By Meluse Kapatamoyo
With very little employment opportunities available especially in urban areas, some couples are choosing to work far from their matrimonial homes rather than staying without a job at all. But as many couples have come to find out, living apart brings dire consequences to a marriage.
Rachael Nakweti, a 29-year-old Rachael teacher working in rural Zambia, shared her experiences with Mywage Zambia:
“When I first heard that I was among those selected to be on the teacher’s pay-roll, after fours years of waiting, I was ecstatic. But my joy turned to sadness almost immediately when they told me that I was to take up my teaching position in another province. That is like 14 hours away from where I lived with my husband.
“I was only seven months in marriage and two months pregnant then. I thought about turning down the job but couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by especially after not working for so long. Although my husband was in full-time employment, we were barely making ends meet. And with the baby on the way, we needed the extra income.
“My husband and I convinced ourselves that somehow we would make the marriage work. We would exchange visits as often as we could. So, I left for Northern Province.
“The place turned out to be worse than I had expected. There was no running water in the house and no electricity. And if didn’t manage to catch a ride, I had to walk 26 kilometres to buy basic necessities like soap, sugar and cooking oil.
“At the time, I thought that was the worst time of my life but little did I know things would get even worse. I was pregnant and living in a strange place without any family and I missed my husband terribly. But I was comforted by the fact that for the first time in my life, I was able to financially support my parents and I wouldn’t entirely depend on my husband alone to provide for our child.
“Before my maternity leave started, I only saw my husband twice. We realised travel costs were too high … he had to spend approximately K400,000 (about US$80) on transport alone.
“It was also difficult to maintain any type of communication because of the long distance to the Boma (town), the only place were I could get internet access. And because I had no electricity, it took me a while before I could charge my phone once it went off. But even then I had to walk a long distance to reach a place where there was network coverage.
“That is why I was glad when my maternity leave started. I gave birth to a bouncy baby girl. I spent approximately 120 days with my husband, including my leave days before I left to return to work.
“It was even harder to leave the second time. I had noticed the strain of being apart had made on our marriage. My husband had become so accustomed to living alone that he barely consulted me before making decisions on things that affected both of us; and we barely talked.
“It was like we had nothing in common. There was a slight change when the baby was born, but unfortunately, every time we spoke it had to do with our daughter.
“Although I tried to concentrate on work, my mind was constantly on marriage. We argued all the time about everything, mainly about our child and the poor conditions I was keeping our baby under. We agreed that once she was two, he would take her.
“Not too long after, my baby developed a high fever which lasted three days. I rushed her to the hospital on the fifth day but she died that same day. I had to phone my husband and tell him our daughter was dead when he didn’t even know she had been sick. He was attending a seminar and had travelled. So it took him another day before he arrived and with the help of friends, we buried our baby a day later. She was six months old.
“Our marriage has never been the same since. My daughter died in January and my husband has only visited me once since then, and it feels awkward. He never talks about our child but I think he blames me for her death.
“I am weighing the options; do I quit my job and save our marriage or do I stick it out and hope that the situation in my life will improve? I have a feeling that if I don’t leave my job, we are heading for a divorce. But then, again, do I want to be one of those women who depend solely on a man for everything?
“Right now my working conditions are such that I can’t transfer outside the province. Even that move requires that I work for two years before I can file a transfer request; this is the government’s position (to help retain rural teachers). I guess … I can’t have it both, a happy marriage and a fulfilling career.