How we solved thorny issues in our not-so-rosy union
In a conflict you have two options, either you find reasons to get along, or you find reasons to fight Robert Wambugu and Lucy Wambui chose the former in their marriage and parenting journey.
Robert Wambugu and Lucy Wambui’s marriage has been a bitter-sweet experience.
When their firstborn son was a toddler, he almost drowned in a basin full of water.
“The water had been stored on the corridor and the young boy sneaked out of the house.
Within a split of a second, he had fallen head first and was in there for almost a minute before we were alerted by other children.
He passed out, but was saved by quick intervention from a nearby hospital,” Lucy says.
Lucy says they faced a lot of challenges driven by their lack of marriage experience due to their young age.
She was 20, Robert was 21. “We had not received proper counselling and did not know how to handle our personality differences.
Let’s just say we were clueless of what was ahead of us. We used to have endless arguments, long weeks without speaking to each other and so on.
It wasn’t until we got support from a neighbour who cared and counselled us,” she says.
Making it work
They worked on improving their communication and openness to each other.
She offers: “We started giving each other constructive feedback that builds someone rather than hurt them emotionally.
We stopped pointing fingers at faults and started addressing the issue rather than attacking the person.
For instance, Robert was forgetful. At first, this used to make me think he was deliberately ignoring me and I would choose to just stay quiet and ‘payback’.
But one time he told me he would start working on a “To do list” and once he started it, I saw great improvement.
He also asked me to be sending him reminders on pending stuff. This way, we were able to handle that issue once and for all.
On the other hand, I would prepare food that he didn’t like and he would not eat it. I would feel like he was eating elsewhere.
At one time, I asked him to recommend what he prefers and how he liked it made.
It took time to understand and master this, but it was worth it.”
Lucy and Robert also worked on their decision-making, as well as teamwork, and from that point things changed for the better.
Other challenges have arisen when they had to juggle between work and raising children.
“Sometimes as a working parent, you realise you have to spend time with your children and establish a personal connection.
For me, this is important and if I have to work from home to do this, I do not mind doing so. But it can be quite overwhelming,” she adds.
Lucy and Robert both live in Rwanda. They have been married for 11 years and have three children-two boys, Arthur aged 10, Fabrice aged seven and a girl, Ashe Wambui aged 1.5 years.
Lucy runs a cake business while Robert works as a Certified Hospitality Training Manager at Marriot International, and is also an experienced digital marketer and art director.
She is also a co-director at Halleria Consult, a marketing consulting agency they started together with her husband.
He is the country manager in charge of overall operations of the consultancy.
They also mentor young couples on marriage and parenting.
Lucy terms her husband as her greatest support system. “He has been supportive in raising the children.
He spends his free time with them. On the other hand, when we visit our parents in Nairobi, we ensure that the children spend time with their grandparents.
I get tips from our parents from both sides and I ensure they communicate as often so that they build that bond.
I have also taken part in a programme called ‘Mother of Sons’ that focuses on mothers who are raising boys.
It gives mums the space to learn how to handle boys’ challenges as well as bringing up men who are well nurtured,” she says.
Discovering children’s potential
Their parenting approach is centred on raising children who understand between right and wrong and are able to make independent and right choices.
Lucy is a disciplinarian. “I don’t shy away from using the rod where necessary.
But I spend time trying to find effective non-authoritarian ways to help mentor them, especially in matters self-confidence and life skills,” she reveals.
Her husband, however, uses a different approach. He uses experiential learning techniques where through observation, he has identified some interests in them.
Both boys love using 3D modelling software and have basic photography skills. He spends time training them.
“We thank God that this strategy has helped them learn and be responsible.
We also encourage them to go out and play and develop a social life. The first one is an extrovert.
He makes friends quite easily while the second one is an introvert who prefers staying indoors.
The last one is starting the ‘terrible two phase’, always throwing tantrums,” Lucy says.
Lucy’s word of advise to couples and parents is: “Love, support your spouse and walk with them.
You don’t get into a relationship to attain happiness. Rather make it your role to create an environment that sustains joy.
If this is done, it’s easier to get the other person to reciprocate. Before you point fingers at your spouse, first do a self-analysis and see what you would do to work on yourself and improve. That way, we shall have happier relationships.”