Our #MamaCrush today is amazing Moleboheng Tladi, fondly known to everyone as "Lebo". I met this amazing, funny, smart, hard working and resilient woman in Johannesburg as a colleague and soon we became friends and now family.
Lebo is a Software Developer and a single mom of 1 amazing and energetic boy toddler, Thethe or #Thethe according to his mom.
Lebo lives with her son, just ta too of them and is a working mom. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet such an amazing mama who is always ready to encourage and share herself with other women amidst her very busy life of raising a toddler and demanding career. I do not know of a person who has planned so many baby showers, including mine :-) , planned parties for others, designed invitations for people and their kids like this woman has, all out of the goodness of her heart! I admire her humility, strength and positive energy .
Tell us about your pregnancy - How would you describe the experience?
My pregnancy was an easy one. During the first trimester I had fatigue and for the rest of the pregnancy I had an iron deficiency, apart from that, everything was smooth and easy.
Emotionally however, it was surreal.
I was going through the motions, making all the necessary preparations, going for pre-natal check-ups and the like, however at that stage, the fact that I was carrying a human life within me, to me was completely unreal and unimaginable. It was a theory I had been told, but I was yet to see / imagine the full result of it.
How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant?
I was traumatised and dumbfounded. And that is really an understatement. It was not something I had ever imagined for myself. So I don’t think I was emotionally and mentally prepared for it.
Did you have a birth plan?
Oh most certainly. I am one of those “people” that prepare for everything down to the minutest details. I did a lot of research about what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I drew up two different birth plans for two different hospitals.
I was scouting two midwives (seeing them both for prenatal check-ups) along with a GP and a Gynaecologist - in order to decide where and how I wanted to give birth.
I researched birthing clinics and hospitals, method of delivery, epidurals. All of this was on my birth plan and FOUR copies were printed and distributed. One to the father of the child, one stayed in my car, the other in my hospital bag and the other one at home. Everything was on lockdown. Cause that’s how I do. Always prepared. J
How long was your maternity leave?
My maternity leave was 4 months but I only spent 3 months with my son before I had to go back to work. He arrived later than expected, and my company had also forced me to take an earlier leave. Stress…
How did you feel going back to work?
I was conflicted. I did not want to do it. I wanted to be a stay at home mother and raise my son, but the bills had to be paid. At that point I was only earning UIF money and I could not finance staying home any longer because the company I worked for then, only provided one month paid maternity leave.
How does your family and support structure look?
I am a single mother with a VERY involved family and community of friends, who are very much committed to the common task of raising my son. I live with my son – just the two of us, but every other weekend and on holidays he is with his maternal grandparents. Outside of my parents, close family and friends… Meh.
What’s been the biggest surprise about motherhood and being a working mom?
The toll of it all! It is extremely tolling. Emotionally, physically, spiritually… It is a lot.
I think the biggest surprise however was the rigidity of working in corporate South Africa as a mother. The culture and unwillingness of employers to empathise and grant flexibility and fluidity to changing circumstances. It took a lot of getting used to.
I had to change employment a couple of times to find something that fitted in with my new reality, where I could prioritise my sons needs and not be penalised for it. I’d like to think I have found such a place, however the jury is still out.
Are you working for money, or for satisfaction? Both?
I work for the moola! As the great philosophers Wu-Tang Clan prophesied in the year of our Lord 1993:
“Cash, Rules, Everything, Around, Me
Get the money…
Dollar, dollar bill y'all”
If I wanted satisfaction I would not be in the field that I am in or the industry. I would be homeschooling my son, doing animation and have a general autonomy over my life.
Side Note: Capitalism is a repulsive system and we should all be working towards its destruction quite frankly...
Have you missed a moment in your child's life that you regret?
Oh most certainly. There was a period in my child’s life (around the age of two), where he was living with his maternal grandparents on a full-time basis because I had to work, and his father was not providing. I couldn’t afford to hire help or take him to a school in the area I reside.
I mourn that year and a half, because I think it destroyed a bond I had worked very hard to establish with him in his earlier formative years. He also grew up in a different environment that had different values to what I had imagined for him. We grew and changed a lot in that year and a half – I had to re-acquaint myself to him as a primary caregiver, and get reacquainted with the tiny person he had grown into. That period makes me very sad.
How do you deal with the working mom guilt?
I generally do not feel much guilt about being a working mom, because it affords me independence and ability to provide a safe and stable environment to raise my son in.
I developed a very good understanding and acceptance of why I am a working mother. It is also something that I had to grow through. In my son’s first year, the guilt was a very big thing for me, but I think my circumstances pushed me into a mind-set of not feeling guilty about doing things that are necessary to create the conditions where I can flourish, and in turn, my son can flourish as well.
How do you balance your career, motherhood and maintain a social life?
There is absolutely no balance and I have no social life. It’s all in pieces and crumbling further… *insert dramatic gif*
No. Seriously though. My son attends school where I work, so it affords me the privilege of dedicating a disproportionate time towards my job and career.
However I am also a full-time single mother surviving with no help around the household and no help with finances. This means that during the week I am both an overly committed employee and a vaguely present parent to my son.
Weekends can be dedicated to doing things that fulfil me as a person outside of motherhood and employee titles, which just translates to sleeping-in the whole day and watching TV. *deep-sigh*
Is your partner an equal parent?
I do not have a partner. What do you mean a partner? What is that, I don’t know what it is! *I joke, I joke, I kid!*
I am in this alone. My parents are there as a support structure but yeah… “Thas’it”. Let sleeping dogs lie.
Is there anything you feel is slipping through the cracks?
Most certainly. I am juggling so many things at the same time that I do not fulfil my roles how I would imagine, or expect.
Being exhausted most of the time, being unable to be fully present and aware for my son, being unable to provide for him as I would like to because of financial restrictions – these are just some of the things I can think of at the present moment. Every day has its challenges, there are good days and there are tough days. We persevere.
How has motherhood changed you?
It has made me more assertive and measured.
Assertive in the sense that I am now able to articulate myself better, go after what I want and be uncompromising in building a good life for my child as I see fit and necessary.
I am very strict when it comes to my son and the community / environment he interacts with.
The toddler years especially, have made me more measured. I am more self-aware and very mindful of the behaviours and influences I allow around me and my son. Good vibes only, positive influences mostly.
What’s the hardest part about being a mom?
The emotional toll.
It is a huge responsibility to raise a good human AND it is also extremely hard.
I am always second guessing my decisions – from meals to discipline to everyday interactions with other people.
In the context of a community, trying to do it alone is overwhelming. All my child’s needs and all outcomes of how he is raised fall solely and squarely on my shoulders. The responsibility to raise him to become a full-functioning, well adjusted, self-aware, accountable and responsible human being. It is very overwhelming and difficult.
What’s the best part?
The love. That is the best part. The love of this tiny little person. ‘Nuff said.
What does the ideal future for your child look?
An ideal future: A well-adjusted, fully functioning human-being that has love, kindness and compassion. However this fulfils itself, is an added bonus. I just want to raise a good person that can contribute positively to his (black) community and eventually society at large.
Any advice for future Moms?
It is really important to establish and find what works for YOU and YOUR CHILD. Everything else can be adjusted to suit that once you have found it. There is no one plan or one way of parenting or raising a child. Trust yourself and your instincts, but equally trust your child to guide you on how you should raise them and provide for their needs. Be present. A S H E!