Don’t worry, you’ll be a great mother

Memories are nothing if not a constant reminder of past ignorance. I laugh at memories of debates I used to have when I was younger about when the best time to have kids is: when you’re young and can bounce back bodily and run after your kids; or when you’re older and well, you’re just older. Nearly 6 years in, I don’t actually think there is such a thing. The probability is that you were hoodwinked by the awesome two-some that are Mother Nature and hormones, sneaky little fucks! One minute, you’re minding your own business planning your life on an excel spreadsheet then next you have the urge to procreate. To top it off, offspring are cute enough to make you forget the one-two punch that the awesome twosome dealt you, so you do it all over again.

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Source: Google

 

We’ve come a long way, Bunny and I. This past weekend, I came across some photos of us when she was 11 months old, just a few days before I walked out of my marriage. It made me think about our journey as mother and daughter and the ever-changing balancing act. When I was pregnant, I had it in my mind that parenting as a couple would be as smooth as the Jamaican 4×100 meter relay team baton interchanges, but my experience in that relationship was to the contrary. If I think about it, I guess it was easier being single because then my focus was solely on mine and Bunny’s needs. Anything else was an unwelcome distraction. I had a lot going on at the time – divorce, full-time work, a Masters degree, relocating further from work. At 25, I was trying to climb the career ladder, and was working in an unforgiving environment, so everything was precision planning. Wake up, get ready, leave Bunny with her grandfather, sit in morning traffic, work a full consultant day, sit in evening traffic, cook dinner, bath and feed Bunny, feed myself, settle Bunny for bed, work on Masters assignments and thesis. Weekends were all work and Bunny. Reflecting on it, I don’t think I had a social life then – there was simply no time between all of that and the legal battle that was waging.

 

Now, 5 years after that photo was taken, I’m noticing that things are not any easier. I actually have more balls in the air than I did back in 2011. We’ve all seen those posts about how we all have glass balls in the air, where no one on their deathbed has ever wished they had worked more, and family is the only glass ball that can’t be fixed when it gets dropped (you know the one!). All of that is valid, but curses reality! Tough decisions have to be made on a daily basis on how to prioritise my time. Back in 2011, when I was trying so desperately to find some sort of formula for keeping all these balls in the air, I went the academic route and asked some of the successful women in the office what they did. “Outsource it”, they said. “It’ll be easier that way”, they told me. But my mama didn’t raise no slacker! I knew immediately that it was not how I wanted to raise Bunny, seeing me for dinner twice a week. I wanted to be present and accountable. Maybe not the best choice for career progression, but Bunny is really cute so that was a no-brainer.

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Source: Google

 

Our needs change constantly, so I have an annual general meeting with myself to check and amend decisions (it really is that formal). As she has grown, so have her needs. But what mattered in 2011 doesn’t necessarily matter as much now, e.g. I don’t have to bath her because she can do that herself. I did eventually take up some of the advice I was offered, and let others handle what I was comfortable relinquishing from my iron mommy fist. I hired a live-in nanny who ensures that both of us are clean, dressed and fed because let’s be honest, she’s my nanny too. I have a great support system nearby, which eases some of the logistical challenges I have working so far from home, like extra-curricular activities and afternoon school runs. I’ve designed a well-oiled machine that can work independently of me, and it has to for Bunny’s life to be uninterrupted. It sounds pretty awesome because it is. I have time for the gym, friends, a relationship, evening classes, work dinners etc.

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But, I have had to also put on my big girl panties because the Bunny assembly line has its pros and cons. On the one hand, I can accelerate my career again. If I have to travel, work late or work in remote destinations, life goes on. On the downside, the show does go on. That hits me where it hurts most because I’m mom. It’s one of the most important roles I will ever fulfill, and it’s a one-time right kind of gig. I experience the worst kind of working mom guilt because she is old enough to ask tough questions. “Where were you”? “Why can’t you ­­­­stay for show and tell like xxx’s mom”? It’s hard to hear “I missed you” and to explain to a 3/4/5-year-old why you have to work so hard. I’m that mom who gets texts from other moms reminding her not to forget something for school. It’s not an aspirational position. Whilst I do not ever want to be bake sale mom, I hate missing milestones and school events. It’s been a tough lesson in ego though, because what I know for sure is it’s not all about me.

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Source: Google

 

I have to constantly remind myself not to take things personally. My individual set of circumstances mean that I have to reconcile myself with the fact that I will not always be physically present. My heart does not break when she calls the nanny’s name when referring to me. Rather, I am thankful that we have such a competent and loving person looking after her. I can’t be mad when the offspring wants a bedtime story read by someone else. I hug and kiss her goodnight and appreciate the few moments of silence I can get before opening up my laptop. I try as hard as I can. I do the best that I can with what I have available. I don’t always get it right, but I am always trying. I am ambitious for both myself and Bunny which means I have to work extra hard. Because I work extra hard, it means that the little time that I get to spend with her is that much more special and it is not wasted on social media or mindless television.

 

It’s a constant shuffle. When she was younger, I prioritised bedtimes. I was there to tuck in and read stories every night. Now, it’s mornings. I am uncompromising and unapologetic about my school run. Everything waits until our morning routine is complete, then my day can run its course with my mind and heart settled. Trying to find a workable balance as a mom is like finding El Dorado – it’s a city of gold we’ve all heard of but no one has actually seen. I consider myself blessed to have all kinds of great mom’s in my circle, so when I say that balance is as elusive as the end of a rainbow I mean that for moms who are single, married, stay at home, part-time or full-time employed. What we can all agree on, despite our differing circumstances is that this is no cake walk.

 

I’ve made peace with the fact that the juggling act never gets easier, the hustle just changes. When she was a baby, I thought it was tough going. Looking back at it, I just laugh because right now, at this moment is the simplest it will ever be. There is so much more on my plate now and I sleep well at night knowing that I am doing the best that I can with what I have. We’re figuring it out as we go along. I’ve become a MOM (Master of Multitasking). I work hard and I play hard. I am a happy mom, disciplinarian mom, doctor mom, encyclopedia mom, taxi mom, chef mom, playmate mom, bed mate mom… I am also a sister, daughter, friend and lover. I am a manager and a warrior queen. I am a Superwoman!

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It was never a dress…

 

This post was originally posted on a well heeled woman blog as part of a working mum’s life series.

300 books in the trash: my rejection of patriarchal love

I’m a die hard romantic and have always been. If I think back to when I first started choosing my own books in the bookstore, I gravitated towards bubblegum reading. I loved sweet valley high; so much drama, so much romance. In my teenage years, I was a bit of a loner, so it wasn’t unusual to find me with my nose in a book. It got to the point where I moved to the advanced reading section reserved for seniors after 1 year of high school, and would typically go through a novel a day. I mostly lived in a fictional world, and it was nice.

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My reading habits all but continued undisturbed into my adulthood. And then one day, I just got fed up. It was hardly surprising to me because my life had evolved, so it would stand to reason that my reading would too. What was unusual was the suddenness of the evolution. Literally, I was reading something and immediately got annoyed at the female protagonist. I started asking myself questions about her strength of character; why was she so weak, so needy, so dependent? Why did she need to be rescued?

 

The formula for romance novels is more or less the same. Girl meets boy, falls in love, is emotionally abused and broken down (all disguised as fighting for love or just plain miscommunication), lovers reunite, a few sweet nothings uttered, then happily ever after. I have over 300 Mills and Boons (or rather had), and countless other romantic novels, and have read each of these more than once. But by-God, what the hell is up with that formula? It got to the point where I was desperate to read something with a female protagonist who had more will-power than a leaf of wilted lettuce. Or at the very least, one who started and finished the story strong. In general, there is a lot of misleading stuff, she starts off as a boss bitch, then the minute she meets this guy all her power just evaporates. Poof, and she’s a hot mess begging to be reassembled by this man?!? Nowhere in this book does she actually remember that she was whole and fully capable before she met him. There was the one gem I loved reading in high school about a southern belle of great beauty who was kidnapped, raped (read seduced), kidnapped from her initial kidnapper and raped again (also read seduced), then was gratefully rekidnapped by her first kidnapper – then they fell in love and lived happily ever after. I’ll let that sink in…

 

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Source: Lovepanky

That novel was a mess but as a young and impressionable girl, I used to lap this up! I would curl up under my blankets all afternoon during the week, and all day during weekends consuming similar reading material. It’s no wonder my past relationships have been so messed up. If my model of romance was the epitome of unrequited love or being ignored, hurt, browbeaten into submission, abandoned, falsely accused, lied to/about or undermined, then it’s no wonder I couldn’t see the signs of catastrophic relationships early on.  I mean, think about it. If all you consume is garbage, then you wouldn’t know if you were being led into a dumpster because being surrounded by the stench of rot is an everyday standard of normal. The day I got fed up with the weak-ass females I was subconsciously programming my mind and modelling my relationship behaviour with, I decided to start throwing out each book the minute something seemed off kilter with the female protagonist. Nothing was different about the books, it was me who had changed. Or rather, the lens from which I was reading with had changed due to my own life experiences. As I grew into my own, I started questioning the actions of the women I was reading about. No longer did I find the journey thrilling. In fact, I was rather annoyed that someone could be a spectator in their own lives to the extent that a “billionaire” or “tycoon” or “sheikh” could literally hold you ‘captive’. I mean, really? I had had enough. It left me with very little to read, but I could no longer stand consuming literature that did not build, encourage or even just echo real life in the slightest.

 

Honestly though and underneath all of the annoyance, the main reason I had to throw out all my books is future-focussed. Bunny is learning to read, and whilst she may be a few years away from picking up my books with any kind of interest, time flies. If I postpone it, in the blink of an eye, she will be curled up on the couch reading one of the books off the shelf. It’s riveting reading material but because the romance novel model is so messed up, I cannot imagine that influencing Bunny’s worldview in that manner. I started reading at a very young age, and would read anything I could get my hands on. I do not want her to get her hands on this vitriol. I want her to read Jane Austin and Maya Angelou. I want her to read autobiographies of women who are pace setters and warriors in their own rights. I want her to read Mario Puzo and John Grisham. I want her to write her own story of struggle and victory without the subtle influence of written words that normalise abuse, even in the most subtle of forms. Left to her own devices, if she decides to consume romantic literature then she needs to buy it herself. That will not be my legacy.

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Source: Pinterest

 

What legacy do you want to leave for your children, and how are you going about making it a reality? Let me know in the comments section.

7/52 You are the weakest link, goodbye!

Ride or die is an interesting concept. Far as I know, it was coined by one of the greatest movies of all time, Bad Boys. Alas, life may be many things but a Bad Boys movie it is not. If you search the tag, you’ll see quite a lot of references to friends and lovers. As with social media, these pictures tend to be a moment that in all likelihood is enhanced by filters. But behind the filters, it gets real and life happens. I’ve recently been grappling with ride or dies and loyalty between friends. When all is said and done, there is the one defining moment I revert to when trying to decide how to deal with faux friends and traitorous bitches…

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I have a friend named Gugu. We met at varsity, but late into varsity when original friendships had been stress tested with most failing to meet the mark. So when I met her, I was just a little more mature and had significantly less drama (read fewer friends). In any case, I looked up to her. She was so grounded, so confident and self-assured and frankly, she was just a boss babe. Total girl crush material. The one thing that constantly had me puzzled was how quickly she went through friends. I mean, yes there were a few that had been around for a while but with the size of Grahamstown, it was fairly easy to notice how many former friends she had.

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But this isn’t about Gugu. It’s what I’m grateful I learnt from her. Probably the single most important criteria by which I define my friendships. I asked her about the high turnover one day (because I was worried I might be next, and I really like Gugu so I wanted to stick around). She said something to the effect of “Rue, I need loyal people around me. This stuff we’re dealing with is small and insignificant; ‘I kissed someone who wasn’t my boyfriend’, ‘I might be pregnant’. But we’re growing up. Soon it will be ‘I’m not sure my husband is my child’s father’ or ‘ I embezzled from my employer’, ‘I’m HIV positive'”.

“I won’t have people I can’t trust around me“.

 

This conversation is a reality check for me, even to this day. I often look at myself using that criterion to understand if I’m actually being a friend or I’m just using up time and energy in their surrounds. Similarly, I expect my friends to operate with a level of awareness of treachery. We’re grown now, and this isn’t mickey mouse clubhouse. My boundaries and expectations are very clear. If you step out of formation or betray my trust in any way, my immediate reaction is to cut my losses and run. I don’t expect blood oaths, but what I know for sure is that I do not want people whose intentions I don’t trust around me. It’s simple enough.

 

And then I saw this on Facebook. People like to test us, huh?

What would you do?

 

This is one part of a 52-week post a week challenge on gratitude. You might also enjoy reading other parts of this series. Click here to see more.

Judas, that you?

Act like you know!