INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN – NOMASWAZI SIBANYONI
In 2017 I started my “Inspirational Women Series” where I featured women in my life that inspire me and others by just being them.
On the 9th 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.
A high school mate from Swaziland, Nomaswazi Sibanyoni more fondly known as Swazi kicks off my Inspirational Women Series in 2018. We lost touch after she finished high school and many years later our paths crossed once more. The woman she has become since is inspirational, a doting single mother to an admiral young man and a successful career woman.
In her own words, this is Swazi …
My name is Swazi, a 48-year-old unmarried parent of a now 20-year-old young man. I am a sociable enough introvert who lives to read, listen to music, enjoy ballet (either by dancing or watching it) and potter around the house. I love crossword puzzles and sudoku’s which often help me through meetings as I was diagnosed with adult ADD and I refused medication.
For many years I tried to conform to age appropriateness and societal expectations and this drove me down a slippery path to nowhere, losing sight of myself in the process. When I eventually realised what was going on with me, I took stock and began the hard work to rediscover me. This has been a long, slow and rough journey requiring me to strip myself of all titles and delve into the essence of me. I took the approach I use on executives as a coach on myself (yes, the doctor can sometimes self-diagnose) and one thing that was clear was that I needed to allow myself time every day to do “me”.
After much dilly-dallying (about 6 years to be exact) I eventually took the leap and went back to an art form I had thoroughly enjoyed growing up – Ballet. The hesitation was because my body and that of a ballerina are as far apart as you can get, but, starting from the very beginning has been so very rewarding. I have a long way to go and will never ever be close to professional, but it is what brings me total joy after a stressful day and makes me a better human to be around. I will not ever stop now and am working my way to get “en pointe”(dancing on one’s toes).
Reading has also been my constant “me” time and I managed to do this even when Msimelelo (aka Msi) was a child by teaching him to read before he started primary school. It was, singularly, the best thing I could have done for both of us because reading keeps me sane and we could read “together”.
From the time I had my son, I had fantastic support from a fabulous childminder who turned amazing cook too. I also had and continue to enjoy, great friends who have rallied around and so my son has been raised by a village. My corporate jobs when he was young took me away from home quite a bit and there came a time when I had to take a hard call and choose between money or being present for my son. It was a very tough choice because I was seen to be throwing away a fantastic future and wasting my degrees.
Although I had great support in and around the house, I also had what was seen as “alternative” child-rearing ideas. For instance, it was of utmost importance for me to be “present and available” in his preteens into early adulthood more so than when he was between the ages of 0 – 9 years of age because I wanted to be the main influencer in his life. I left the rat race and took a huge salary cut (kids are very impressionable at the ages of 10 – 17). For Msi, it was the best decision I could have made because it meant I could do drop offs and pick ups, and this was a time which we used to talk a lot and I could also be an extracurricular mummy. Adversely it meant he could not have everything he wanted, but there were many lessons in him getting a “no” from time to time, coupled with an explanation why.
Leaving him for short spells for work was never a real problem because it was through that, that he learned that people will go away but return – such is life. It allowed him to gain independence very quickly, although at times it could be a challenge. In hindsight, I see that he’s become a self-assured, confident and fully functional self-managing young adult. My travels have picked up again now that he is at university and is able to drive himself around. We also live in a fairly secure neighbourhood so I really have no worries about him.
The biggest challenge for me as a working mum was the fact that he did not do regular extramural, so I would have to get him to private piano lessons and Tae Kwon Do which was not offered at the school. This meant getting home in the evenings tired and still needing to shuttle him around to his lessons.
My favourite quote is …
“If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working on it.” – Michael Jordan
It’s easy to want to give up and I have wasted plenty of time giving up on dreams, but still yearning. This quote kicked my behind a few years ago and I live by it. I think my son has also adopted it.
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