Eric Wainaina and Sheba Hirst have been together for 21 years and married about 10 now. They have two children together.And theirs is what you would call a modern marriage.
“I do not believe in gender-specific domestic roles. I don’t imagine that it is my wife’s job to wake up and make breakfast. Between my wife and I, we will make breakfast for the kids, get them showered and dressed, do their hair and send them off to school. I was raised to do the dishes and cook. My mum was very clear about things like that. Sundays and Decembers were house help-free. So we would have to cook, clean, do the laundry and iron too,” he says.
And that kind of teamwork has brought his family closer.“It helps us bond with the children. They have so much to say, so many interactions they want to share with you – if someone else is getting them ready for school, dropping them off in school, you will miss out on a lot of that,” he says. Even when they were little, Sheba and Eric would take turns to feed them at night.
“I couldn’t just be there and not participate. They even called out for me as often as they called out for their mother. I have heard men say, ‘Ah, my work was done in bed!’ That’s…not true,” he says with a laugh.And their offspring have also taken up some musical talent from their dad and artistic abilities from their actress and producer mum.
“Seben, who is 13, plays the guitar. She also dabbles on the piano and is always learning songs from YouTube and going to the tutorials to learn how to play them. She sings beautifully. The second born, Neo, is 9. Whenever theme songs from TV shows starts to play, she gets up and dances. That’s how she is. Music is in her blood. Then my boy is also musical too. ” he says.
He is proud of his children, and while his career takes him away from home a lot, he would like them to feel that they come first. “I would like them to know that I loved them dearly and that I worked to maintain and grow my relationships with them. I never want them to feel like I sacrificed them for my career. At different points we have had to sort of structure ways and means to ensure we keep contact, make sure we are calling the children at a particular time every day, that Sheba and I are in constant contact – it hasn’t affected us too adversely, but I am prepared for what’s going to come next as my career grows,” he says.
The biggest lesson from my father is… To never gang up on weaker people and that violence is never a solution. My biggest influence is… Besides my parents and wife, I have always named Mahatma Ghandi as one of my greatest influences. I have read a book of his non-violent revolution, and earlier today I watched the movie.
If he was to make a last wish… With any luck, other than dying in my wife’s arms, I would like to be playing concerts till I die.
I would like the world to remember me as… Someone who tried really hard, who did their best, who did not accept barriers to stop me. I opened doors for myself and for others. I never want to pull anyone down. I have met a lot of people in my life who feel like the only way they can get ahead is by pulling people backwards. That is not my philosophy at all. My parents did not raise me like that.
The one thing I know for sure is that… I know nothing. Coincidentally, I am currently reading Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. In it, one character’s most well-known statements to the main character is ‘You know nothing, Jon Snow,’ and every time that is said, I will quip, “You know nothing, Eric Wainaina.
One parenting rule I break is…We argue in front of the children. This I know is contrary to popular advice. We are not averse to having conflict in front of the children. It is important for them to see that you can argue with a person that you love and you don’t have to worry that you are going to lose them,” he says.
“We show conflict but we are also affectionate in front of the children, so they know how to be affectionate and how to argue if we need to argue.”