Happiness Cut Short

By Habibi

What a wonderful family I had! My wife, Immaculate, never called me “Peter,” neither did she call me by my surname, “Ilunga,” she always called me Honey. I call her Imma. We have two sons, Shadrack who is eight years old, and Patrick who is ten. Before being resettled to Australia, we were staying in Uganda as refugees. However, our motherland is Congo, which we fled due to insecurity. We left our loved ones to seek refuge in Uganda. In all these challenges, we found comfort in each other as the family we were. My wife was a caring and understanding woman. Eventually we got resettled in Melbourne, Australia, a big city. And this is where conflicts started between Imma and me.

My happy and harmonious family was shattered by a new lifestyle that impacted our marriage negatively. When we were in Congo and Uganda, my wife was working as a receptionist, however, she still carried her responsibilities as a mother and as a wife. She took good care of the family; the family was her priority. I wonder why all of this suddenly changed after we got to Australia. My wife started valuing her job more than the family. Both Imma and I had jobs to earn money, but I was the one cooking for the family and preparing the children for school. In Congo, all of this was done by her most of the time. I asked myself if she was being influenced by irresponsible women she met and befriended, or what made her shift her values and give priority to her job. I tried to explain to her how changed she had become, but it always resulted in arguments that affected our children, as they could hear us exchange angry words. This drained their motivation and courage, and I did not want to continue hurting these innocent kids

The words that Imma uttered to defend herself was that she wanted to be a “financially independent woman.” I could ask her what financial independence has to do with not carrying out her responsibility as a mother, but this made her angrier. “Why can’t you understand that my working is also part of contributing to the family’s betterment, rather than seeing it as a bad thing,” Imma said. No one stopped her from going to work, but what about the family and the children? Just because you are working are you supposed to abandon your duties as a married woman and as a mother? Our children, Patrick and Shadrack, were always worried. The happiness they’d known when their mother was always there for them was fading away. Most of the time when ther mother was not home the kids frowned and were unhappy. However, when their mother returned from work, their happiness suddenly returned. They’d run towards Imma, welcoming her with hugs while she gave them snacks and sweets she had bought for them on the way home.

I miss the wonderful moments when Imma and I would take the children to the village we had grown up in, called Luinja. Every 30th of December in Luinja, we celebrated Shulika Ingoma, which translates as “beat the drum.” On this day drums were played while men and women danced together in a traditional dance known as cheke cheke: men and women make a circle holding hands shaking their shoulders while other men beat the drums. Firewood was gathered and a big fire lit so that even people from a distance would see the fire and be aware of the ceremony taking place. Special foods such as bitoke (green bananas) and bijumbu (potatoes) were served with goat meat grilled on the fire, and the village band would play traditional songs such as kwetu ndukunda, which means “we love home.” Shulika Ingoma made Shadrack and Patrick aware of the culture they come from. I also miss how other families adored my family back in Africa. But in Australia, I was the one spending more time with the children, not their mother. It reached a point where I felt she was absent even when she was in the house doing what she pleased. To make things more complicated we had different work schedules, so we saw very little of each other. This complicated things more between me and Imma.

My love for my wife started to fade. Sometimes I would spend late hours with friends because going home was stressing me more and more. I pitied my children going through this stress. My wife started accusing me of cheating on her because I was going out in the evening. She created issues that were not true, and it was beyond me to correct her. I asked for a divorce, which she was happy to give. I didn’t want to complicate things more. She fought to keep the children, to which I agreed as long as I could still come visit them, and take them out when the kids wanted me to. I support my children in all ways possible and I try to ensure they are doing great. This is how my wonderful family got broken.

6 April, 2023