Father’s Day: CEOs’ take on fatherhood

From left: Seika Gatabaki, Programmes Director MercyCorps; Jackson Muli, Kenya Orient Life Assurance Principal Officer; Churchill Winstones, CEO Safaricom Investments Cooperative; and Kevin Otiende, CEO Calla PR.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

“Fatherhood is responsibility. If you aren’t, don’t go planting trees if you cannot water them”

On the stereo at a local grill at the Nairobi's Village Market, the overhead stereo stretches itself.

“I've long since retired, my son's moved away. I called him up just the other day I said, I'd like to see you if you don't mind.

“He said, ‘I'd love to, dad, if I can find the time. You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kids have the flu. But it's sure nice talking to you, dad’.

“And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me he'd grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.”

The song is "The Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin. This is Fatherhood 101. It is an estate that swallows everyone who dares step in, this fatherhood. How to describe it then? If you love football, it’s the Champions League of manhood. If you like art, this is the Monalisa of paintings. If you are into religion, well, this is its opium. But a father is a hard thing to compass. You say things like, “The child won’t change me.” But children teach you that you can still be humbled by life, and that you learn something new all the time.

So, for this year’s Father’s Day, BDLife spoke to a few executives about their fathers and their fatherhood. How do they rate themselves out of five stars because isn’t fatherhood the sky in which every man seeks to shine?

Kevin Otiende, CEO Calla PR

Kevin Otiende, CEO Calla PR.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Fatherhood style: Believing

What was your father like?

I draw a lot of inspiration from my dad. He is not a rich man nor does he own huge parcels of land. He gave us, overwhelmingly, his presence. This is what I do with my child: I take her to school, pick her up, take her home and come back to work. That takes three hours every day. Fatherhood is important, the highest honour bestowed on any man. I explained to my dad about deadbeatism and he was surprised, it is not something he knows about. We need to give our children's presence.

What was it like growing up in your days as compared to co-parenting now?

We get into marriage for good reasons, hoping to make it lifelong. But things happen, and I think being the bachelor that I am, I try to make it as normal as possible for my child to get the best from both parents. I am also a co-parenting coach, and I know why it seems to fail is because we don’t put the interests of our children first. That is key. Children come first.

What’s the hardest part about co-parenting?

When you are too close to your children but can’t see them as frequently as you want to. This is why I pursued the option of school runs so she could see me daily, aside from the alternative weekends. You will miss a lot if you don’t spend enough time with them, and children grow up fast.

What’s the toughest conversation you’ve had with Calla, your daughter, so far?

Children don’t really understand grief. They are direct in their speech because they do not know how to manage feelings—especially external ones. That brutality opens up wounds, and they will not go away until they are satisfied. Those conversations about “Who is your mum and where is she?” are tough, seeing that my mother died when I was 11 and I didn’t understand she was dead until I was 15. And also, she wants siblings, and has tried to set me up with my friends so I can give her one haha!

What’s the one word that describes your fatherhood style?

Believing. I believe in the potential that my child has, and I believe I need to be present in every form. I take fatherhood seriously; it supersedes all other relationships.

What has fatherhood changed in you?

It has intensified my urge to be intentional because I am no longer making decisions for myself. It has increased my appetite for personal development because we did not have the advantage of having rich parents, thus we need to leave our children financially and emotionally secure.

How are you raising Calla differently from how you were raised?

We were never encouraged to speak up back in the day. In this era of depression, we cannot afford children who are not taught to be open. I like to have open engagements with her, and we get to an agreement—that if I persuade her or if she persuades me, that is the route we follow. I am already her father, so all I ask God is to make me my daughter’s friend.

How would you rate your fatherhood out of five stars?

Four. Nobody is perfect, and there are mistakes we make along the way, but how constantly are you improving yourself to be a better man, and father than you were yesterday?

Kevin Otiende: CEO’s take on fatherhood

Sieka Gatabaki, Programmes Director MercyCorps

Seika Gatabaki, Programmes Director MercyCorps.

Seika Gatabaki, Programmes Director MercyCorps.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Fatherhood style: Flexibility

What was your father like?

I asked my son what I am doing well/not well, talking about fatherhood. Last night, at the golf club with my dad, we had the same conversation about fatherhood. The way we relate with our father is different from how we parent in this new age.

What did your son say about your fatherhood?

He likes the fact that I support his dreams around soccer and technology. I look at his potential and give him the opportunities to fulfil it. He also says I'm hard on him, something my daughter would say as well. Discipline is important and gives you clarity amid life’s challenges.

What would you teach your father about fatherhood?

I feel sorry for them because they came from a world where the father-child relationship was not one-to-one. They grew up in a community setting. He was not so much there, working hard to feed the family; we didn’t have that many opportunities to talk. I wish I had more time to hear about his life stories, who he is, how he got where he is and less of, “Have you finished your math homework?” But my dad was very wise. He helped me out of a jam, and he said, asking for money with dignity is okay, but it is never right to steal.

What’s your biggest struggle with fatherhood?

Knowing when to be what kind of person with the children. When they are younger, you want to be instructive. Now they are teenagers, and I am looking for the balance between being a disciplinarian, but also helping them navigate life’s challenges. My daughter challenges ideas and we have back-and-forth conversations. It is a balance of when I am a strict father figure and when am I a friend.

How do you present a united front in your co-parenting journey?

I have been lucky that we are aligned in the way we want to bring up the children. We understood each other’s strengths, and that continues to happen. She calls me out when I do not spend enough time with the children, but also our children are at a particular stage in life and that has made it easy.

What’s your fatherhood style?

Flexible. I was with my therapist and flexibility was a discussion. I give my children what I miss. We lacked love of some sort—now I hug my children, but I also don’t let go of things that are important to stability such as respect. Give them flexibility between who they are and also be the person who can hold them accountable.

What would you like to leave in your children?

They will say I am doing this for my children because my dad didn’t do that. I know they will try and communicate a bit more because I am a bit removed too. What was the question?

What is a family tradition you would like to leave?

We have built something around the Gatabaki name. We are children of a legacy, making a difference in your chosen field, and giving your all. That is why we have stuck to the same surname. I want them to live up to the name.

What has fatherhood given—and taken—from you?

It teaches you humility, that you are not always right. When you are around children, you get a feeling of the specialness of that relationship. Fatherhood requires you to be intentional, because we have so many distractions: careers, and social lives. You have to put in the time, and you see how people parent on social media and you are like, Oh God we are not doing this, let’s work on this together haha!

How are you marking Father’s Day?

I have never thought about it, but I have received gifts in the past. If it’s on a weekend I shall be playing golf. Maybe I’ll cook for myself, or demand to be served.

How would you rate your fatherhood out of five stars?

Four. Based on my children’s perspective, and also the level of effort I put into it. Not at five because you can always get better, and I may just demand to be made Father’s Day breakfast so it could be a lower rating. Let’s pick this up post-Father’s Day.

Sieka Gatabaki: CEO’s take on fatherhood

Churchill Winstones, CEO Safaricom Investments Cooperative

Churchill Winstones, CEO Safaricom Investments Cooperative.

Churchill Winstones, CEO Safaricom Investments Cooperative.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Fatherhood style: Believing

What was the best investment advice you got from your father?

Social capital. Don’t burn bridges as you climb the ladder, you need people if you want to succeed in life.

What have you learned about fatherhood from your children?

That it is a responsibility if you are not responsible, you should not go planting trees if you cannot water them. It is servant leadership, you become a role model to your family. Fatherhood is protection and provision.

What’s one aspect of fatherhood you struggle with?

Juggling different roles. At the executive level, you have minimal time in giving back to the family—you must create time to create that work-life balance, to meet your KPIs in both paces.

What’s your fatherhood style like?

Servant leadership. I want to be a role model to my children, wife and other fathers. I play with my family, and I give them the best can as a father.

What’s a special treat you do to your children?

I travel a lot so I look for new ventures to explore and go and enjoy with them when they close school.

What would you teach your father about fatherhood?

Tricky question haha! My father was a mentor to me, and I would teach him more mentoring, to have different mentors—financial, spiritual et al.

How would you rate your fatherhood out of five stars?

I give my best, so I’ll give it a four.

Jackson Muli, Kenya Orient Life Assurance Principal Officer

Jackson Muli, Kenya Orient Life Assurance Principal Officer.

Jackson Muli, Kenya Orient Life Assurance Principal Officer.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Fatherhood style: Balance

What do you remember about your father?

My father was a teacher and we schooled where he taught, about four kilometres from home. We walked with him to school, and he was always so fast. Once he got to school, you were no longer a child but a student, even if you came late with him.

What would you teach your father about fatherhood?

I would tell him he should have allowed us to go to a nearer school because that distance, for eight years, was not easy.

How do you raise your children differently from how you were raised?

Times have changed. I pay for a school bus for my children. My children never understood why I never used a school bus or why my father never dropped me to school. Now we finish our homework immediately when they come home from school, unlike back in the day.

What question are you asking yourself about fatherhood?

What better fatherhood I could give to my children? I appreciate God for where I am and what I can give my children. Education is paramount for me.

What is the most boring part about fatherhood?

When you want to relax or when you are emotionally down and the children do not understand. You must always get to their mood, never the other way round.

What do your children complain about most about your parenting?

I am a tough man. A no is a no. Sometimes they may feel I am very rigid, especially when they have discussed things to do and they have not taken into consideration the availability of funds to accomplish that task.

What conversations do you have with your children?

Their friends and their study life to know where they are facing challenges and we are also discussing their wishes and thinking, and where they want me to take them for vacation.

What has fatherhood changed in you?

Responsibilities change your lifestyle. The expectations when you are a family also change. If you want to buy me something you can only get me on Friday and Saturday, because sometimes men can be absorbed by the social circle and lose on the growth of their children. You may be around, but you’re not really there.

Your fatherhood style?

Balance. Sometimes I am accommodative, other times I am autocratic. Then there are times when I have to be the leader of the family. You cannot be ever tough because the children will start avoiding you and fearing you and not reveal other challenges that they may be facing.

What would you wish people understood about fatherhood more?

Fatherhood is about responsibility.

How are you marking this year’s Father’s Day?

I haven’t thought about it!

How would you rate your fatherhood out of five stars?

A four. I have done what I am supposed to do—I have provided, I have been present, I have guided and I have tried to bring up the children in the right way.

Jackson Muli: CEO’s take on fatherhood

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.