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Shattered homes: Navigating absentee parenthood amidst rising divorce rates

For many children growing up in the contemporary world, having both parents present in your daily life is a privilege that appears increasingly elusive, as the rate of divorce continues to rise in the country.

Despite the lessons taught about the concept of a family unit in schools, many youths find it difficult to relate, as their experience revolves around being raised by single parents, often their mothers.

While a significant number of millennials have learned to endure challenging circumstances for the sake of their children, a growing number of youth are grappling with fractured identities due to absent parents – not because of their demise, but because they chose to distance themselves after a breakup.

Victor Okoth, a Nairobi resident, shares his experience of being absent in his child’s life.

“We disagreed during COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, she left and returned to her family. Given that I had lost my job and was barely making ends meet, I made the decision not to follow her. It’s not that I don’t want to support my family; I simply feel ill-equipped to provide for them adequately” Okoth told Nairobi News.

“My wife departed because she believed I couldn’t adequately provide for the family. Even if I were to reconcile with her, the same problems would likely resurface. In the interest of maintaining peace, I opted to step back and allow everyone to lead their own lives.”

On the other hand, Mercy Wairimu, another Nairobi resident, narrates her experience of coping as a single mother.

“You can’t compel someone to be present in their child’s life. When I separated from my husband, I attempted to encourage his involvement, but he displayed disinterest in the affairs of our two children. So, I moved forward with my life.”

“As a mother, I’m working diligently to provide the best for my children. However, at this point, I’d rather he remains distant than give my children false hope.”

While some separated parents actively strive to be a part of their children’s lives, a significant number assume that the responsibility will be managed elsewhere, without their direct engagement.

The tendency to evade responsibility still appears deeply ingrained in the minds of many in Kenya.

A prevailing sentiment is that the responsibility primarily rests with the mother; some even boldly state that the child inherently belongs to the mother.

Divorce rates in Kenya have been on a consistent rise, as indicated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data. Over the past five years, divorce rates have steadily increased. In 2020, KNBS reported that 17 percent of marriages had ended in divorce.

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