I grew up very privileged, but not for the reason you think.
I didn’t grow up with the best and latest gadgets, toys and clothing.
I didn’t get everything I wanted.
I wasn’t able to take dance classes, all though I SO desperately wanted to.
I only saw my dad once every 2 or 3 years for a week at most.
I didn’t go on family vacations every year.
I didn’t have a big birthday party every year, in fact, I only had 2 growing up.
But I was so privileged. Why do you ask?
From the age of 3, it was always just my mom and I. The first 3 years of my life was spent living both in SA and the UK, my dad played club rugby in the UK, we had a relatively good live.
But when my parents got divorced, my mom and I moved back to South Africa. We lived with my grandparents for a while when my mom and dad just got divorced. I would only, at 16 learn why we moved out and got our own place, this just opened my eyes to what a strong woman my mother was. She literally gave up everything for me. Her mother had told her, “Don’t think you will go out and have fun while I raise YOUR child” So what did my mother do? She focused on me/us. She lost all her friends, never remarried
My mom worked hard, she almost never took days off, she rather took payment instead of an off day as she didn’t make that much money. She also didn’t receive much maintenance from my dad, some months she didn’t even receive anything.
She worked weekends and holidays, which meant I spent a lot of time on my own. We lived month by month. There was never any money left over for special treats or holidays. We had just enough for the important things. But you know what, if I look back I don’t remember how I begged my mom to let me go for dance classes. I remember the days when she had a day off work. She would spend all her time with me. We would play tennis, Rummy, Trivial Pursuit, watch movies, chat and giggle together.
Writing this makes me very emotional. Until I was 19 it was just my mom and me, we did anything together. We were always laughing, that is what I remember the most. Not the hard times, but all the laughs. My friends loved her, she was the cool mom. She would fetch us from school and play Bump or Linkin Park.
During Matric she told me that I needed to get out and see the world and encouraged me to go to Europe for a year. So a week after my 19th birthday I was off. The first few hours on the plane I could not control myself, I was sobbing uncontrollably. Here I was a naive small town girl from the Free State off into the world. I was scared sh!tless. How am I going to do this without her?
But guess what, I surprised myself, my mother raised me in such a way that even though I spent my first weekend in Germany vomiting my lungs out and feeling terribly sorry for myself, wanting to go home. I picked myself up and decided I can do this. I am strong. Out of all the girls from the Au-pair agency, with whom I went to Germany with, I was only one of the 2 who didn’t swap families throughout the year.
If you weren’t happy with the family you were placed with, you could change families, you would, however, lose your deposit, my mom had taken out a loan to pay for me to get to Europe.
I was not happy with the family I was placed with. The kids were amazing, but the dad made sexual passes at me and they both treated me like a servant. But again I told myself I could do this, I would not change families because I could not afford to lose the deposit. It was not all bad, but I realised I was stronger than I thought. I did not think I would last 2 months, that I would be too homesick. But I did it.
In Feb 2010 my mom celebrated with us when we got married. In May my mom very suddenly passed away from an Aneurysm. One day she was fine, the next she was in hospital in a coma and then at about 6 am on 19 May I was making coffee, getting ready to go to the hospital to see my mom, when my husband walks into the kitchen to tell me that the hospital phoned. I thought it was good news, she had woken up. But no, she had passed. I felt like someone stabbed me in the heart and stomach. I wanted to throw up, I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. This was the worst moment of my life.
I literally couldn’t get myself to stop crying. My husband was a huge help during this time, I do not think I could have done it without him.
We lived in Durban at that time, one of my best friends from Johannesburg flew down to be with me the next day. She helped me clear out my mom’s apartment and I have to say I felt utter sadness and anger until my friend said to me, “You know what, she is in a better place, she can rest now, she knew you had a husband who would be there for you, and it was just the right time. She is at peace.”
It was as if a wave of relief came over me. I felt I could breathe again, I realised she was right. My mom had given up so much, she had worked so hard her whole life and now she could rest. I was still terribly sad and to this day I think of her every day and my heart still breaks, but I am not angry anymore.
Having two of my oldest and closest friends with me just after my mom passed away made me realise that I was still very privileged. Besides my mother, I had a group of strong, powerful women in my life and they had been with me since Primary school.
We were not the popular girls in school, we were not in the first Hockey team or won beauty competitions, we all came from broken homes, but we were there for each other and together we were unstoppable. Out of the 6 close friends I had during Primary and High School only 2 came from a home where there were 2 parents. One was adopted and 2 were in the Orphanage. We were there for each other every day, through thick and thin.
The way I grew up made me appreciate the important things in life like spending time with my mom on her off days. I was taught from a very early age to be independent and how to work with money and also that you don’t need to have the best of everything to be happy. My mother would donate old clothes and give food to beggars, even though we had very little to give. My mother never looked down on anyone.
I grew up very privileged because I grew up with a SUPERWOMAN. My mother taught me compassion, she taught me how to treat people. She always said “treat people the way you would want them to treat you” To this day I can honestly say that I don’t treat people differently just because of their race, age, gender, sexuality or bank balance.
I grew up privileged because I was surrounded by other amazing SUPER WOMEN. My friends.
I honestly believe I grew up very privileged, not because of what I had, but because of whom I grew up with. Those women in my life, some of whom are still my closest friends have made me who I am today. All of them have been through rough times and I have not only learned from their stories but they stood by me through my darkest times.
Thank you, ladies, I love you all so very much.
Women have the ability to empower, but we get blinded by envy and judgment most of the time. Just imagine if we put pettiness aside. We could literally change the world.