Where do I even begin? I guess the beginning is always a good start (pun intended).
I met my “potential” ex-husband in 2006, it wasn’t love at first sight, it was rather “connection or curiosity at first sight”. When I met him, there was still a lot of controversy around xenophobia and the attacks, there were stereotypes around Xhosa women dating “foreign” man. It was never roses and peaches, it was a constant battle with not only being together but also having to introduce him to my family knowing very well the stigma that was attached to our relationship. I didn’t care, I was in-love with him and against all odds, he had my heart.
In 2008, we had our first child and in 2013 we moved in together. It started out as a “weekend thing”, you know how it is ladies? You’re there every weekend and every other day, 80% of your clothes are at his place. Eventually, you find out that you have unknowingly moved in. That’s what happened, and in 2013, I was officially cohabiting. Life was good, we would go out clubbing, eating out every other night, it was all fun. Our child was staying with my mom. A few months later of cohabiting we both decided we wanted our child to come stay with us and even though it was against my tradition and without the blessing of my parents, I wasn’t really bothered. My head was in the clouds and all I could see was the three of us being one big happy family.
Cohabiting changed a lot of things for us. I was “expected” to do things – cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, taking care of things, doing all of this while also being a student at the same time. He would go out drinking with his friends and come back whenever he felt like it, sometimes in the morning. It wasn’t fun anymore, the going out stopped, the eating out stopped and I found myself stuck in this situation I had never imagined for myself. When baby number two arrived in 2015, I was an emotional mess. We were still cohabiting, my parents were still not happy with what I was doing and I still felt stuck in this relationship. After Jonathan was born, I knew the next natural step would be for us to get married. In my head I thought I had to show him that I was ready, even though I had said it to him countless times. I had to change my entire lifestyle to show that I was “wife material” – go to work, come back and look after the kids, make sure the house is clean, laundry is done, clothes are ironed, there’s food on the table etc. I did all of this and still, nothing changed.
In 2016, I took my kids to my parents and I moved out. He searched for me and apologized, he admitted all the wrongs he had done and ensured me that he would change and try to do better, I gave in and gave him another chance. I moved back in with him and the first few months were good, after some time things went back to normal, I moved out again. He apologized and this time he proposed, I said “YES’! He went to my parents to pay lobola and we came back, traditionally as “husband and wife”. Life was fine and in 2017 I became pregnant with our third child, it wasn’t planned. The routine started again, same behaviour, same pattern and I stayed. I kept asking myself why I had gone back so many times before? I always hoped and prayed to God to show me the signs and when He did, I prayed that He would change him. I always prayed for my husband, our union, our kids and it still fell apart. How does that happen? When prayer doesn’t seem to be working, what happens?
It’s hard to describe myself without mentioning that I am a mother, I am a mom of three kids. Out of everything that has happened in my life, I am certain of being a mother. My kids are the very essence of me and it has been that way since I was 18 when I had my first child. Everything has always been secondary, that’s the way I’ve always known it to be. When I reflect on the recent activities that have shaped my life I like to imagine a person who was born into a vegan family, deprived of meat their whole life and one day at University or something, they taste an omelette or a nice lamb shank, their taste buds explode. It’s either they will be repulsed by it or they will spend their entire life making up for lost time. That’s me, in a relationship for over a decade, 3 kids, married. Here I am now, staying with my sister alone, my parents have the kids and I don’t have a husband to worry about. What do I do? I make up for lost time, clubbing every other day, making bad decisions. I’m like a child left unattended at a candy store.
Here I am, like a child that was deprived her whole life. Living this “single woman” life. My children are with my parents and I’m standing at this crossroads making these not very good decisions. I’m not sure if I’m still trying to find myself, I don’t have the answer. I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t have the formula. I am just a woman trying to glue pieces of her life back together. At 29 years old, I am still “trying to find myself”. I am trying to identify who I am without first describing myself as a “mother”. What do I like? What’s my type? What do I want? WHO do I want? I certainly, don’t want to be resentful, I don’t want my kids growing up in a broken home, I don’t want to lose everything I’ve worked so hard to build. What I’ve come to realise though is that whatever decision I make does not only affect me, there are three other innocent souls that I must account for. They call me mom, they refer to me as their hero, they hug me tight, they give me those unexpected warm and sometimes wet kisses, they ask me what they’re gonna eat for dinner and they expect me to read them bedtime stories. If at 29 I feel like I’ve ruined my life, then God has granted me the greatest opportunity of shaping the futures of three incredible souls. It stopped being about me 10 years ago, now it’s about three other souls and that means compromising. Then again, that’s what mothers do, they make sacrifices.