Tag Archives: children

Musings of a (slightly crazy) mum

8 Oct

I must have started writing this blog post one hundred times.

I’ve stood in the shower, snatching a few child-free moments, ignored the banging on the door and briefly contemplated life outside of mum duties. Those child-free moments do not last long. Life is, it seems, one long interruption.

(I’m now writing this slowly with one hand, whilst feeding my four month old daughter. Anyway. I digress. As do the thoughts of this sleep-challenged mum.)

My recent shower thoughts (and never-written blog posts) have comprised:

  • Donald Trump vs. Jacob Zuma: who’s worse?
  • Donald Trump vs. Theresa May: who’s worse?
  • Fees-must-fall protests across universities in South Africa
  • Our upcoming holiday
  • Being a rich white in South Africa
  • Guilt about being a rich white in South Africa
  • Self-justification linked to being a rich white in South Africa
  • Bringing up children in a vastly unequal South Africa
  • Marie Kondo and the joy of less
  • Where have I put my hairdryer? (Haven’t seen it for months)
  • Can you die of sleep deprivation?
  •  Oh no. Is that a crying baby/toddler?

It may be apparent that my capacity for deep thinking is not what it used to be. In fact, I am finding it really, really difficult to write this (not-very-complex) blog post.

I used to think that motherhood doesn’t have to change you much.

I guess that the essence of who-I-am remains. But it’s all the other stuff that has changed:

  • Priorities (keeping two little girls alive, trying not to mess them up, remembering to talk to my husband, sleep)
  • Capacity for conversation about important-and-grown-up-things (like natural disasters and the state of the economy) has been superseded by a different conversation about grown-up-and-important-things (nappies, schools, paw patrol)
  • Social skills (talking to a friend whilst opening a pot of yoghurt/changing a nappy/pushing a swing/talking to a toddler at the same time)
  • Marriage (it’s no longer “just us”, in fact it’s mostly “hardly-us-at-all-right-now”)
  • Spending (nappies, swimming lessons, nappies, baby chinos, nappies)
  • Shower thoughts (I’m no longer trying to save the world)

It’s hard to “take stock” during this baby/toddler phase. I don’t feel like I have much to say, much blog-post wisdom. I don’t have time to sit and think about what I want to write about next. I don’t have the luxury of being a “world changer” (just a nappy changer).

So I am not really sure why I am reviving the blog. Except I know that, in some small way, it helps me. Helps me to reach out beyond the daily (and sometimes mind-numbing) tasks of motherhood-with-a-small-baby-and-a-toddler-too.

I don’t know how often I will post. Or if I’ll ever say anything meaningful again. I still like writing though. That’s one thing that  [I’m going now – my little girl has woken up…]





24 Sep

I don’t know how to start this blog post.

So I will simply begin with how I feel.

I feel very happy! I am 18 weeks pregnant. And utterly overjoyed at this new life growing within me.

It still, at times, feels somewhat surreal. Me. Pregnant. Me. Soon-to-be-a-mama. Us. On the path to parenthood.

It hasn’t been an easy road. Or a straightforward one.

Month after month of disappointment.

And the won’t-go-away questions: will it ever happen? Is there something wrong? Should we do something about it? The doubts. The maybe’s. Maybe we won’t ever have our own (biological) child. Maybe we just need to come to terms with that. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

We had talked about adoption. Talked seriously. And we still talk about adoption now. Another maybe. And yet, staggeringly, we made our own baby. It took time, but I can now look down at my growing bump and know this is not just a dream.

Earlier today, I read an article about adoption that was so shocking, it left me lost for words (it’s well worth a read, if you have a few spare minutes). It talks of the emerging “rehoming” industry in the US – where adopted children no longer wanted by their new parents put them up for “transfer” online. This black market in child swapping sounds unreal, like a Grimm’s fairy tale, but it is not fiction. And yet, within the horror – the hard-to-imagine desire to give up a child you had so desperately wanted – I see the utter desperation of humans out of their depth. Desperation at an overly bureaucratic system, at the expense involved in adoption (particularly internationally). I glimpsed the isolation these parents must feel when their longer-for adoption seems like one big mistake.

Whilst not in any way condoning the actions of those illegally and irresponsibly “passing on” their child to a new home, I do wonder whether such horror stories are some of the symptoms of a system-gone-wrong.

It has often amazed me that those-who-fall-pregnant are treated so differently from those-who-want-to-adopt. Potential adopters have the minutiae of the lives publicly analysed. They spend much time (and often much money) hoping they will perceived as “parent material”. They have to prove their potential-parent qualities.

What about the rest of us? With 22 weeks to go, I don’t really have a clue what lies ahead. I still can’t quite believe that, in just a few months time, my hubster and I will be wholly responsible for a precious little life. It is a gift and a delight. An incredible privilege. And just a bit scary too.

As we prepare to bring a new life into the world, I want to remember too the children whose lives begin very differently – who are not wanted, not cared for, not loved. I don’t want to cut myself off – in a little “new parent” bubble – from these realities. And I don’t want our child to be cut off from them either. I don’t ever want to stop thinking about adoption. Or fostering. Or supporting families in need so that they can stay together.

I don’t want to become a self-satisfied, middle-class parent, immune from the realities faced by the majority in our world.  A world where some parents are so desperate they give up their longed-for child, not even knowing where he or she will end up. That is true desperation. True isolation. This system needs to be fixed.

An unconditional love

26 Jun

I read this blog post yesterday and cannot stop thinking about it.

I am thinking today about “unconditional love”, a phrase often bandied about – but rarely practised. What does it mean to love someone unconditionally? Accepting someone as they are now, not as-you-would-like-them-to-be?

Shari Johnson, who wrote the blogpost, speaks of unconditional love from a mother’s perspective. I want to learn this sort of love. And put it into practice. As Shari says: “I had always known that I had a problem with unconditional love, but I thought if I followed all the “rules” and “worked” for God and his Kingdom, I would get a pass on the love thing. I didn’t.”

Will we love unconditionally – even if it means being misunderstood by others. What if it means I am judged to have “lost my way” or “backslidden”? What if there is a cost?

I’d rather be judged and misunderstood than be the judge who misunderstands. I want to love those around me and accept them as they are, without agenda. Even when  there is a cost. For there will be. This love is not easy.

A truly special one this minute

26 Jan

Last night, I watched, mostly through tears, the incredible story of Trish, Steve and baby Elizabeth on One Born Every Minute. Brain-damaged after being hit by a car at the age of 13, Trish was left brain-damaged, with physical and mental disabilites. Today, she still struggles with her memory, she has a weakened right arm and foot and struggles to walk far unaided. Yet she is full of life, fun, charismatic and brave. She was been happily married to Steve for 20 years. It was incredible to see someone that many would label “disabled” and therefore “unable to become a mother” entering into motherhood. Incredible to see the strong marriage between Trish and Steve, who seemed to care for, support and love each other in a partnership of equals. Trish showed us that there is so much more to being human than a fully-functioning brain.

For Trish, her big fear was that they would “take my baby away”. She realised that many in our society see the disabled as “other” and “unable”. In an interview with a national paper, she says, “Nobody thought I’d even get married – let alone have a baby. But being disabled doesn’t mean you can’t become a mum. I wanted to show other disabled people that they can become parents too.”

We don’t talk about it very often, but often I think that, as a society, we are quick to judge those with disabilities, quick to make assumptions about all they cannot do, quick to see the limitations rather than the potential. We fail to see the person as a whole, we focus on that which makes them different to “us”. And we fail to see that love is a very potent force in bringing out the best in all of us, able-bodied or otherwise. Trish and Steve clearly love each other deeply, fully devoted to one another, fully “for” each other, fully alive in their love. Such love is the foundation of hope for all of us, whatever our limitations and circumstances. Such love helps us conquer our fears, battle against all the odds, feel safe in a precarious world. Any child able to grow up in a home underpinned by this love is getting an incredible start in life, regardless of a parent’s disability or background.

I would really recommend watching some of the interviews and clips featuring Steve and Trish on this website – heartwarming and disarming, I think you might need a tissue ready before you click ‘play’!

Also, if you want to read more of the Daily Mail interview with this fantastic couple, click here

Seize the day? No. Thank you though.

21 Jan

Although I am not a mum, I absolutely loved this article by Glennon Melton. There seems to be a relentless pressure on all of us – not just parents – to “make the most of every day”, not whiling away even a few moments on being/slobbing around/”wasting” time. This seems particularly true for London life, where days are packed, long and sleep/rest is hard to “schedule in”. It is easy to self-flagellate, to feel like we are failing most of the time. There is always more to do.

Today is a Saturday. So, if you can, take some time out. Read a paper. Watch some TV (I especially recommend Borgen tonight on BBC4!). Chat to someone you love. Have a latte. Browse online – not just “important things” either. Look out the window. Have an afternoon nap. Play with your children. Eat cake. And don’t do any of these things because you “should”. No, not at all. Do them because that’s what you fancy.

Life is more than achievement. More than ticking things of my to-do list. And I am preaching to myself here – I love completing, feeling a sense of achievement and productivity. But there is more to life. There really is.

Let’s live today. Feel alive. Engage. And let’s do it in a way that refreshes and replenishes, not “seizing the day” in a way that adds to life’s pressures, but taking a few moments (in the way that you choose) to listen to and encounter the wonder of life itself.

Hope beyond hope

19 Jan

This week, I had the privilege of chatting to my dear friend Joan Smith. Joan and her husband Tich are one of the most inspiring, fearless and faith-filled couples I have ever met. Ten years ago, in their native South Africa, they started going into one of the biggest townships in Durban – Amaoti. Joan made lots of peanut butter sandwiches and took them to hungry children. From these humble beginnings grew a feeding programme, a Back to School programme, a holiday club, a young leaders empowerment project, crisis support for families, and 27 creches. The charity that has enabled the incredibly expansion of their work – Lungisani Indlela (meaning ‘the right way’) – has helped literally hundreds and hundreds of children, teenagers and parents to find hope.

Amaoti – the township where the work of Lungisani Indlela has been focused – is really, really poor. The hillside is populated by shacks, densely nestling side by side. One-room shacks house entire families, often without even a mattress to sleep on. No cooking facilities (as we understand ‘kitchens’), no toilet, nowhere private to wash. This is extreme poverty. Into the darkness of overwhelming need, Tich & Joan have embodied hope and brought light, sacrificing much to respond to the vocational call to serve the poor. In 1990, Joan’s husband was murdered in a township. She subsequently met and married Tich, and they are an incredible couple. The pain of such loss should not be underestimated, yet this has not stopped Joan from going into Amaoti most days of the week for over 10 years. Fearless. Brave. Faithful.

Now Tich and Joan have an even bigger dream, one that is starting to find breath and life on another hillside not far from Amaoti. A village for orphans. South Africa has an orphan crisis. 18% of the population is now HIV+ (5.5 million people) and there are an estimated 3.3 million children orphaned as a direct result of this epidemic. That is a lot of children. Social services cannot cope, the government does not know how to respond to this catastrophe. Tich and Joan have a vision – hundreds of villages for these children across Africa. Each village housing children in small homes (six children) with a house mother who is there for the long haul. Each village with a school, a church, a business development centre. Each village with 100 homes, forming smaller clusters (mini-villages) within the larger village.

Last year, the first children and house mothers moved onto the first LIV village. 35 children now called the village their home, with more arriving daily. By the end of this year, 80 homes will be completed. Tich and Joan – unable to think small – recently purchased the farm next door to the village, with funding arriving miraculously at the 11th hour. These are people of faith!

So many lives will be changed through the dreams, hard work and commitment of this extraordinary couple. So many already have.

Busi was aged 17 when she fell pregnant. Her daughter was born and she went back to school, determined to overcome the obstacles and provide for her daughter. She passed all her exams and has given a place to study journalism at university. Her dream was becoming reality. On the way to university, she was killed in a car crash. Her daughter Bongi, aged 6 at the time, was orphaned, hope seemingly disappearing with her mum’s tragic death. Bongi was sponsored through Lungisani Indlela’s Back to School programme, working hard at school, determined to one day become a journalist herself – she had the same dream as her mum.

In December, Bongi graduated from school with six distinctions. She has since been awarded a full scholarship to study journalism at university for four years. Hope beyond hope has become real – embodied in the Back to School programme, embodied in Bongi’s determination to grasp education with both hands, embodied in Tich and Joan’s love and commitment to many, many children in Amaoti and now in the LIV village too. Tich and Joan have become the “hands and feet” of hope to many in South Africa. Such hope has to be embodied to become real. Embodied through house mothers, feeding programmes and holiday clubs. Embodied through the giving of time, expertise and money. Embodied through the sacrifices that will continue to bring hope to some of the 3.3 million orphans in South Africa today.

To find out more about Tich and Joan’s vision and plans, click here

Reject Apathy: Surfers Not Street Kids

4 Jan

Here is an article for www.RejectApathy.com I wrote about Umthombo’s work with street children in Durban: Surfers Not Street Kids

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