Diaries of An African HomeComer: Leaving Europe after 20 years or Audacious parenting Part One
I dedicate this post (which turned out to be very long) to all the mothers who fear putting themselves first!
Audacious parenting Part 01 of 06 - Shit happens!
I seldom post about my private life and even less about my kids, but this time my daughter (my big boss) gave me permission to do so. So I share a proud sense of motherhood in celebrating my daughter with infinite gratitude. If you are a mum/parent who always feels terrible or guilty each time you think about putting yourself first, what I am about to share could liberate you!
There are moments when life forces us to make some radical decisions that, on the surface, may seem bad for our kids and us. Especially when such decisions demand that we let go of our most precious gift in life (our children) because we have this urgent need to find ourselves, and we know that until we do, we will neither be at peace with ourselves nor be a good mum/parent. I knew I had outgrown my environment when shit happened in 2014 (check out my spontaneous Tedtalk). Back then, I badly needed a complete change in my physical environment if I wanted to unleash and grow the version of me that was craving my attention which was responsible for everything crumbling down in my life. It was equally clear to me that I would become a very cynical and lousy mum if I continued to suppress that version of me that was no longer ready to be buried. I knew the environment I was in was not and would never be prepared for this version of me. Even though I honestly did not know why things were sh*t was happening to me, of all people, I knew it was time for me to pay attention to it. Paying attention to it meant I had to make radical, unconventional, and crazy decisions that would take me out of Europe entirely and send me back to Africa. It was also clear that we would have to give away most of the things they loved and were familiar with. It was also quickly apparent that I would not be able to go with my kids. (Looking back, I am thankful I did not take them with me today.)
My kids and I shortly before my return
Back then, I knew that many people close to me would judge and criticise me for the decisions I was about to make and that some of them would call me all sorts of names - and they did. Some even questioned my sanity. All I knew (which they did not or choose not to understand) was that I badly needed a complete change of environment from the city and country that I had come to call home for 20 years (which was the only home that my kids knew of all of their lives) if I wanted to find myself, grow into a better me, and become a good mum and an example my kids could look up to when they face their own challenges.
After some tough, transparent and heartfelt conversations with my kids and their dad and (terrible) stepmother, I took my two suitcases and left behind me Vienna and Austria, the city and country that had been home for me for the past 20 years and them for their entire lives be. We had to give up everything they were familiar with, including our home and some of their belongings.
Oh, one more resolution I made was to not judge anyone for pinion of me, learn how to love and parent my kids from a distance without regrets, and find myself and open up to the totality of possibilities and opportunities. As long as my kids understood me (and they let me know that they did, even though the separation was painful for all of us), I chose to allow the world to judge me as I packed my two suitcases and left with just €1800 in my pocket with a visiting permit, no work contract, no bank account, no insurance, no credit card, but with the firm determination to make it in Africa and never to return to leave in Europe or any western country come what may.
At that time, my daughter was barely 12 then, and my son 14. Just a few months before, he had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and we had no idea how to manage it. Today, exactly 6yrs and 10 months later, my then 12-year-old little girl has grown into a beautiful, audaciously ambitious young woman with a head of her own and standing tall on her two feet. She has a plan for the next five years of her life. She passed all her exams, excelled in her job, got her driver's license and bought a car the same week; she turned 19.
While in 2017, I was still struggling to send her a €10 allowance now and then. She now earns her own money and has visited me four times at her own cost. Yesterday she graduated from her professional training school with excellent grades, a full-time work contract in her pocket, a salary increase and a concrete plan for the next five years of her life. In between, she has masterfully managed two heartbreaks in my absence and learned how to do her inner work and so much more. She has become an incredibly independent, self-reliant free-spirited professional young woman who knows not just what she does not want but also what she wants.
Her brother, my son, on his part, passed his high school exams and moved out of his dad's house on his 18th birthday and has never looked back, except for the regular family visits, lunches and birthday celebrations with his dad and sister. Since then, he has navigated through all types of jobs to sustain himself, including dishwashing at a military academy to become a certified fitness trainer. He took up a job at the covid testing centre when the pandemic broke out. When I almost passed out for fear that he might get the virus, he was happy that we were working at one of the safest places, where he could learn more about the virus first-hand and earn good money while helping others. Since moving out, he has been sustaining himself without having to revert to us for financial assistance.
Today at 21, he and his amazing girlfriend have enough money to afford their own apartment. On top of that, he now knows how to manage his diabetes more than I could ever in a lifetime, and that knowledge is helping him monitor his condition and lifestyle so much so that he does not have to go to the hospital all the time. One month ago, he decided to give up his job to focus on learning for the entrance exam to the medical school, which he plans to finance by himself, by the way.
What out for part two!
- Arts & Culture
- 17 Oct, 2022
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