Today the world is observing World Mental Health Day. The goal of World Mental Health Day is to increase awareness about mental health and the importance of mental health in overall health of a person. On this day, the idea is to empower people suffering from mental health problems and encourage them to open up […]

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Bridging the Cultural Divide: A Colonial Epiphany 

Well written Tanya, every travel experience is meant to do just that, change our perspective for better.

Tanya's Thoughts

I recently travelled to Japan. As you will see in this post, I am still processing! One of the most powerful realisations I had deals with something which keeps cultures divided and perpetuates the lack of global humanity. I am talking about colonialism. Yes, I know this is a buzzword with negative connotations for some. I am cautious to apply this term because of its overuse by political extremists over the past 5 years. However, colonialism is the only word I can use to describe a subtle mindset which I became aware of.

I was brought up (and am still being brought up) in a liberal household. My parents were all part of the anti-apartheid movement during the late 80s. I went to a government primary and high school where people from different cultures grew together. I am now living in Metanoia, the most liberal residence at Stellenbosch University, where…

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Single parent? The conundrum about the role….

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Wikipedia defines a single parent “as an uncoupled individual who shoulders most or all of the day-to-day responsibilities for raising a child or children. A mother is more often the primary caregiver in a single-parent family structure that has arisen due to death of the partner, divorce or unplanned pregnancy.”

I have issues with this definition…..it neglects to reflect on the actual role of a single parent.

Firstly, it assumes that a single parent is a mother.

Secondly, it assumes its position from a nuclear family perspective due to the mention of death and divorce. The unplanned pregnancy is a whole issue on its own, so I am not even going to entertain it.

When you look at society in its current form, you cannot help but appreciate the type of families that have emanated as the result of the changing times. We have step-families, families headed by unmarried partners; families headed by same sex partners, adoptive families, child headed families, and the list is exhaustive.

The definition above makes it sound as though being a single parent is an easy task, yet it is a multi-dimensional task. A task that brings so much with it, in carrying it out…..
So, single parents shoulder day to day responsibilities with limited help, additionally they are the breadwinner, playmate, disciplinarian, nurturer, teacher and chauffeur. All in ONE!
Throughout the years as a single parent I have made a few essential realisations, namely;

Pass the Baton…to who? There is no out, you are on duty 24/7. You cannot have a bad day. You are not allowed to throw tantrums, you are the parent, remember? Your friends are only one’s you can throw tantrums at, mostly as a way to off-load.


Self-doubt…much?
The most difficult thing is knowing if you are doing a good job or not. As a single parent most times you do not have time to contact a friend to sense check your methods – agree or disagree with you, a friend can help you see the merit in your positive parenting moments and help you improve where you fall short.


Partnerships
…which have nothing to do with you, but are essential for your child/children. You form these with teachers, child minders etc. and this grows your community of villagers that play a small but important role in raising well socialised children.


Decision making…is a solo act.
You stress over making decisions on your own, whether they are right, wrong, how they will impact the child/children? You see, you could conduct a survey to help you make these decisions but in all honesty you are the only one completely invested in your children…why else would you be raising the children ALONE as a SINGLE parent?


Money Money Money Money…
the anxiety about money. There have been so many times that I can recall so vividly when I cried about money, about provision and wishing, praying and hoping the father of my children will find it in his heart to help out, even if he paid R1000 towards school fees, food, clothing and all other necessities and expenses one incurs for teenage boys. Alas, tears don’t pay the bills.


Acceptance…
I was raised by a single parent, and had ideals of the kind of family I wanted, the environment in which I would have loved to bring up my children. Raising my children alone was not what I had in mind, but it was inevitable. So I have had to accept a different family than the one I had planned to have.


Sense of Self…..weakening…
because your super power is being a super parent you easily forget about taking care of yourself. I take care of myself by doing stuff I love like reading and spending time alone in my thoughts. Sometimes my children are not allowed in my room, because everything in there is about me.


Balancing act…
effectively holding it together, the work/home life balance. Extended family, new romantic interests and dating…all require a good balance. All by this one parent.

Lately, I often hear married women and those that are co-habiting with the fathers of their children, complaining and saying that it is better to be a single parent than have a partner who is an absent parent in every form whilst they are physically present. The life of a married single parent

From when my boys were as young as 3years old, which was when I started my single parent journey, I have had to learn a few survival tricks that have seen me through the hardest of times….

I have learned to make do with what I have, because there is just one income and partly because one person can only be in so many places at once!

I have learned new skills that parents who have the support of the other parent may not have to learn. I am self-reliant and very creative with my time and resources.

So, here is my list of survival lessons learned:

  • Learn to speak directly WITH my children NOT at them. I have the most fulfilling relationship and conversations with my boys. It has not always been like this, but has taken a lot of ‘unlearning’ some of the things I grew up experiencing from how my mom raised me and changing how I interacted with them and being always mindful as a parent;
  • Learn to ‘Do for yourself’ Traditional roles in my household don’t apply. I cook, clean, change the light-bulb, screw in a loose plug, fix the water pressure so the sprinklers work…the list is endless, since money is often too tight to afford a handyman I have had to learn some skills to make sure my household is not falling apart. I am my household’s handy-woman, I come very cheap. I only enlist contractors for big jobs;
  • Learn to multi-task. There are only so many hours in the day, no matter how much needs to get done…insert sad-face emoticon here…LOL. As a single parent you have to quickly learn how to arrange your day, your life, so that you are able to do many things at once. As the saying goes, in a survival situation, you’ll have to learn how to keep several irons in the fire at once, if you are going to make it. Make every second count, work SMARTER, not HARDER!
  • Learn not to panic. This is the most important skill you HAVE to learn and master. More often than not, there are 10 different things going wrong at the same time requiring your attention. While busy helping one child with their homework, lunch is burning and the other child needs help with this and that…..Panic is dangerous, as it will send you to the wrong direction and add to the mayhem. Deep breath and resolve each issue at a time and in no time the lunch that was burning would have turned into a tasty lunch and that homework would be signed off. After a while you learn how to react without panicking every time multiple things go wrong at the same time. You think on your feet, resolve issues calmly and more importantly you develop nerves of steel;
  • Learn to re-use and repurpose what you already have. Because money is tight, you learn to preserve what could have gone to the trash to use for another purpose. This stretches the money so that it is used in other areas where it is mostly needed. Doing more with less! Ask me how, I’ll show and tell you;
  • Learn to be consistent when disciplining. Loving, consistent discipline with tough rules that matter. I am not my children’s friend, period!

This social and societal reality we refer to as SINGLE PARENTING is highly intricate and quite complex. It deals with social, emotional and economic pressures.

 

 

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Apology to self…

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Dear Mpumi,

I am apologizing for hurting you for the past 20 years or so. I have put you through so much suffering to the point you have practically given up hope of ever knowing who you are or what you can accomplish. I have lead you down the road of anxiety and deep depression. Please forgive me. I have never known how to love you but always put others happiness before you. I will work hard to change this thinking know that you did not ask for the childhood you grew up in and in hindsight that childhood helped shape the woman you’ve become.

You are not a slave to others and I will no longer push you to be a slave. You don’t have to feel you have to be perfect in everything you try to do any more for fear of making me angry. I will no longer make you jump through hoops to impress others.

I will refuse to beat you up anymore for a mistake you made or not being able to make others happy. I will refuse to listen to that little voice inside our head that says you are stupid and worthless. I will never get mad at you again when you make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes why should I expect you to never make one. I will never punish you again for trying your best and it was not up to the standards I expected out of you. I will affirm you with thoughts of love only. I will take care of you, I will love you and I will protect you.

I have lead you to believe in wrong thinking patterns and for this I am the most sorry for.I will work hard to change myself so I think only healthy good thoughts about you instead of hating you when things go wrong or are beyond our control. I will try to do more things with you and push my fears aside so you can have fun in the real world instead of living alone and feeling miserable.

I will work hard to overcome our fears together. I will struggle with the fears to help us both understand that we can accomplish anything if we work hard for it. I will no longer push you at work to make myself look good. I will no longer act like a martyr so I can believe my mistakes are right and you are not worth it and hurt you again and again in the process. I will not take to heart the negative things no matter how trivial people tell me and blame you for them. I will not blame you for the anger and frustration I cause you to blow up at people when they say or do things that make me angry.

Please forgive me. God please forgive me for not giving you all of my hurts, fears and frustrations to you instead of hurting myself. God help guide me and give me the strength to help myself become a whole person who loves themselves. But most important please give me a second chance to help undo all the wrongs I have done to myself. I just want to let me know that I will do everything possible to change and to rectify everything I have done to hurt me and let me know that I really and truly do love me.

Love,

Me

 

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Goodbye October, so long…

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Poem dedicated to my Breast Cancer counterparts – author unknown

We flash them, we smash them, we push then way up,
We shake them, we stuff them in the wrong sized cup….
Boyfriends and husbands all crave them, our children have drained them…
Some of you have even named them, we go through our lives and knock them about, One thing I must shout…our boobies have been there through thick and thin…and life is too precious to let Cancer win….

Boy am I so glad October is done and dusted? I waited for five days just to make sure I will not wake up and find that it is still October. I don’t particularly like the hype that is created in October about breast cancer; maybe I am jealous because I feel there is no hype at all about ovarian cancer.

I just recently learned that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and have picked up that there are a few organisations that are focused on advocacy and awareness campaigns on ovarian cancer as opposed to Breast Cancer. This post is not about the battle of the cancers…

For a person who has been on remission from ovarian cancer since 2008, it’s embarrassing that I did not know this.

The breast people are over zealots, who talk openly about their perky breast, how it feels to lose them and the reconstructive surgery that they are fortunate enough to undergo. After the reconstructive surgery they proudly show off their new sets. It’s all inspiring when you think of what a cancer patient has to go through, the emotional trauma, feeling inadequate, almost wanting to give up on life, the turbulence caused by the treatment and all sorts of emotions that cancer patients go through…all of which we experience differently.

I understand, love and support my sisters who have faced or are currently facing breast cancer…and I am blessed to have friends who support all CANCER initiatives through sports or any other forms….and yes, wait for it, I support them too, without posing the question “what cancer is this going towards?” Please continue supporting, it means a lot to all suffers who are so much in need of the care and support provided by these initiatives.

I was wondering why am I not entirely a fan of Breast Awareness month though? ….I have a sense of what a breast cancer patient goes through…what is wrong with me? well I considered various possible reasons, could it be because I am a cup B, maybe my twins are not perky enough, they do not have that bounce effect you see in movies in slow motion when a hot woman is running towards some equally hot dude…could the main reason be that Ovarian Cancer is not as ‘visible’ as Breast Cancer?

When you start talking about ovarian cancer, people have no idea what you are on about, they frown upon it, yet if you mention breast cancer, they uuuuhhhhmmmm because they think breasts…YES YES YES and their eyes move to the region of the torso looking to the right and the left side. So they recognise the cancer concept even though they might not understand it. It’s quite easy to convince people who have some recognition of a ‘thing’ to support it.

Now with ovarian cancer it’s a different story altogether, but since you are reading this post let me bore you with some information about it- ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly of women’s cancers, each year thousands of women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The World Health Organisation estimates that there are over 238,000 new cases diagnosed annually and nearly 152,000 deaths worldwide. This cancer typically occurs in women in their fifties and sixties with the median age being 63. Many women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a genetic history that may include carrying some mutation gene and having a strong family history of ovarian cancer – despite the age group some women do get diagnosed from their mid-20s.

Ovarian cancer often starts silently, not showing symptoms until its later stages, hence it is deadly…but if it is detected at its earliest stage, the 5-year survival rate is more that 93%. I am glad to say I have survived it.

Pray tell me how do I even begin to explain this to the next person?

Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries. Ovaries are reproductive glands found in women. The ovaries produce eggs for reproduction. The eggs travel through the fallopian tubes into the uterus where the fertilized egg implants and develops into a fetus. Blah Blah Blah… By the time you get here, you have lost this poor person…people in general are fascinated by breasts and there is nothing wrong with that, but how do you get someone fascinated about ovaries or the uterus? It does not sound at all…. And then when I think this is it and then uterine cancer also known as endometrial cancer occurs…How boring can they both be? As boring as the name of the new cancer is, it’s a challenge I am facing and looking forward to conquering.

So as I bid October farewell, I touch my breasts to feel them, very slowly, I remind myself that I have to be thankful that I have them, whilst wishing all my cancer equals well on their journey to beating cancer, and lastly reminding myself that my cancer, be it on the ovaries or uterus deserves its own ‘Pink, Yellow, Lime, Green’ colour drive hype!

I am challenged because; this post right here is all I am doing to highlight the need of doing more about the silent, invisible ovarian cancer that takes so many women’s lives every year, those who have passed on, may their souls rest in peace. To those who are currently going through it, be strong you can beat it…I did.

And lastly to those of you who do not know if you have it or not, please do not take for granted your regular health examinations like the pap-smear and other screening tests…I cannot tell you to touch your ovaries and feel a lump with your palm, so you need to do these tests…

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My running diary

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I enjoy my afternoon runs, it’s quiet in the estate, the sun has subsided the day is winding down.

I don’t usually jog with earphones on as I use this time to reflect on the day, listen to my thoughts. Some times I use the time to insult the people who messed my day up. I would just pick one, let’s call her Headache, I would recall what Headache said and the answer I really wanted to give but restrained myself from it.

So I would use this time to tell Headache off, in my head of course and I would laugh at myself because the answer would be so outrageous enough to get me fired!

I really enjoy these runs, so in my estate there are a couple of runners and walkers who also enjoy getting out at this time of the day. Some are couples which I greet cheerfully as they walk hand in hand in love looking at the sunset together probably telling each other just how much the other one means to the next. Oh love, such a beautiful thing….

And then there are a couple of females, a set that always jogs together and all they do when I pass them is talk, so they do more talking than jogging. They are African by the way. Then there is another set, two white ladies who jog and talk, they jog more though.

Then there are four single joggers, the one compares with me I swear, she always sprints out of nowhere! She always wears these leggings, see through leggings so every time I jog behind her I have to remember not to look!

There is this other one lady who jogs with so much poise it’s like she has no worry in the world. I like jogging past her….

My favorite has to be the one who jogs like she is about to fall and hit the ground! I always want to run to her and say “my sister try this posture and see what it would do for your running”. I used to jog like that until my very good friend Marcus told me one day when we were jogging together “Sithole keep your posture upright” and I have learned to be upright, I breathe easily, my head is held up high even when I’m struggling I just press on.

And there there are two guys that are always dressed in warm track suites and always jog alone. One of them always has his glasses on and I always wonder if he is comfortable running with them on…

I always think about what all the other fellow joggers and runners think about while they spend this time…I try and just spend a few minutes dedicated to Headache while I run, then the rest I want to feel every step I make….

I love running after work, its therapeutic

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I miss you already, but

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When I got confirmation that my boy was coming down for a visit…or ‘sneak in’ to Jozi as he’d say it. So the excitement started building up right from then, the days that followed I was consumed by trying to keep it together and not let the excitement take over my life.

So when the Friday came I drove to the airport with a big smile in my heart but my face was contained. I picked my boy up and as soon as we hit the R21 he became a true Capetonian! All these buildings, no mountain, no sea! I was in stitches 10minutes into his landing. I love that about him, he has the ability to make even the smallest meaningless thing funny.

The weekend was meant to be a time of unwinding in some remote area do the minimal, chill and just catch up. That is exactly what happened! Relaxed, weekend which ended with a bit of an adrenaline drive. I loved every minute of it, had time to catch up, relax and unwind.

Sunday morning was an adventure, the best way to spend my Sunday morning if I’m not in church! I love adventure, I make time to go and hike be out there in the wild and be one with nature…so a canopy tour of the Magalisberg was the order of the morning. Stunning scenery, mountains, fauna and flora, well not much fauna but some game in the farm and our group was lucky to spot some of it.

A group of 8 people, with two guides Tee and Tshepo who kept us entertained and safe throughout the tour. Tee and Tshepo love what they do, during the drive to the tour they kept us guessing, throwing all these brain teasers that we could not get right…Throughout the tour, they would talk to us and share the names of some of the beautiful trees surrounding us, talk about their characteristics etc.

The tour was fun, special and I will remember it always, more so because I shared it with a very special person in my life and six other people and of course our tour guides!

Just like life intends, the weekend had to end and end it did…when I went down to Cape Town for a visit, I had an amazing time, Hermanus, whale watching, the scenic drive, the parting and hanging out with new friends was epic! That weekend ended and I thought I’d never survive the end, I did.

I always use everyday situations to learn something, big or small! I have learned that some lessons are not necessarily nice ones, revelations can be hurtful! So while in Cape Town, I learned one vital lesson. I really cannot share it, but I can say that it was not a happy realization, that it hurt a little. I set that aside and had the best time in Cape Town.

So before the anticipated weekend, the lesson came! Again it was not a happy one, but definitely not one I can ignore. So I did what I do the best, I parked it aside so that I could still enjoy my weekend.

Now that the weekend is gone, it’s time to contemplate my action, measured action, which must have minimal impact. So, contemplation coupled with action commences. The Fox will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Sometimes we make choices in life, sometimes they make us….

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