When I was in my teens and early 20’s, my concept of being a mother was nothing short of utopia. I had it all planned out. I was going to be married by the time I was 25, have seven children, yes you read that correctly, SEVEN and live happily ever after.I was even willing to have the goldfish and the dog (which is a stretch because everyone knows I am not a fan of animals!) to complement the white picket fence. Now that I am in my forties, I look back and say to myself, “Girl how stupid were you!”
Ask any mom whether she’s been a parent for two months or two decades, it’s the hardest job that you never applied for, whether you are doing it alone or in a two-parent household.
While it may seem obvious what the role of a mother is, it’s definitely not a one size fit all, and let’s be honest, not every mom wants or covets the role.
I never envisioned myself being a single mother of one, must less three children, but I believe everything happens for a reason, so matter how hard the lesson. Sounds cliché right, but it is what it is.
I wasn’t the first and unfortunately, I won’t be the last. But as I reflect on being a mother, there have been some lessons I’ve learned along the way which I wanted to share.
1. Forgive yourself for being a single mom if you feel guilty about it. Life happens and no one is exempt.
2. Do not turn your children into victims of circumstance. If you tell your children that they are at a disadvantage because they are in a single parent home, you will regret it at some point in their lives. They will use this as an excuse to fail, when really they deserve and can have every opportunity afforded to them as their peers from two-parent homes, albeit they may have to work a little harder.
3. Explain sacrifices. I cannot afford to give my children everything they want. Instead my focus is on everything that they need.
4. Do not lie to them. When my children ask questions, I answer them. There is no candy coating anything. But they don’t need gory details either. The one thing I emphasise with my children is accountability. I can only be responsible for my actions; I will not and cannot be responsible for their fathers’.
5. It’s okay to show your children when you are hurting. Many times, I have run into the bathroom or held in my tears when I wanted to explode because I didn’t want my children to see me in pain. But what I realised is that I was not doing them any justice. So now when I’m having a moment, I let them know and they give me my space.
6. Do not introduce the word half in their lives. My children are not half siblings; they are siblings. I find the term divisive and have never used it to describe their connection to each other.
7. You are just right for your children. At some point in our lives, we feel we are falling short as a mother. We want to make perfect meals, live in perfect homes, create perfect children, when in reality perfection is whatever works for you and them. Sometimes we have pizza for dinner on a Sunday, or a full roast on a Wednesday…it’s perfect for us so that’s all that matters.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. To this day, I struggle with this one. If I ask anyone for anything (which is rarely) it’s because I have to. I’ve learned my village is much larger than I ever imagined.
9. Claim your parenting errors and fix them. I was a shouter. I was hurt and angry and I was taking it out on my children at times and not even cognisant. Until one day, Ajani spilled a pitcher of drink in the kitchen and when I looked up at him, his face was covered in terror. He was expecting me to scream at him. It was in that moment I knew I had to seek the tools I needed to release my anger in a healthy way.
10. Create a legacy for your children to be proud of. I often talk to my children about who I want them to be as people. I show my daughter the bad choices I’ve made and how I never want her to repeat them. I create environments for my sons to see positive male role models so they are clear in who I want them to be as men.
11. Yesterday is gone, let it go. Each day is a day new for me to make a more meaningful impact on their lives.
Today, I salute all of the mothers who are trying to be the very best they can for their children. You are loved!