I was nineteen when I had my first kid. Nineteen, unwed and still a kid myself. Twenty one when baby number two made her way into this world. Still unwed. Barely an adult. Barely a kid. With two tiny humans who depended on me and my then boyfriend, now husband. Thinking back I wonder how the hell we could be so stupid to not get caught out once, but freaking two times for having pre-marital sex. My eldest has just matriculated and will be starting university next month and I feel it’s only fitting that I tell you my story. How people like me can. How a teenage pregnancy statistic is not the end of the world and how life does not end with unplanned babies.
The beauty of hindsight being 20/20 means that it qualifies me to give you details from a view different angles.
For five years of my parenting life, I was a single mother. Sure my boyfriend was around, but as a married mom who actually had one baby born in my marriage, I’ll tell you there is a huge difference. While boyfriends clock in and out for visits, husbands cannot decide that visiting hours are over. They are confined to the home and experience the full magnitude of newborns and ever after. They can’t exactly tap out when they feel like it. If baby decides no one sleeps at night, NO ONE sleeps. Including dads. Yesss! And if dads know what’s good for them, they will be active participants in the parenting gig. Gone are the days when dads get praised for being parents. Unless off course they are great parents. Then they deserves all the praise like great moms do. And we’re all doing great. The fact that you wonder if you’re doing a good job means that you are. Conscious parenting makes for great parents.
The hardest part of parenting for me has always been providing for my kids. Regardless of the fact that I’ve come to enjoy a better lifestyle because of a job with perks (which I’ll get to sometime), providing for my kids is always my top concern. Will there be enough? Will I be able to afford to cover their basic needs? A universal concern. Younger me worked dead end jobs to be able to afford to keep them fed and clothed. My parents, gran and mom in law were my biggest support systems. We were blessed like that. I didn’t have to worry about childcare and they assisted when money was tight. Those first couple of years weren’t that great. We were ok but not comfortably so. It would take me ages to buy myself something nice or a new clothing item. But thinking back to that time, it’s really not about money. It’s a mom thing. We tend to buy items for our kids instead of ourselves all the time. I was telling my eldest two that even though their dad and I now earn far more than we did back then, we were more lavish with them as opposed to our last born, who doesn’t remember things like Happy Meals or playing at Wonderland. It’s true, we don’t really frequent takeout joints or steak ranches. Wonderland outings happens once in a blue moon too. That’s no longer the lifestyle we lead. Take me to a slow market. Let’s go enjoy the great outdoors and eat veggies at restaurant at a wine farm. Or being able to afford great coffee and having a cup at home on the couch. Now that’s what I’m talking about. While the kids will sometimes debate about circumstances and lifestyles, my youngest is not missing out on much. Life as it is suits her idea of what a good life should be like.
I remember crying most days because I missed out on so much of my kids lives when I worked in retail. I prayed that I’d find a job that didn’t require me to stand on my feet for eight hours and work seven days a week. I missed out on first steps, first words and plenty of firsts. My heart was shattered when I’d have to hear about another first my kids experienced. But I had to provide for them. Momma wasn’t bringing home the bacon, but momma could buy milk and porridge while dad brought home the diapers. There were so many days when I resented myself for being so stupid. For bringing not one but two kids into this world and not being able to be there for them all the time. Not being able to buy them whatever whenever. I could never resent them though. My only regret is not being kinder to myself and my circumstances back then. Because you know what? I was blessed with a job that provided my kids basic needs and then some. It was a job I enjoyed for the most part. Clients with stinky feet trying on sneakers made it extremely unpleasant. Ugh!!! Do people still do that? Looking back I wasn’t as hard up as I thought. We were actually more than ok. I still count my pennies as much as I did back then and I still buy goodies for my kids first before I think of myself.
It’s not about what you do. It’s about how you rise up from your circumstances.
The worst part about being a young single mom was the whispers and unkind remarks people made to my face. Gosh was I judged. At some stage my husband’s cousins accused me of trying to trap him. Uhmmm… He knocked me up but ok. My own cousins, much younger than I, were upset because I messed up my life. I wonder if they ever think about their words. Kids are not messes! Period. And that’s besides community members all enjoying taking a moment to say what they want because I should be able to take the punches right? I mean I was having sex so I had pretty much brought it upon myself. People were just downright mean and quite frankly shitty. If I was going to make this out alive and not have my kids lives be tainted by stupid people who didn’t know that it’s okay to think what you want but unacceptable to say what you want, I was going have to toughen up. That, and strike a balance between being better and not bitter. I would show them! Better still, I would not allow them, their words or attitudes shape my life. Afterwards I’d realize that I didn’t really want to prove myself to them. I didn’t want to validate myself. Their opinions became null and void. Being the best mom to my kids was my top priority. I started doing it for us.
Slowly but surely I got a new job and then another new job. I empowered myself and did short courses. I learned as much as I could to better myself and my skills set. I wanted to be the mom my kids can be proud of. Never once did I imagine that I would be the mom my own mom is proud of. Much less be the mom my friends, family and community looks up to. And just so you know, I am crying right now. Ugly tears of a woman who’s had to fight for her position in this world. The woman I am proud to be. The woman who’s had to experience all the nasties and rise from her circumstances to be the one to hold someone else’s hand. Those who are not strong enough and who don’t know yet that they will make it to the other side with flying colours. Yes ladies, it’s doable. Happy ever after is not just for fairy tales.
Have I arrived? Not at all. None of us can ever say that we have arrived. I did however rise up from my circumstances and made a better life for my kids and I. And not by my own strength and power. That’s God’s work. You see, we always have choices. When life hands you lemons you have a choice. When things go wrong and your world crumbles. You have a choice. I could choose to not have sex but I did. I could have chosen to not have my kids but I chose life for them. I chose for them to remain my kids. Not everyone is fortunate enough to make that decision. Sometimes our decisions are in the best interest of our kids and they become other people’s to love and hold. The most selfless gift mom’s can give their kids. I was selfish with my kids though. I wanted them to say mommy ten million times a day and have the nerve to get annoyed at it. Yes, I wanted that. I will choose it over again. Like the choice I made rise. To stand up for myself and my kids. To stand up for every single and teen mom. Stand tall. I am a woman. Hear. Me. Roar!
My secret? Not a secret really as much as a fact of life. It goes on. Even if you want it to stop or you’re not ready. It goes on. People will find their next scandal and you’ll be forgotten about. Life really is like the gossip rags. People are always ready for the next best thing. We, on the other hand, choose to remain stagnant at times. We are so forgiving of others sometimes but quite harsh on ourselves. And when we stop to assess our situations, we’ll find that moving forward is not about people. It’s about us. Are we ready to forgive ourselves? Are we ready to step away from shame? Are we ready to address the real elephant in the room? The self worth/love elephant. Or are we going to exist without living. Shrink to the size we have been reduced to? You are women and I expect to hear you roar. I need you to understand that you can love, get hurt and love again. Don’t ever allow people to compromise who you are.
While it may seem that I’m advocating teen pregnancy, guys I’m really not. I don’t want any teen to read this and think that it’s a good idea to have sex and babies when you’re young. I really don’t want my teens to be having sex now either. No. No. No. It’s not a good idea guys. It was darn difficult. I don’t regret having my kids at all. I sometimes wish I was a little older and more settled, financially secure and married first. Because guys let’s face it, my life is the exception to the rule. Not all single parents get married to each other. Plenty of those who do, don’t make it. I’ve seen this happen to friends and family members and it saddens me to think that not everyone is as blessed as my husband, kids and I. My family is a huge blessing and we thank God for it daily.
What I would like for teens and single moms to know is that we don’t get to control everything that happens in life. Pregnancy and kids are not the worst that can happen to you. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I may not have remained a single mom past my five year stint, but I married a man who was raised by a single mom and he didn’t turn out half bad. That and the fact that my own mom as well as my dad and his sibs were raised by strong single women gives me all the faith that you can do it. My parents happen to rock and I have never met women stronger than my maternal gran, late paternal gran and mother in law. Those women were made of sugar, spice and steel in their veins. We’re not born with it but if we allow ourselves to grow, the steel becomes more than just our armour. My husband and I eventually decided we love each other enough to get married for us and not the kids. I won’t say it happily ever after. Being married to me, I’d say it’s more a case of eventful ever after.
Pregnancy and kids are not the worse thing that can happen to you when you have sex. There is other things like STD’s, HIV and AIDS to worry about. There is a matter of being used as just another warm body to fulfill a sexual desire because sex does not equate to love. There sure is a huge difference between sex before marriage and the kind experienced in the marital bed. Noooo!!! Don’t imagine me naked and no, I’m not the kind who talks outside of my marital bed. I will however say that being in a secure loving relationship, especially marriage, takes it up to a whole other level. It’s all that and then some. And if it’s not, guys you’re going to have to start communicating your needs to those husband’s.
I want every woman reading this, whether you are a single mom, have been a teen pregnancy statistic or faced any kind of difficult in your life…. Be it judged, crucified or villainnized… To know that you can rise. You are better than anything anyone has ever said about you or to you. I am living proof of that. In fact I’ll go as far as to say that I’m no one special. My circumstances are not that unique. I am an average woman with three kids, a husband and a fur kid, who works a regular job to pay bills just like everyone else. Aunt Flo visits monthly, I buy makeup that I hardly wear, rely on magazines for freebies, scoop my dog’s poop, do washing by hand (crazy I know) and when I’m not here or on social media, you will find my nose buried in a book or on a track cheering for my kids. What does set me apart is the fact that I am arrogant enough to believe I am No Ordinary Woman. And if people like me can, then so can you.
What about you? Are you arrogant enough to believe that you too are No Ordinary Woman?