In the second episode of Single moms that rock, we interview a real powerhouse….Advocate Elsabe Steyn. Instead of the usual Q and A, Elsabe tells us her story….straight from the heart….shooting straight from the hip. Wow! What a woman!
“My story is about a teenage single mother who struggled to keep her young family afloat. It’s a story about a young woman who was given a precious opportunity, unbeknownst to me to work her way up in the world. It’s a story about resiliency, and sacrifice, and perseverance and of course the mistakes. This is not because I am a wonderful person… I am just a mother, who tries every day to love my children unconditionally.
And it’s a true story and the story of many other single mothers. Some with more tools and skills and some with less than we can imagine.
I was 19 years old when I got married and gave birth to a beautiful blonde, crying screaming, pooping daughter. I had no tools, no support…but he was in heaven to have this wonderful baby.
I did not complete school and I thought that my life would be blessed with family bliss – something I never had as a child. I was so wrong. Within the first year of marriage, I experienced physical abuse and emotional abuse beyond anything I ever thought possible. I was afraid to leave because I did not know my own strength or value. I had no money and nowhere to turn to for help. So… I had another baby.
I had a baby boy and during my pregnancy, his father assaulted me as he had many times before. It was the hardest thing to comprehend how one day, this person can make you feel so loved and then another day, they can simply turn around and make you feel like nothing. I did not want my son to turn out like that and I did not want my daughter to think it should be like that, so I left when my son was 8 months old. I had no education and my salary could not even cover the rent. I didn’t even have a car. My ex was not paying maintenance and had told me that I would be nothing without him and his money.
I was under the misconception that my children’s father would at least care about them, but boy… was I wrong. It’s seldom about the children. It’s a way to punish you.
I tried maintenance court once and when I left court that day, I realized one thing…. I either had to get up and do it for myself and my children or I would be a hostage in my own life forever.
I got my High School diploma, did a Psychology course on Children with Behavior Problems, Project Management, MDP and in four and a half years completed my LLB degree and became an admitted Advocate at the High Court.
Please do not think this 27 year journey was easy or that I did not make mistakes or that it is over. Regrets? Many! Mostly, that I did not take control of my life sooner, because like many I thought that life is fair and just. It’s not…. its messy and hard and in the end the race is long and only with yourself.
I am not a trust fund baby…. I cleaned houses while I was studying and before that, I sold cars. I stopped thinking that my children’s father would be the hero or the villain in our life and I became their and my own best supporter and fan in this journey. I was done with that part of my life. I do not hate him or wish him any harm because he is not an entity in my life. In fact, he gave me a voice and two amazing children – and that I would never wish to change. Now, he is actually a little afraid of me because I took my power back and (tongue in cheek) I’m an Advocate.
Today, the beautiful blond crying pooping daughter is 28 years old and very accomplished, my son is 24. Sometimes, I still pick up the pieces after his father is done, but it get less and less and we get stronger and stronger.
I think the hardest thing for me as a single mother was that I sometimes felt lost. How did I overcome that? I’m not always sure but one thing I know for a fact is that you have only one life! We are the makers of our own pain and our own success. The rest is just semantics. It’s not easy being a mother.
Through the blur of being a single mother, I wondered if I was alone or if other single mothers felt the same way I did – that everything involving my children was painful in some way. Letting them go, seeing them being disappointed. The emotions, whether they are joy, sorrow, love or pride, are so deep and sharp that in the end they left me raw, exposed and yes, in pain and angry.
If you think that you will win this fight through the courts and be vindicated, be prepared to be disappointed. Be brave and move forward. Do it for your children… but mostly for yourself. Because if you have a useless and malicious ex, you will need all the skills to pick up the pieces, restore the disappointment and dry the tears. Do not let your error in judgment become their baggage. Your children are worth more than that.
You do not have to become an Advocate to find your voice. You just need to make a choice. Be prepared to have this “bad smell” in your life and get “air freshener”. Learn a new skill, take up running, go back to school, find a new love whatever brings the best you to fruition. You have a responsibility to your children to be the best you can be , before you can ever ask them to be the best they can be. Trashing their father and declaring war is not being your best. You can find a better battle that will bring victory.
In my humble opinion, in my own context – if my ex was not good enough for me, then his money was also not good enough. I decided that there was no way he would humiliate me by me admitting I needed him or his money. If he cannot or would not understand his responsibility to his children – then no court or law will force him. The love for your children is something that you feel, not something you negotiate about.
I feel that if there is negotiation, then someone is pulling the wool over somebody’s eyes. The best interest of the child becomes the hammer and the child the nail.
In conclusion, I might not fit some people’s mould of single mother and my view on this process…. but each to his or her own. I have made many mistakes, but the day I stumbled away, and I say stumble…. because it took time, and I found me it all came together.
Be brave be bold and independent and find the real YOU that is the best edition of you. Dilly, crazy, outrages bitch, but never weak never a victim.”