I am so excited this morning as I get to share the story and journey of a beautiful young millennial mommy Fanelwa Tom. I have been drawn to this young mommy’s journey for a while now, it is such an honor to have finally gotten the opportunity to learn more about her motherhood journey. I am truly inspired by her intelligence, strength and resilience.
There is power in mothers sharing their stories and there is growth in exchanging notes on this journey ❤
I hope you enjoy the read...
MITC: Firstly, Thank you so much for the opportunity to for a virtual “sit down” to get to know you more and be inspired by your journey. We’ve known each other for some time now but I have not yet had the opportunity to converse with you, so please do tell us, who is Fanelwa Tom?
FT: I am a born again Christian and a mother to a beautiful 7 year old daughter. I did Public Relations Management at CPUT and I am now working as an Account Executive at an Advertising agency. I was born in Cape Town, Khayelitsha raised by my grandmother. I am obsessed with Greys Anatomy; I enjoy the outdoors, connecting with nature. I’m a foodie and I love classic RnB. I’m a part-time dancer and I enjoy reading too.
MITC: Congratulations on your new platform, I have personally been truly blessed by the encouragement and inspiration that you have been sharing though your personal profiles as well as Supreme House’s page on Facebook. I am so excited to hear more from you through www.fanelwatom.com. What does this new journey mean to you?
FT: I would like to share some of my experiences as a mother, as a young woman and a friend. I want to share the stories that have helped shape the woman I have become. I’m hoping to inspire and empower so many women who have been through similar experiences to understand that truly the power lies in knowing who you are and the courage to live that truth.
MITC: On Motherhood. What’s been the biggest surprise of motherhood and being a young working mom?
FT: It’s the fact that there is so much more about myself than what I already knew. Motherhood has made so much impact in my life more than anything else. I discovered my ability to love unconditionally, to nurture and to forgive and the patience to do it all over again. One of the other surprises came from the urge to protect my daughter from going through the same struggles that I went through in my childhood. I had to release myself from those fears and the pressure to want to be perfect for her. I was so worried that I might damage her, I was trying to heal my childhood trauma through her and I realized that she came into this world with her own struggles and some may be different/foreign to me and those struggles will probably carry different lessons for her. Therefore, I need to give her the freedom to make her own mistakes. My responsibility is to prepare her, to help and support her.
Being a working mom is as difficult as you can imagine. I am grateful for the support system I have at home. Had it not have been for my parents helping me throughout, I would have failed. Most of the time, I get home tired, down and out and the difficult part about most of these days is playing with her. As exhausted as I am at the time I have to help her with her homework, bathe her, read for her and pray with her. It’s also an hour I have to dedicate to just listening to her go on about her day. That is important to me because I don’t want to miss out on anything. Once she falls asleep, it’s not over yet for me. I must collect her toys, her books and prepare her schools clothes for the next day and still have at least an hour with God before I go to bed. It’s not easy but I love being her mom, it’s one of my purposes; to love her.
MITC: How was your pregnancy experience?
FT: I was a teenager when I had my daughter so it’s not something you celebrate when you fall pregnant at that age. I was embarrassed and ashamed for disappointing my parents. But I loved her before I even met her, I was filled with so much joy every time she moved inside of me, I just wish I had the freedom to celebrate that and be happy about it. Every day in my pregnancy was about surviving that day instead of just living. I was stressing so much; I lost a lot of people whom I thought would be there. I was alone and I was in pain. I had no emotional support whatsoever; I had to make peace with the fact that I am doing this by myself. I have captured every beautiful memory of my pregnancy in a box so that one day I can tell her that the good outweighed the bad and that she was worth it.
MITC: Did you have a birth plan?
MITC: How has motherhood changed you if at all?
FT: I was raised in an overbearing home so I was not given that much freedom to be who I am. I found my voice when I had my daughter, I learnt to stand up for myself and all of that was inspired by the fact that ‘if I can’t protect myself, how am I going to protect her?’ I gained strength and courage I’ve never had before and the wisdom to choose what culture and tradition is for me and for my family. I had to separate myself from how I was raised and unlearn a lot of thing but that process has gave birth to this amazing and powerful women I have become. I do not live my life or raise my daughter the way I was raised or how the society tell me to, I’m still figuring it out but I am creating for us a new home that is as colorful as our personalities combined together.
MITC: What’s the hardest part of being a mom, a millennial mom?
FT: The dating; it is exhausting. I haven’t been on a date in years simply because I was focusing on my personal development and trying to raise my child. I probably wouldn’t even know where to begin, I need lessons from other moms…lol
MITC: What’s the best part?
FT: It has given my career a purpose. I am more driven now and I do not settle because of her. And that has made me better!
MITC: What values if any are you borrowing from your own upbringing in raising your daughter?
FT: To work had enough not for anyone else but yourself so that you can give yourself the life you’ve imagined.
MITC: Also, what values, if any, are you canning from your own upbringing in raising your daughter?
FT: To be independent. My grandmother is the epitome of hard-work. She has modeled what it looks like to be financially independent so that you won’t have to rely on other people to take care of you.
MITC: What motivates you to keep going?
FT: Jesus… I would not have made it without Jesus. Everything I am is rooted in who he is. The power of my Salvation is the reason why I am still here.
MITC: Have you pursued any studies while you are a mother?
FT: Yes, I did my 4 years degree as a mother. I started my first when my daughter was 3 years going on 4 the same year and it was as difficult as you can imagine. I was able to push on and keep going because every time I was in school, I was thinking about her.
MITC: If so, what words of motivation would you give to a girl that has become a mother while they are still in school for them to keep going?
FT: Focus. Focus. Focus!!! It’s easy to get carried away and be distracted by all that is happening around you. I would advise them to stay grounded and rooted in why you started. Commit to finishing no matter how hard it is. Do not be strong for anyone; just take it one day at a time. There is nothing for you in the past, continue moving forward, you don’t have to run, just do what you can as long as you move. Do it for yourself first!
MITC: Have you missed moments in your daughter’s life that you regret?
FT: No but I probably missed moments when I was busy and she was trying to talk and I dismissed her. I have worked on that and forgave myself. She deserves acknowledgement and attention and it is my responsibility to listen.
MITC: You are a working mom, a content curator, amongst other things, you are young, how do you balance all of it in a way that leaves uFanelwa content?
FT: I promised myself to never stop living. I committed to doing everything that makes me happy and make me feel alive. I realized that my child deserves a happy mother and for me to be the person she deserves I need to not shave pieces of myself. The truth is I can’t pour from an empty cup.
MITC: Being the ambitious and committed woman that you are, how do you deal with the working mom guilt?
FT: I stopped feeling guilty when I realized that I matter too. I know I am doing the best that I can and I know that I am enough for my child.
MITC: You shared on Instagram recently about being diagnosed with anxiety, and how it has made you realize how you had been taking the power of your testimony for granted and as such you’ve been awakened to the fact that God’s hand is on your life…can you share a bit more about that experience..?
FT: It has been the most difficult thing I had to deal with. I have survived so much traumatic experiences and loses in my life in the past and I have come out on top. This time it was different. I was shaken to a point that I almost wanted to give up. I had no peace; I am a young black woman who’s underestimated, undervalued and underpaid. I was failing at keeping up with the expectations that my family have placed on me, I was failing at taking care of my child financially and I was failing at find a better job. Like almost every other black child’ we are raised to right the wrongs of the past, to give ourselves to everyone else before ourselves. We are taught that we do not belong to ourselves and I was not coping with that idea. It came with a lot of responsibilities and pressure that I couldn’t live up to.
I am the 1st person to graduate in my family so you can imagine the kind of pedestal I was on. I was trained to never fail, as a result of the struggle I was faced with…I also had to deal with the attitudes from my family that came with the disappointments of not being able to provide. I was broken, I was hurt and I was in a lot of pain.
It was my first time experiencing difficulties to connect with my child. In all the 7 years I’ve been with her, this time was different. Every day I was hoping and praying for survival and every day I had to go to work and come back home to take care of everyone else. There a lot of uprooting that God was doing in my life, it was uncomfortable I cried myself to sleep every day.
I was alone and desperate, I manipulated God so much, asking him to take the pain away. I was desperate for peace, for joy and I was desperate to be held and loved. It felt like I was losing my mind, like I was losing myself – I almost did. For 4 consecutive months, I cried myself to sleep but I did it standing, I cried moving and I promised myself to learn from this pain.
I was in prayer all the time telling God that “I have seen you working miracles in my life, I will not bow down or submit to anything but you”. Day by day I started feeling a bit of relief but it wasn’t enough, I was praying for deliverance and complete healing. That experience has taught so much about relationships, boundaries, uprooting of seeds and the process of planting new ones. I’ve learnt so much about my responsibility or my role as a believer and as mother; what I need to take on and what I need not to. I will share most of those lessons later because it’s going to take a while.
All in all, I am at peace and I am moving at my own pace and the love I have for the people around me has deepened and rooted, if it makes sense. I am just learning how to walk again but doing it at my own pace.
MITC: Is there anything you feel is slipping through the cracks in terms of your role as a mother?
FT: I don’t think so hey….
MITC: What does the ideal future for your daughter look like?
FT: That she is her own individual. I hope she forgives herself more, I hope she’s patient with herself and her dreams. I see her being surrounded by love, nurturing relationships and her being all of that to the community around her. I see her happy and at peace, I see her content even in her imperfections, I see her smiling and giggling a lot, dancing to her own sound and loving herself completely. I see her trusting God and learning so much from relationship and knowing that it is completely okay to not be okay. I see her living because time is precious.
MITC: Any advice for future and new Moms?
FT: You won’t figure it out all at once. Be patient with yourself and take it one day at a time. You were created for this purpose and God will give you the wisdom to carry it through. Keep going, the most important thing is that your baby is healthy, happy and loved. And you are perfect in all aspects.
Mommy-ing In The City x Fanelwa Tom