Juliet Lubega

Mother in-law

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Matt raised his glass, stretching his arm to full length before bending it again to take a long sip of the chilled beer. He closed his eyes to feel the ice cold liquid run down his dry throat, soothing the wall lining. He was feeling as hot as the temperature outside, since his row with his wife in the morning. His friend and business partner Yiga, was setting up the laptop on the table. It had been is idea that they go through the feasibility study over lunch in a pub after he sensed; that his friend was unsettled and un-attentive throughout the morning in the office. He raised his head and looked at Matt, rapidly consuming the alcohol in the glass as if to appease his body.

 “Matt, are you alright? he asked.

 “Oh yes I am. Are you ready” said Matt absent mindedly

“I have been watching you all morning, and think something is not right” Yiga said, closing the laptop.

“You can talk to me” he continued.

“Maybe I should” said Matt

“You know my wife’s maternity leave ends in two months”. Matt continued as Yiga listened attentively to his friend.

“Do you remember she put her mother’s visit on hold?”

 “Not really, when was her mother supposed to come?”

“Two summers ago”

“Then what happened?”

“She got pregnant and hinted that it would be better if she comes after the baby”

“Did you agree to it?”

“I don’t think I had any choice. She is her mother. What sort of muko will I be if I said no to her?

Yiga raised his eye brows. He took a sip from his tall glass of larger, his moustache collecting a bit of the white foamy head on top.

“She is suggesting that her Mother comes from Uganda to help us with Nasuuna for at least six months” he looked into Yiga’s eyes, searching looking for clues of support.

“What is wrong with that? Yiga asked to Matt’s surprise.

Matt shook his head in disbelief. He didn’t understand why his friend was not reading between the lines.

In a serious tone he added “How can I use the same bathtub as my mother in-law?” He raised his voice “I will have to stand in the kitchen with her and wash dishes, make my own breakfast or cook dinner.” Almost shouting in Yiga’s face and banging the table, he added, ”Worse than that, I have to change Nasuuna’s nappies, bath her and feed her in her presence.”

“Alright I get it now” Yiga said calmly. “Your mother in-law will understand that you have to use the same bathtub in London. You can act for the six months that you have never stepped in the kitchen or changed nappies”



“Do you take sugar with your tea?” Nambi asked her friend Gibwa as she opened the fridge to get the milk. The noise from the kettle was on crescendo as the water was getting to boil.

”I do take sugar, but before that I don’t take ‘English tea’” Gibwa said, and the two girls laughed.

“When are you going to start living in England?”

”I don’t know if I will ever have tea with cold milk. I only take black tea at work when everyone else is adding cold milk from the fridge”

You want African tea then? Nambi joked as she placed the cup with a small amount of milk in the microwave to warm.


Just as the girls sat down to have their cups of tea.  “You have come at the right time Gibwa. I was thinking of phoning you”.

“I on am annual leave and wanted to see you and Nassuna. What did you want to phone me about?”

Nambi looked at Gibwa intently and said “It is about Matt”.

”What is it about him?”

“He is being difficult about Mother coming over to visit and help out with Nassuna when maternity leave ends. He is very defensive when I bring it up. I can take unpaid leave but we can’t manage financially if I don’t go back to work”.

“What is he suggesting?”

“He wants to get another job but I don’t think it is a good idea?”


“It will mean Matt working long hours, and it will leave him with little time to spend with the baby.”

Gibwa felt a bit awkward,  she felt there could be another reason why Matt was reluctant to invite Nambi’s mother into their home for such a long time. They met in the UK and have not gone through the kwanjula ( introduction ceremony). It was a delicate subject and she had to work around it carefully.

 “Do you think this is about money alone?”

“What else could it be?”

“Matt has not met your mother? Maybe he has an issue there”

“Matt is not very traditional, ’omwami owe Kampala’. Nambi laughed, wondering what her friend was on about. “He makes his breakfast, changes nappies, cooks, washes dishes. Why would he be bothered about meeting my mother even if we haven’t done kwanjula ?”

“He is an African man and she is his mother in-law at the end of the day” Gibwa said bluntly.


Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2013)



Author: lubega1

Among other things an aspiring UK based African writer with particular interest in African/Western cultural divide..

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