to God. I believe in forgiveness and I don’t mean those who have sued are not forgiving,” she says.
Having been there and done that, she has a word of advice for those going through separation. “The earlier you accept that your marriage is not going to work, the better for you. It’s the fastest way to healing and picking up the pieces of your life,” she says.