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My secret obsession: The struggle to always be his favorite

Eternally etched in my memory, I remember the day like it was yesterday.

Friday, 17th January 2014.

It was a semi-humid day, the January sunshine as usual at its brightest, doing my best to hydrate, I got a jolt that forever changed my life. At 10:03am, I unfortunately can’t recall the exact second, I begun to feel what I was sure was the most numbing pain in the world. To say it was incredibly excruciating would be a gross understatement. I was finally having a baby!

Oddly, my body allowed my mind to generate thoughts… "Would I have a natural birth? Would he cooperate or start moving those stubborn legs that constantly kicked my bladder during pregnancy? Would he cry upon birth? Would he come with his cape on? Would time freeze? Would he look like me? Had I packed everything he needed for his first few days? Would my milk flow easily or would I be stressed about starving my child?"

Feelings of excitement, anxiety, worry and panic began to set in.

A few hours later, a heck of roller-coaster later, he was in our arms and undoubtedly trying to damage our eardrums with his cries. My Manzi was perfect. He was my sweet and perfect 2.9 kilogram gift and I was overjoyed to have him in my arms. As we danced to “Tutuse” by a musician called Ruyonga in the corridors of Nakasero Hospital, I recall telling my husband “he is going to love me the most”.

The first three years of his life were the most amazing years of my life. I was his go-to for everything. I was his defender from cats, dogs and all creatures on four legs. I was his provider for all he ever needed, wanted and even that which he didn’t know he needed yet (I understood him like thatJ). I was always on his side when the big bad doctor’s tried to prick his finger or nebulize him. I was the person he crawled, walked and run to each time he was hungry, was in trouble, needed a hug or hurt himself. My dreams had come true, he loved me the most!

The whole while, having ended my maternity leave and resumed work, I was managing a team of 48 staff supervising 5 countries therefore work was demanding. I would come back home late and fatigued from a long day but I always had the confidence that my Manzi would be up waiting for me. Selfish as it was, it gave me a little comfort because I knew that I was still his favorite, he wasn’t getting over me.

As a working mother, I had gotten into competition with myself over my child’s love and it was exhausting. I would beat myself up each time I was late and he had been forcefully put to bed or each time I was called in for an emergency meeting and my husband had taken him for a family day out.

Fast forward to the present day. Manzi is now 5 years old and always a fallback plan for the times when I am sick, working, studying or otherwise engaged. He has school every day and must be in bed by 7:30 pm so if I get caught up in traffic or have an after work engagement, I have missed spending time with him. Over the weekends, he is also quite busy. He has soccer every Saturday, church followed by play time every Sunday and every other weekend, his uncles and aunties whisk him away to spoil him. Sometimes I think he has a busier social life than mine.

In order to keep my number one status, I have learnt to cultivate these things into our relationship;

1. Openness: In the past, I used to over promise and under deliver (I still struggle with this sometimes) always committing to attend every single event of his life. Now I have become open and honest about my limitations. When I am unable to make it for something I tell him my reasons and ensure that he understands.

2. Accountability: Manzi has picked up this habit of asking me what time I will be home or telling me not to come late. At first I used to tell him he had no right to ask me that, but I realized over time that my being accountable gave him some sort of assurance that his happiness mattered to me. So I hold myself accountable to him in areas that I know matter to him.

3. Occasional spoiling: I like to believe that I am relatively strict parent. I believe in disciplining a child, calling them out when they are wrong and helping them become versions of themselves that they will be proud of in the future. However, I make intentional efforts to spoil him every now and then. I don’t do this as well as one of my sisters but I try my best. I go over budget, do fun and crazy things which will make me the fun parent.

4. Be present: I am a great multi-tasker and can do at least 3 tasks at the same time. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in my son’s favor or anyone I am in a relationship with for that matter. Being present means to exist in the now. This to me means, getting off my phone, off my laptop and fully immersing myself into the conversation or activity taking place. I now endeavor to give Manzi my full attention, pick up on all his cues, listen to all his secrets and make our time worthwhile.

He has become an independent young man who understands that sometimes I might not be available, he knows that I love him and will always be there for him. He also understands that being there for him does not mean always being with him and this makes my heart sing.

About the author: Rowena Turinawe is a wife, married to Harry Mwanje for 7 years with whom they have one child. She studied Information Technology and has over seven years’ National and Regional IT Service Management experience (spanning 5 countries) at senior management level, including the delivery of complex projects, process and policy design as well as service delivery. She is currently the portfolio manager at the National IT Authority Uganda and is responsible for managing the entire portfolio of ICT systems and applications across all Government entities. She is a born again Christian and is a member of Worship Harvest Ministries. She loves children and believes that God has called to her influence them with His love in practical ways. Her vision is to care for and educate 1 million orphaned children in Uganda.

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