I have known since the year began that I would be leaving my son again (I expected this to be enough time to psychologically prepare for the inevitable separation).
I had him while I was a second year student at university and I deferred studies for a semester to breastfeed him and when he was just 6 months, I weaned him and left him to go back to school.
It was a painful decision to make but I understood that I could not hope to provide him with the future I aspired to give him without an education and with no prospect of becoming gainfully employed.
My son is the reason I dropped out of college in the first place and he is also the reason I went back.
But he is not the only reason why I wanted to finish my degree; the other reason was that I wanted to do it for myself – to make sure that I had a fighting chance at fulfilling my own dreams and aspirations.
The fact that the two reasons happily coincided – my son’s future interests and my own ambitions – made it easier to walk out the door and leave a 6 month old infant motherless.
Now I am leaving him again at the age 6 to pursue another graduate qualification; and my heart is absolutely torn.
Why hasn’t it become easier? I scold myself during the long nights, trying to use reason to bludgeon my emotions into acquiescence.
I tell my heart to not be such a sissy by reminding myself that:
i) He is 6 years old now and turning 7 soon so he will survive without me just as he survived without me at 6 months.
ii) When he was 6 months I left him for 2 years pursuing that undergraduate degree and only became a full-time parent to him when he was 2 and a half this time I am only going for 9 months so what’s the fuss?
iii) This is a great opportunity and I cannot allow emotions to get the better of me and also if I really love him I must do what’s best for him in the long run because my first degree just isn’t cutting it on the job market.
By the time I am done rehashing these ‘logical’ reasons to my heart for the umpteenth time; I will have lost my sleep.
I usually switch on the light to watch my son sleep; drinking in his beloved features, memorizing them for those endless days a continent away when I know I will miss him.
In the end I remember the Ndebele expression that goes, ‘bopha ithumbu’ usually given as wise counsel to mothers who must leave their children.
Loosely translated the phrase means to figuratively ‘tie up one’s womb’ because that’s where the baby once lived and hence the maternal instincts and ties emanate from that biological symbiosis.
The expression is an exhortation for a mother to do whatever needs to be done by ignoring the maternal urges, instincts and ties which make it difficult to leave her young.
But how do we know the same children will understand and how do we know the sacrifices we make will yield the results we anticipate?
Will it be worth it in the end? I hope so.
And now I wonder how the millions of diaspora-based Zimbabwean parents have endured the yawning years and stretching miles separating them from their children?
And I wonder if the same children realize what a costly prize their parents (both mothers and fathers) have paid over the years?
At the core of it I am just scared shitless. Is good parenting synonymous with physical accessibility and proximity?
Does geography have a bearing on how good we are as parents…i.e the nearer the better or is it the case that long distant parenting is just a case of bad parenting?