What led to the decision to adopt even though you were single at the time?
Dr. Joy Mueni: Like many people, I thought that at the right time, preferably 28 years of age, I would get married. In fact, I already had my wedding theme, the only thing missing was a groom. As I grew up and matured, I started asking myself whether marriage was indeed for me. I had dated a bit but had not met someone whom I felt comfortable forming a life-long partnership with. As I wondered, and questioned myself, my friends were getting married and my family started asking when I was going to get married. They met absolute indifference from me. However, because I grew up in a small knit family filled with love, I always knew I wanted a family. In fact, in my diary, I had written that one of my life goals was to have a family by the time I turned 30. So as 30 approached, I wondered why I was not achieving this goal. In the process of evaluation, it suddenly dawned on me that other than father-mother- children, there were other definitions of what a family was and key to me was that a mother and her children are a family.
Then what happened ….…
I researched into alternative forms of having children but in line with God’s word such as IVF and adoption. After intense research and prayer, I decided that I would start my family through adoption. Once I decided on this course of action, I embarked on the task of seeking the buy in from my nuclear family. I informed my mother of my intention.
What did your mother think about your desire to adopt when you first told her?
While she was not against the idea, she advised that I wait as I was still young and would get married at some point and have children of my own. Though I believed in my idea, I respected her wishes and gave it six months before I broached the subject again. When I told her that I still keen on pursuing my idea, she gave me her blessing and all the support that I needed and at 31 years of age, I become a mother to my first child and today aged 36, I am a mother of two children who came to me through adoption.
how did you inform the rest of your family about your decision, and why do you think it was vital to also inform them?
Apart from my mother’s blessing I knew that I also needed social support and as a result I need my extended family’s blessing. So, I toured the country from Nyeri to Makueni and Machakos informing my aunties and uncles of my plans. This was necessary as I wanted my children to be fully accepted by our relatives. They all gave me their blessings.
How was the whole adoption experiences like for you?
When I decided to adopt my first-born daughter Jan, I was very unsure of the process. The good thing is that I love reading and so I took time and did a lot of online research on the adoption process. I settled on Kenya Children’s Adoption Agency that is based along Langata road. Once I visited, the officer there gave me a lot of information and I was satisfied that I was at the right place. I started the adoption process in mid-May of 2013 and by end of September, I had Jan home with me.
After you take the baby home there is a compulsory three-month bonding period with the baby after which, you are required to file your case in court. In that December, I remember I could hardly wait for the offices to open in January as I was in a hurry to go to court. I filed my petition in January and after several court appearances, I was granted full parental rights to Jan in May. Soon thereafter, I followed up with the registrar of persons and got an adoption certificate which I thereafter used to get a birth certificate and later a passport.
For my second daughter, I never thought that I would have her. But as Jan grew, I was convinced that a second born would be nice. Whereas by law I can adopt a second child as either a boy or girl, I decided to get a girl. The problem this time was that there was a moratorium on local and international adoptions. Since there was nothing I could do, I prayed that the moratorium would be lifted. When the local adoptions moratorium was lifted, I went to the first agency that got its license. My experience with them was not as smooth as with Kenya Children’s Home Adoption agency. None the less, Zara came home on a cold Monday morning in November of 2016. My two daughters simply love each other and it is such a joy to see my girls interacting with each other. They are both a blessing to me.
What the experience like switching from being a single lady to being a mother instantly?
I will never forget when I first brought them home. The period that followed after was one of learning and growing, and bonding. I advise anyone who chooses to adopt to ensure that they make an effort to bond with the child when they first come home and this involves being the primary care giver. Being the one to clothe, feed, put to sleep and just spend as much time with the child when they first get home as this helps to create a bond. So far, it has been a wonderful and rewarding journey. I have no regrets. In fact, I have come to know that God’s grace is sufficient. He makes a way where there seems to be no way. I have experienced God’s love and provision over and over.
How has the whole experience of motherhood changed you?
I have become happier. I am more focused and purpose driven. I have become more responsible. Whatever I do or wherever I go, I know at the back of my mind that there are two girls who depend on me for their survival. This is a great responsibility and I enjoy it. I like that I can mound my girls to be noble citizens and Christians. When the girls where younger, the greatest challenge I had was general fatigue. I have come to realise that we mothers are strong. There is a time that I survived on 4-hour nights as the rest of the time was invested in taking care of girls. They would wake up at night and no amount of sleep training would help. The other challenge of course is financial. I wish I had more money to invest in the girls. As of now, I am content in what we have but of course more is required.
How are the girls doing?
Jan my first born is named after my mother. She is not only jovial but is a born leader. Even in school, she is already showing many leadership qualities. Further, she is a chatter box who always keeps us engrossed in her stories. Her favourite activity now is riding her bike and colouring. Additionally, she is adventurous and as a result enjoys learning new things and this gives me great joy. I am also happy that I have managed to teach her basic skills like cooking and cleaning. She can roll chapatti and cook eggs very comfortably. Her younger sister Zara is a quiet one. She is loud and yet quiet. She is at an impressionable age and follows what her older sister does and as a result it is hard to know what she really likes. But one thing I know for sure is that she is very empathetic. She will also be the hugger in the family and the one who takes care of the rest.
What were the first nights with your girls like?
I will never forget when I first brought the two girls’ home. The period that followed after was one of learning and growing, and bonding. I advise anyone who chooses to adopt to ensure that they make an effort to bond with the child when they first come home and this involves being the primary care giver. Being the one to cloth, feed, put to sleep, and just spend as much time with the child when they first get home as this helps to create a bond. So far it has been a wonderful and rewarding journey, I have no regrets. In fact, I have come to know that God’s grace is sufficient. He makes a way where there seems to be no way. I have experienced God’s love and provision over and over.
Do you worry about the girls not having a father figure?
Yes, sometimes I worry that my children are missing out on the love of a father, but I quickly remember that they are not alone. God says He is the father of the fatherless in Psalms 68:5. Also my younger brother has taken up the road, he has invested in my girls and I am very grateful to him.
What is your opinion on the manner in which society still views single mothers?
I have had to deal with negative public perceptions because I am a single mother with two children. I noticed the raised eyebrows and poorly concealed judgmental looks when I mention that I am a single mother of two. I take this in stride and do not feel the need to justify why I am a single mother. For single ladies, the pressure is real. Further, there is still stigma associated with adoption. However, this should not deter anyone because people will always talk. So, you must really be sure that this is the path that you want to take, once convinced, it does not matter what anyone says because you can walk with you head held high. I do not even get pissed off when people infer that I am immoral. I take a minute and educate them on adoption. In fact, to end the stigma, there are a few organizations that are openly advocating for adoption like the ‘adoption is beautiful’ Facebook page.
Advice for anyone out there who would want to adopt both single or married?
I would highly encourage anyone willing to adopt to go ahead. The process is clear and straightforward. The only thing that you can’t determine is the time it will take. There are a lot of things that are not in your control or the adoption agencies control. Just start. As surely as the sun rises in the East, the process will come to an end in God’s perfect timing. I would highly encourage anyone willing to adopt to go ahead. The process is clear and straightforward. The only thing that you can’t determine is the time it will take. There are a lot of things that are not in your control or the adoption agencies control. Just start. As surely as the sun rises in the East, the process will come to an end in God’s perfect timing. Legally, single men and women can adopt a child of their gender. Sadly, there is still stigma associated with adoption. For single ladies, the pressure is real. People look at you ‘funnily’ when they see you with children and they know you are single. Thing is this, people will always talk. Be convinced of your decision and walk proudly. I do not even get pissed off when people infer that I am immoral. I take a minute and educate them on adoption.
To end the stigma, there are a few organizations that are openly advocating for adoption like the ‘adoption is beautiful’ Facebook page.
What are wrong assumptions you have encountered from people about adoption?
Many believe that it is only infertile people who adopt. Yes, they do account for a considerable amount of adoptions but this is changing. Most of the people that I have interacted with in adoption circles, are single parents. Many others have adopted to add on to their many children. The worst assumption is that adopted children will ‘turn’ on you. I believe in raising children following biblical principles. I n essence I do my best and I have confidently left the rest to God.
Will you tell your girls that they are adopted?
Yes, I will when they are old enough to understand it, it is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. Jan already has some idea about it but in the kind of way that a young child may understand adoption. I would always bring her along to visit her sister at the children’s home before the adoption became official and I brought her home.
Are you open to dating and marriage?
I have not been dating. I am not interested in dating. As of now, I am happy in the space that I am in. It is a beautiful place. I have all my freedom and independence and my family of two girls. This does not rule out marriage but that’s a distance fantasy.
So how do you deal with or manage sexual desire?
I am careful to avoid overly close relationships with members of the opposite sex. I have come to learn that often men, both married and unmarried, see single mothers as easy pickings and take advantage. I also avoid unnecessary exposure to sexual stimuli as what you feed the mind with; the body expresses.
Tell us a little about your childhood?
I grew up in Nairobi. I am definitely a mummy’s girl, after all, my mother too is a single parent. She did a fine job of raising us. I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. So, I became one and then left that arm of the profession and went to teaching journalism. Right now, I represent the fourth generation of teachers in my extended family right from my great grandfather.
What do you do for a living?
I am a senior lecturer of communication and I head the Communication and Multimedia Journalism Department at Riara University. Lecturing provides a lot of opportunities to mentor young minds. This is important to me as I am playing a major role in preparing the young adults for the future. Above all, by impacting skills and knowledge to young minds, I have a good opportunity to shape how Kenya and Africa at large turns out. I am a strong believer in the fact that education is a key driver of vision 2030 among other agendas. My specialization is communication and as you would know, the provision of information is vital for any development to take place. In this regard, I take lecturing very seriously. Previously I worked at School of Journalism, University of Nairobi and as a reporter with Nation Media Group.
What do you do for “me time”?
I do creative work like making bottle art. I also read a lot. This relaxes me and reenergizes me to be a better employee and a better mum.
What legacy do you want to leave for your daughters?
I am a Christian, and this is the driving force of my lie that guides me. Thus, I take my call to adoption seriously and practice intentional parenting, I want to raise Godly children; I want them to have Christian values: as the world tethers on the brink of collapse, I want my girls to remember that Jesus is the True North. That it is only in Christ that we have our being. I also want to leave a legacy of hard work. Everything I have achieved has come by hard work. I believe once they combine these two things, they will be set for a successful life. And this success, is not necessarily as defined by man - but success as far as Christian values and principles are concerned.
When you look at the future what do you see?
I have not been dating and for now I am not interested in it. Nevertheless, I am happy in the space that I am in. It is a beautiful place. I have all my freedom and independence and my family of two girls. This does not rule out marriage but that’s a distance fantasy. I do not think I will adopt more children as I do believe that two children are enough. However, I do see myself working with charitable children’s institutions or at least advocating for the rights of children. I am a firm believer in the philosophy that institutes are not the right places to raise children but rather children belong to families where they are loved and where they draw their sense of belonging from. Well, by then I will be raising teens! But also, I hope to be still walking in God’s perfect will which I hope is aligned to children matters. It is not yet clear but this is a start.
Lastly, I am currently a senior lecturer of communication and I head the Communication and Multimedia Journalism Department at Riara University. In the past I have worked at School of Journalism, University of Nairobi and as a reporter with Nation Media Group. I really love my job and hope to continue growing, and to be still walking in God’s perfect will which I hope is aligned to children matters.
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