Before I became a mama, I read and researched anything and everything I could to make sure I was prepared for our Monster.
While it prepared me in theory (although some days I couldn’t remember anything I had read), it didn’t prepare for everything. The days that flowed into weeks of sleepless nights, the teething and the tantrums were piling up and I often wondered if I had done the right thing by having kids, because I just didn’t see myself handling everything and remaining sane. I felt overwhelmed, alone and weak, bordering on failure as I wondered how so many women before me had survived all the stages and were doing fine with little or no memories of the harder times they faced during early parenthood.
I found consolation and strength in two ways. Speaking to moms who had already gone through these stages (and survived!!), asked for advice and when I didn’t need any advice, they just listened to me, held my hand and wiped my tears, and that was enough for me.
I also understood that these stages were temporary and that we would move from this stage (to another stage) and I found strength in the knowledge that there was an end to all hardships.
When Gremlin was born, I knew what to expect, or so I thought. It felt as everything had been erased from my memory and I was going into parenthood from scratch again. But as the memories (and the tears) returned, I didn’t seem to feel as down in the dumps as I had with Monster and I started falling into routine and expectancy soon enough as I prepared myself for the next stages to follow. I managed to find my strength a lot sooner, which easily settled me with feelings for security.
Strength is easy to maintain when you know there’s an end to a struggle and you pursue that strength to reach the goal ahead. But not every problem or situation can be found in a manual or article on how to handle it and overcome the difficulties. Not everything in life can be calculated and planned because life just doesn’t work that way. Wouldn’t that be so much easier then?
About a month after Gremlin was born, hard times hit our family. Hubby Byren had started his own company earlier that year with a few family members but he wasn’t getting paid every month even though he was still working each day. This went on for about five months, which meant I was the only one bringing in an income each month, which was far from being able to cover all our expenses, even the basic ones. We were only able to cover the rent and the electricity bill, and that was it. We had quite a bit of food left from previous months of stocking up but eventually it would run out. My mom helped us a few times with small items but we couldn’t expect it the whole time from her. During those five months, we managed to scrape through, living on absolute basics. There were nights when I went to bed hungry so that Hubby Byren and the boys could eat, and I knew they would be okay. I lay awake each night, surrounded by fear and worry of we would each the next night, and the next. I never told Hubby Byren I wasn’t eating because I didn’t want to add additional stress to his plate.
During these months though, I was growing more resentful towards Hubby Byren because I couldn’t understand how a man who was supposed to be a husband and a father wasn’t stepping up and getting his family out of this situation. After countless fights, he continued working for no pay and didn’t try and find anything else that would bring money. Outside input also affected us negatively because it fueled my frustration and anger, and I had convinced myself that this might be the end of my marriage.
After the five months had passed, Hubby Byren stopped going to work and I finally understood why he had continued even though he wasn’t receiving pay for it. He would’ve been sued if he had breached the contract after the first payments weren’t made to him, which would’ve caused even more difficulties for us. He had chosen the lesser of two evils and that it would work out for the best, and that he eventually would get all the money owed to him. I didn’t know this then and I just saw weakness and failure when he stayed at home, doing nothing. When we officially ran out of food, I myself felt as a failure because I couldn’t provide as a parent, even as a working one and soon my kids would go hungry and there was nothing I could do about it. While I had spoken to a few people about our situation, most had only bad things to say while others just listened and sympathized with the situation, I had never expected anyone to involve themselves in our situation because it wasn’t anyone else’s problem to deal with. There was a shame that came over me when I imagined myself asking for assistance from others to feed my own children.In this weakness, I felt my strength. I had been playing the blame game for far too long and never realized that I could help my family. While I couldn’t fix the whole situation, there were certain things that I had control over and I just needed to put aside pride to do so, even if the solution was just temporary. My pride wasn’t worth my children starving. I reached out to a school teacher and explained our situation and asked if she was aware of any places that could help us with a few items of food for a little while. She referred me to a community group, who I contacted immediately, somehow feeling relief that for a short while, I didn’t need to worry about my children not eating each night or us adults starving as well. What I didn’t know that this teacher had contacted all the parents at the school and sent out an anonymous message asking for assistance with any food donations. When we came to pick up the kids the next afternoon, the teacher called us aside and handed us a few parcels filled with food that the parents had donated. That night I cried more than I had cried during the whole time we had been struggling. I was overwhelmed by the care and support that had come through, from some parents that I had never even met and they were willing to help a family, even though they had no idea who they were, while their support filled our cupboards with food, it filled me with even more strength because I knew that there was a support structure out there, somewhat invisible but it was there-powering me, showing me that I wasn’t alone and there was someone there to help when I stumbled.
A few days later, I received a response from the community group. I informed the lady that someone had helped our family and she still insisted on collecting donations for us so we had food going into the next month. Again, I was blown away by the support I was shown; there were no questions asked, no judgements, no shaming. It made me realize that while some of the people donating might not have gone through exact hardships, there was still that sense of humanity, the purpose of helping and supporting each other in ways possible.
During the last month of us receiving donations, Hubby Byren was offered a job which he accepted without doubts and we thought, finally, we were getting back on track. However, we still needed to get through a whole month before we could pay for our own things, so we accepted more food donations. I explained that we were finally on track and we needed help for the last stretch, and not once were my pleas rejected.
While we’re living fine now and we don’t have such worries anymore, I don’t let this erase the memories of those few months where we had to rely on others. It doesn’t take a weak person to reach out for help, it takes a strong one. it takes courage and the will to move forward, not for yourself but for the people in your life, to stand back and say I need help. If you don’t reach out, no one will know and no one will help you. You don’t need to stand alone and face the battles in silence. I realized that there were people out there who were willing to help, and there was, and is, no shame in admitting that you need it.
This Mother’s Day, I want to inspire moms to never forget their strength or doubt it. I wish to inspire women to believe in themselves as well as others during their most darkest hours.
I’ve been asked to part of #MothersDayConnect campaign with an amazing charity organisation called Cape Town EMBRACE, that will allow me to do just that, and you can be part of it as well!
They are asking moms in Cape Town, Joburg and Durban to give one hour of their own Mother’s Day to do something as simple sit with a new mom and make her feel less alone and let her know that she is not alone in this overwhelming moment.
Imagine women gathering at public birthing facilities with the sole purpose of reclaiming Mother’s Day as a day for ALL mothers, starting with our country’s newest moms.
Please join the facebook page and show your support, every mother deserves to be told that she is beautiful, brave and strong! While every day moms should be celebrated and loved, let’s use this day to show love to others; family and strangers included.