Single motherhood is hard, especially when it happens at a young age. We spoke to three such women about the joys and struggles of early motherhood.
King William’s Town, Eastern Cape
When Okuhle had her son, she was 22 and unemployed. “It saddened me that I could not provide for him,” she says, “But I made sure that I got a job. Everything I do is for my son. I want nothing but the best for him.” Two years later, Okuhle has found a job at the supermarket as a baker. Although she earns little, she’s been able to grant her son what he needs. She, however, does not have him full time; he lives with her grandmother nearby. Okuhle only gets to see him on her days off from work. “Being away from him is very hard, but I am glad that my grandmother is there to give me a helping hand.” Okuhle has the full support of her family, but she gets little help from the father of her boy. The child’s father, who lives three hours away in Port Elizabeth, sees very little of his son. “I just want my son to have a good relationship with his father; I wish he would make time to see our child more often.” Despite the difficulties, motherhood has brought Okuhle joy. Nothing warms her heart more than being called “Mama”. Her hopes are that he develops to make wise decisions to shape his own future.
Cape Town, Western Cape
Greer was a teenage mom, her daughter Tyla was born when Greer was 19. “It was difficult to come to terms with the reality and move forward,” explains Greer, who says she was a rebellious teen growing up. “Looking back I was on a downward spiral,” she says. In some ways, the pregnancy helped Greer focus and stabilise. Though Geer says motherhood has many drawbacks, she tries to focus on the blessings. “It’s a cliche, but the joys of motherhood come from the little things, like the milestones that your child reaches without you realising it.” Greer says she’s learned a lot from her mother, who also happens to be her business partner. “She’s taught me that womanhood is not just about cooking and cleaning. You also need to take time for yourself, so you can be the best mother and business person.” Kimora Lee Simmons is another role model for Greer: “She proves that a woman can be successful in all areas of life.”
When Amahle’s parents found out she was pregnant, they were so disappointed that the family did not speak for weeks. Amahle, who was 20 at the time, had kept her pregnancy secret until she started showing, four months later. Eventually they got over their anger and disappointment and today are her primary support system. They are the ones who live with her three-year-old son in the Eastern Cape, while she works in Johannesburg. “Being away from my baby is hard, but my parents love him as if he were their own,” says Amahle, who works as a junior consultant and PA at a financial company in Sandton. Motherhood has taught Amahle responsibility and selflessness. She’s proudest of being able to complete her studies and securing a job. “Motherhood has taught me to be more responsible and to think of my son’s needs before my own. When I need to make an important decision, I ask myself: how will this affect or benefit my son?” Falling pregnant early can delay your studies, says Amahle, but you should not lose sight of your goals. “Be a role model for your child; be a parent that he or she can boast about,” she says.
Image by Andiswa Mkosi
*None of the subjects in this article were photographed
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