I have two mothers. I call one mummy and the other mum. Mummy birthed me but they both raised and continue to support me. Both are married to my father. However, polygyny has little to do with the reason I consider them both my mothers. Rather, it has more to do with the outcome of two courageous women moving past their betrayal to form a beautiful sisterhood. Their self-sacrificial act has not only gifted me with two amazing mothers but also the best siblings I could ever ask for. Having two mothers is a bit of a roller coaster but from my experience the highs have been more than the lows. Let’s delve in a lil’ deeper, shall we?
I would describe the realisation of having two mothers as a cycle of normal then confusing then normal feelings. I vaguely remember our first meeting with mum… I think one day mummy invited some special guests and introduced us to our other sisters and mum. As children, my sister and I, did not think much of it, we were just elated to have more playmates. However, with time the realisation that my family was no longer the ideal family of father, mother and children that I saw in TV, magazines, textbooks and with my schoolmates set in. This realisation made me feel a bit uneasy. I don’t even know how I dealt with that, but I think I just followed the lead from my mothers. Also, the further realisation of the hypocrisy it takes for society to maintain that there is only one perfect ideal way to have a family when the realities present many more ways put me at ease. Having two mothers is my normal and ideal.
I find having two different mothers to look up to an enriching experience. Their different ethnicities, upbringings, careers and life experiences mean that I have a deep well of wisdom to draw from. For example, while mummy can tell me everything about managing people, mum can tell me all about the right herbal medicine for any ailment. While mummy can teach me how to bake bread, mum can teach me how to speak Maasai. Moreover, in terms of advice I have lived long enough to know that if both of them tell me the same thing then it is worth following. Lastly, they come with all their lovely relatives which means more people to love on and learn from.
It can be tiring. Back to society’s belief that the ideal and right kind of family is the one that has a mother, father and (biological) children. The norm is so widely held that I constantly have to counter the assumptions that my family fits the given mould. It is in the everyday conversations: Wait, is she really your sister? You don’t look alike. It is also in almost every other form that I have to fill. While I mostly understand the curiosity, the clarifications and explanations I have to give can get exhausting, I have taken to starting with the fact that I have two mothers as a disclaimer whenever I am telling stories and that has made everything easier.
It is sweet. From stories I hear, I know I am fortunate to be able to say that. I am grateful to God for making it so because having mother’s love in double is bliss. My favourite bit has to be receiving double gifts for my milestones. My mum tells the story of how the Maasai have strict codes on co-mothers treating all their children equally. It is frowned upon to favour one’s own biological children. It goes as far as to say that the mother who does so risks bad things befalling their children whom they favour, All this to say that I admire how we are all our mothers’ children, And while the rebukes may also come doubly, the double love and attention make up for it.
This has got to be the best part of having two mothers – more siblings! When I say I cannot imagine my life without my full (there’s nothing half about them) siblings aka the 7th Harmony, I simply cannot. Seriously, the more the merrier. There are more milestones to celebrate (we all know this is Chebet’s favourite thing to do)! More company to do fun stuff with. And now that we get to quarantine together, it also means we could last as long as we have each other. I know it could also get sticky real quick but I think our mothers have set a good example of what open communication looks like. A skill which would help us avoid or work through such situations when they do come up.
It is a complex arrangement. I hope this post normalizes having two mothers without simplifying it. As I grew older and discovered feminist principles form the core of my identity, I found myself bitter at the concept of polygyny. I think the man stands to gain more from the arrangement. I am also repulsed by the underlying principle of polygyny where the number of wives a man has equates to his wealth. As if to further reinforce the patriarchal belief that women are merely possession. I get the question of whether I would agree to a polygynous marriage a lot. My answer has always been, “ Never!” Although I often wonder how sure I should be when my mummy would probably have given the same answer. I am aware that my mothers made lemonade from some very serious lemons. It would be naive to think that the process of squeezing more of this lemonade would come at no cost. Regardless, we move.
The way my mothers have responded to being in a polygyny encourages me in the face of patriarchy. As a young feminist womxn I get discouraged by the magnitude of patriarchal injustices that persist despite all the efforts against them. Therefore, my mothers making the best of a polygynous relationship in a way that benefits them and their children gives me hope. Even though I cannot dismantle patriarchal systems today, I have the power to choose how to react to them in ways that are more beneficial than harmful to me.
Yeah, that’s the long of how having two mothers is like. My mothers are doing a beautiful job and I look forward to pampering them out of their minds tomorrow. Happy Mother’s Day in advance to all the different kinds of mothers outchea! We see you, we love you!