INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN – ANTOINETTE HENWOOD- RONALD aka TONIO
In 2017 I started my “Inspirational Women Series” where I featured women in my life that inspire me and others by just being themselves.
On the 9th of August in South Africa, Women’s Day is celebrated. A day to commemorate and remember the strength and courage of the 20,000 odd women who took part in the march in 1956 to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The march, a protest against by laws requiring individuals registered as black by the government to have a travel pass in order to roam the land within the borders of South Africa. The protest was lead by strong women like Lilian Ngoyi, Sophia Williams, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph to mention a few. These women wanted South Africa to change.
Tonio is and has been like my older sister from the day I met her. For as long as I’ve known her, she sets the trend, she doesn’t fit into a mold and follow, she IS the mold! Personally, I’ve witnessed many a young lady that has allowed the fact that they fell pregnant in their matric year or high school to determine the direction of their life. Giving up on ambitions, career dreams and aspirations at the same time. I hope that Tonio’s story continues to inspire others, I’m not encouraging teenage pregnancy, but rather, that if you do happen to fall pregnant during your school years, it’s not the end of the road. There are solutions. You can still work towards realizing your dreams. Just don’t give up. Don’t allow society to stifle those dreams through outdated thinking and narrow-mindedness. Keep pursuing your dreams. Become the person you were always meant to be. Become the mold and reveal your true self!
Thank you for agreeing to be part of my Inspirational Women Series in 2018, sis!
In Tonio’s own words …Be inspired.
His question to me was how do I balance work, with being a wife and mother, and the answer is simple, I don’t. I have yet to meet a working, wife and mother, who tells me she has found the rhythm and is able to strike a balance. The key for me is my strong support system especially at home, I know I can rely on those around me to pick up the slack in the areas, where I fall short. In the beginning, it was my parents, now it’s my husband, my mother and my two older daughters.
“You can’t control peoples actions, but you are in control of you reaction. Unknown Happiness in a choice.” – Unknown
Life for me has had its ups and downs like everyone else I suppose, but I’ll start from my first pregnancy. I had my first child almost immediately after I finished High School. I wrote my high school final exams highly pregnant and by the grace of God, a lot of hard work and determination, I’m super grateful I aced them! Being a teenage mom was not easy but because I had an amazing support system, I was fortunate to still have a teenage life as a single mom and a full-time university student. Yes, I didn’t, neither did my parents, allow me to give up my studies. Receiving my education was my way of equipping myself to make a better life for my little girl and I.
Fast forward a couple of years, there I was in my final year of university looking forward to graduating, and bam I found myself pregnant again. Don’t be judging me now. Again, I wrote my final university exams highly pregnant. My second daughter decided to arrive over a weekend and I was back at school on Monday to finish what I had started, my degree. Again by God’s Grace and hard work from me, I managed to graduate.
Soon after graduating I started looking for a job. I had a few along the way and eventually ended up at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Eswatini. This post for me is a dream come true, for two reasons. My ambition in life is and has always been to do something towards improving the lives of others and to further my own education. I had expected to have my Doctorate by the time I turned 40, but life doesn’t always work out as one plans. Work at the Ministry has given me the opportunity to contribute towards making the world a slightly better place, but it has also taken up all my time and demands that I travel a lot, leaving me with no time for much else, especially studying.
Just when I thought things were settled and I’d found some balance with my time, I enrolled in college. My youngest daughter was 17 and almost finished with high school. It was time to focus on my own studies or so I thought. I started feeling a bit weird. It felt like something was wrong. I consulted my doctor, very well prepared with a self-diagnosed menopause. I couldn’t have been further from my truth. The doctor surprised me by announcing that I was pregnant. What crazy news! I’ve now been fortunate to have experienced two extremes for a mother. A teenage pregnancy and a late-life pregnancy. Each has its challenges. For me being an older mother has been a much simpler experience. I suppose it comes down to the whole older and wiser saying. I have more patience. I appreciate that kids will be kids and either you flow with them or you will stress about everything. It’s also thought me that it is possible to discipline your kids without stifling their individuality and creativity. By allowing them to be themselves benefits them as individuals and honestly, it makes life much easier for you as a parent.
“In relationships the only person responsible for your happiness is you. This can’t be entirely put on another friend, family member or partner.” – Patrice Samuel Robinson
Being a mother, a wife and a diplomat honestly feels like I have three full-time jobs. I admit that my load is lighter than that of most parents. I continue to have an amazing support system, in both my husband and my mother who constantly alter their lives to accommodate my hectic schedule. It’s said that when you love your job you never work a day in your life. I do love what I do. My job has allowed me to contribute to making a small difference to the world, which in turn fulfils me. I have negotiated treats and conventions, resolutions and agreements that are meant to work towards the betterment of humankind, giving me purpose and honestly fulfilment.
The biggest challenge is also my greatest reward, and that’s travelling. As I mentioned my job demands that I travel a lot. The blessing of my travels has been that I have been able to see many parts of the world and have had the opportunity to meet an array of truly amazing people who have become lifetime friends today. My travels have exposed me to many different cultures and experiences allowing me to appreciate a whole new perspective on life. All the travelling and sometimes all-night negotiations, has meant that I don’t get to spend enough time with my family. It’s a sacrifice and compromise I’ve had to make.
It is always hard to leave my family. Missing my brother’s wedding was the highest cost of my career in my personal life. I was on my way home from a month-long trip to Egypt when my flight was delayed. Suddenly I found myself stuck in an unfamiliar airport in the middle of “nowhere”. I ended up arriving back a day later for the wedding after spending the whole night crying on the flight to my brother. There was another costly instance for me when I had to leave my four-month-old still breastfeeding son with his dad and grandmothers for two weeks.
While I love my job and the travelling that goes with it, remains my biggest challenge as I’m away from my family often. At times for long lengths of time.
The best chapter of my life hands down has been the arrival of my grandson. You may think you know what it is to love when you become a parent. I disagree. For me, the greatest lesson on love has been becoming a grandma to my now 7-year-old grandson. The love between a grandparent and their grandchildren is indescribable. I think it’s because there are no rules.
For a grandchild, grandma is your solace and your resting place.