As we become parents our outlooks on life shift dramatically. Unfortunately, due to our current laws in South Africa, motherhood (or parenthood) doesn’t really allow for much wiggle room with regards to flexible working. At some point, somewhere something has got to give.
This might not be true for everyone, but I do believe after your child is born at some point you make a change based on what you believe will be best for your child. It might be directly after birth, it might be once your babe reaches their teens.
You might give up a job or you might take up a job to be financially more stable.
For me personally, my outlook changed quite soon after my daughter’s birth.
So let’s find a starting point.
I studied Optometry at The University of Johannesburg. It was a 4-year course and I need to also mention I did work my arse off-it was hard. Late nights studying and early morning classes followed by clinics and then back to the books. Assignments, research and practicals were the norm.
After all that work, you can’t really blame me for having delusions of grandeur and wanting to change the world.
I moved to Cape Town a week after I wrote my final paper and started working immediately. I was driven and knowledgeable and (still) planning to change the world. I started working at a Spec Savers and after 9 months decided retail was not the way to go and moved into private practice where I stayed until the end of 2016. It was the same practice I ended up buying.
In 2014 I got pregnant and miss M was born in February 2015. The day I found out I was pregnant I honestly thought that I was just going to have a child, the rest of my life would still carry on. I would still be goal driven and pursue my career. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but a child changes you.
At 36 and a half weeks my gynaecologist put me on bedrest because my blood pressure was slowly climbing, an impending doom was present and although it wasn’t said in so many words, preeclampsia was definitely a possibility that they wanted to prevent at all costs-I was swollen like a threatened pufferfish, which was not just limited to my extremities. As the doctor told me I had to stop working, I completely broke down, ugly crying, sobbing, I couldn’t just STOP for two weeks, I was distraught. She then said something that only clicked in months later but is so relevant.
“You will always have your career, you need to now focus on your baby.”
Those words infuriated me initially, how would SHE know?
Miss M was born and I went back to work after 6 weeks, which in hindsight was ridiculously stupid seeing as I was diagnosed with postpartum depression just 2 weeks before.
When M was about 8 weeks old my dad contracted a staphylo-coccus infection which was resistant to antibiotics. He was admitted to hospital with sugar levels turning at around 80 something. He was put on a dialysis machine but after there was no improvement he was put under sedation and moved to ICU and hooked onto a ventilator.
My sister and I went up home to support my mom and the day after we got there my dad had three heart attacks. His rockstar physician attached him to an external pacemaker with the telephonic help of a cardiologist in Pretoria.
It was touch and go but he pulled through.
I managed to get through the first year with great difficulty. It was flooded with thoughts of dread, hate- directed mostly towards me, grief for missing M’s newborn phase, apprehension and another very long slow dance with the demons in my mind.
My relationship was also unravelling slowly.
If rock bottom had a basement I was probably lying there face down eating dirt.
Somehow, with the help of my psychiatrist, my medication, therapy and lots of work on myself I pulled through but something had to give.
I didn’t exactly wake up one morning and had the urge to get rid of my business, it was a much slower realization, but once I came to that conclusion it became quite clear it was what had to be done. Not just for my family, but also for my own mental health.
Today I am swimming in debt but I am happy. Less stressed and more focused on what truly matters, my family.
Life is pretty much a collection of continuous choices that shapes and moulds us. Some decisions are a bit harder to make than others.
In the end, all that matters is that you are happy.
Photo: Miles Adridge