The Mistake, the Great Resolve

 

Right after my mother’s funeral in 2006, we (her children) were put in different aunties and uncles’ homes so that they could look after us. I was moved from Lagos to Ibadan to live with my uncle and his family. Staying at my uncle’s house just never felt like home. His wife made life unbearable for me in their house; essentially, I was almost like an errand girl in the house. Things got so unbearable and, in the end, I just had to speak up.

Firmly, I told her that if she thought the food she always gave me was what made her treat me like the help then I’d stop eating her food from then on. At the time, I was working as a school teacher and my salary was N6000. I decided to buy my own pot, stove and I began to store my own food stuff in my room. For you to get how much trouble this woman stirred, whenever I was away at work, my she would come into my room and take my foodstuff. I overlooked most of these things because I knew she wanted to incite anger inside of me.

In 2009, while still living at my uncle’s place, I was introduced to a church by one of the co-tenants in the house. It was at this church that I met a young man who happened to be the pastor’s son. From just being friends, he asked me to be his girlfriend and I agreed. Months passed and the relationship was looking serious. He would talk about us getting married and things like that. I never thought for a minute that he might have been deceiving me. I didn’t have friends to discuss matters with, no one ever told me about sweet mouthed guys and red flags. He told me the things he told me and I, in my wisdom, believed him.

At some point in the relationship, he demanded for sex and I refused. I reminded him that he was a pastor’s son and that we shouldn’t be having sex. I let him know I wasn’t ready for that yet and so he stopped asking but for a short while. Time passed and he resumed asking for sex again but then I’d still refuse. At some point, he began to say things like, “why are you depriving me of this, after all, I am the one that would marry you; so why are you denying me?” When he began to speak in that context, I gradually began to lose my firmness till, in the end, I agreed to have sex with him.

After the third occasion that we had sex, he turned his back from me and said he wanted to tell me something but that he did not know how to broach the topic. We had just had sex, what could be so serious that he couldn’t face me to say? I coaxed him and convinced him that whatever he was bottling inside, I could take it and that we could ride the storm together. Eventually, he turned to me and said he was calling off the relationship.

When I asked him why he was breaking up with me and he said his family wasn’t willing to give their blessings to our relationship. At the time, we had been dating for over a year. In that moment, I was so angered by what he said. I asked him why he would have unprotected sex with me when he knew that his family didn’t support our relationship. He apologized and that was it.

Even though I was very angry, I didn’t push the matter deeper. He had said his family was not in support of our relationship and I wasn’t willing to force him to marry me. Why force myself to marry into a home where I was not wanted? Also, I was battling with some health challenges at the time which he was aware about and I just felt that he had rethink and now he was using his family as an excuse to cut me out of his life. Whatever the case, I decided I wasn’t going to leave myself at his mercy, begging him to take me back. I really just wanted to get on with my life and forget that episode of my life. It was 2011.

Months passed and I carried on with my life. The first inkling that I might be pregnant came from the co-tenants in my uncle’s house. They’d see me and be like, “Adeola, you’re pregnant.” I never took them seriously and we’d all turn everything to laughs and move on. I was perfectly okay, I wasn’t sick, no signs of pregnancy at all. In fact, at some point I called my ex and casually just told him that a couple of people had seen me and had said that I looked pregnant. He laughed so hard over the phone and said if it turned out that I was truly pregnant, I should go find whom I would give the baby to.

Even though I had casually mentioned to him the topic of pregnancy to him, I was mad at his response. What if it was true that I was pregnant – was that how he’d just leave me to my fate? I ended the call angry; then I decided to confirm what everyone else seemed to be saying. I took the test and it turned out that I was 3 months pregnant! From then on, I knew my life would change forever.

Since am on my own feeding myself and taking care of myself nobody could ask me questions about who the father was , I wasn’t ready to disclose his identity. When he asked what I intended to do, I let him know that I was keeping the baby and I would raise the child by myself. His wife didn’t say anything. The truth was that by the time I found out that I was pregnant, my ex had done his introduction with another lady.

People who knew my plight were angry that I was taken for a ride by a preacher’s son. When some knew that he was planning to get married, they advised that I should show up at the wedding with my baby bump but I declined. What would I gain from disrupting his wedding? What’s the point of forcing myself on someone who clearly never wanted me? It was a painful period for me but I chose to let go and let God. I acknowledged that I was in this ride all by myself and that I needed to stay strong for myself and the baby that was coming.

Right after I discovered that I was pregnant, I left the church where I had met him and began to attend a new church. While still pregnant, I met a young man who was running his NYSC program at the time. He had been on my neck for a while and so when he found out that I was pregnant, he wasn’t happy but he insisted he wanted us to be together, regardless. I told him I needed to birth my baby and see what life had for me before I could consider a relationship again. In 2012, I gave birth to my baby girl and one of the pastors in the new church did the christening.

 

Once I had my baby in 2012, she became the centre of my world – caring for her was everything for me. I got caught up in caring for her that I didn’t care about relationships or any man. For a while, after I had my baby, the corps member and I dated but then as the relationship progressed, I discovered that he only cared about me but he couldn’t be bothered about my daughter; for me that was a deal breaker.

 

I had made up mind from the time I decided to keep the pregnancy that if I’d remarry, the man must be a man of my taste and must be willing to take my daughter as ours, jointly. Once I discovered the young man wasn’t cutting it anymore, I broke off the relationship. From then on, gradually, I ditched the idea of ever getting into a relationship again.

As my baby grew, I knew that the N6000 I earned as salary was not going to be enough and so I began to do home lessons for students in the school where I taught as a means of making extra cash. Every home where I went to take extra classes, I carried her along with me. Usually, those lessons were in the evenings and it was while we were in those homes that she would be fed dinner by the owners of those homes. That way, God made sure she always got dinner and I only had to focus on her breakfast and lunch.

At the very early stages of my journey in single motherhood, I noticed an attitude from the members of the new church I was attending – the same Assembly whose pastor had christened my baby. They often related with me as though my child was a burden slowing me down. No one ever said that to my face but it was clear in their actions what their disposition was – they passed off the vibes that seemed to say I didn’t belong into their community or like an inconvenience or something.

For me one thing was paramount, I wanted to be in a place where I mattered, a place where my child could be seen as a blessing from God and a place where I could be strengthened for the journey ahead of me. In the end, I left the church and found a new church. and from the first day, my new church felt like home.

I continued teaching, did lessons and I sold things too. At some point, the school where I taught was owing me for 3 months. How would I take care of myself and my child if my salaries remained unpaid? My pastor at my new church is a lawyer so I went to him to ask if he could help me write a letter to the school demanding the payment of the sum of money. He was of the opinion that the money was too small to be writing letters over and he advised that I give up the money while he would help me find a job in a better school.

True to his word, he got me job opportunities in three schools but for me, I was already displeased by the profession; I let my pastor know that I never wanted to have anything with teaching anymore. Next, he asked me what I wanted; it was then I told him that I just wanted to do business. I told him I wanted to sell groundnut in plastic bottles and he gave me some money to start off. I began the business and because of my jovial personality people always bought my groundnuts.

Things were picking up but soon, I realized that the money I was making from the sales of groundnut wasn’t enough to meet all the needs of my child and me. At that time, my uncle and his wife had moved out of the apartment and left my baby and me in it. My sisters came in from Lagos to join me in the apartment and so I was responsible for them too. While I was thinking what I could do to make more sales, one of our church members called me and informed me that I should consider making snacks and pastries because they were more profitable than just selling groundnuts.

The challenge regarding that idea then was, I knew nothing about making snacks and I had no money to enrol in any outfit to learn. As I brooded over the issue, I remembered that I knew a younger lady who was a caterer and so I called her on the phone and explained what I had in mind to do.

She sent her recipes to me and once I got them, I began to practice. I approached my church to give me a space where I could be selling snacks on Sundays after church service and generously, they gave me a place to get the cooking done. By the time service was over, I’d have fried buns, puff-puff and doughnuts which I sold to members after the service. Then I added the sales of drinks to the snacks too and I began to make more money.

As I got better with the snacks, I stopped making the groundnut but at the same time, I knew it was not sustainable to live on the sales from just Sundays alone. I began to look for where I could sell my snacks during the weekdays. Eventually, I found a place at the Mammy Market at Odogbo Barracks. I would sell at the market from Monday – Friday and then on Sundays I sold at the church too. While doing all these, I was selling bags, footwears etc too.

It is difficult to be a single mother; it is much harder when you don’t have a solid means of income. Every single mother – no matter who she is – needs a community that she can lean on as a crutch. For me, I didn’t have family as a support structure, but my church was really there for me. How far you will succeed as a single mother is defined by your environment. Within the church space, there were a good number of men who would play with my daughter and whom she saw played “daddy role” in her life.

I was coming from a rough place – having a dad who didn’t care about me and my mom who had passed away. I was barely holding it together; then I got pregnant and had a baby; the community I had made all the difference. When I joined my present church, I was one of the oldest members of the Youth church and seeing younger people achieve great feats just made me dream to not give up on myself. Plus, it helped that the people in church showed their interest in me and made me believe that nothing could stop me from attaining whatever height I wished to attain – not even being a single mother.

That was everything for me.

My pastor, and my church as a whole, were a pillar for me. Whenever I wanted to embark on a venture, my pastor always gave me listening ears and he’d give insight. It was through him that, in 2018, I got a very good job.

On my first day at my new job, a couple of us were recruited and we were all put together in the same auditorium. Every day we would report there and whatever tasks apportioned to us for the day was done there. As a jovial person that I am, I’d shamelessly tell everyone and anyone about my wares and I’d ask them to patronise me. This was how I made friends with everyone.

Amongst us the new recruits, a guy patronized me – he bought something for his girlfriend. We became friends and with frequent interactions since we were in the same space, we became close; so close that I knew about their relationship. One day, he asked me if I was in a relationship and I told him off. He smiled and let it be. Cracks grew in the relationship and, in the end, things fell apart between them.

Time passed and, one day, he came out straight and asked if we could get into a relationship. I was a bit surprised because this was a man who had never married before and who knew that I had a daughter. I reminded him, in case he had forgot, that I was a single mother. He answered firmly that he was mindful of that fact and that it wasn’t a barrier for him. Before I gave him my answer, I asked him if he was willing to accept my daughter as his and not segregate between her and our future kids. He was fine with it and we began to date. From the little things I could see he cared about my daughter and he made it easy for her to ease into his family.

Today, we are married and we’re doing fine. He’s an amazing man and he has stood in the gap as a father to my daughter. When we’re visiting my in-laws, everyone treats my daughter like she is his first child. In fact, when we went for the Christmas festivities last December, she enjoyed being with his family so much that she begged to stay a week longer with them before returning home.

My journey through single motherhood was a crazy, wild journey that I pray no woman goes through. There were times when things got so hard and I would struggle so hard to get something for my daughter to eat; as long as I fed her and clothed her, and she had all the necessities she needed, it didn’t matter if I hadn’t eaten or had no clothes. While going to work, sometimes, I’d see Vale college students and I would silently wish my daughter could attend a school with such a high standard. I wanted that kind of education and environment for her too but I knew it was far beyond my reach; still I kept my faith that someday I’d be able to give her all that I desired for her.

Despite the fact that I earn better on my new job unlike the previous jobs, I still make my snacks and sell them in church. When some people have events, they invite me to make small chops for them. Whilst doing all these, I still sell goods. I do all these to augment what I earn and to enable me to give my children a better life than what I had. I may no longer be a single mother but I still have to play my part and bring something substantial to the table. As for me, I may not be where I dream to be but I have come a long way from where I began.

 

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