‘Tie up the womb and go…’


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.

Can I ever give my son a better life without making my self better or making my life better?


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?

13 thoughts on “‘Tie up the womb and go…’

  1. ntando says:

    Oh De my heart goes out to you no parent has to endure such. But u doing it for him to give him the best in life better than what you had. Bopha isisu sisi all will be well. Take care and don’t stress he is in good hands. Some things just have to be done. Take comfort in that u are not chasing the wind but bettering u and your son both

  2. nomakhosazana.k. says:

    Touching..Sadly, i think distance does affect parenting.Children unlike adults respond to a more hands-on kind of love.Little things like helping him tie his shoelaces,putting him to bed or even promising him a treat if he completes his chores are the building blocks of his minds construction of love.Still,life isnt that simple.u need the education to be able to give hm the life that he deserves.The good thing is that children adapt very easily and dnt hold grudges for long.When u get back in 9mnths time,it might jus take a couple of weeks n he’ll be momies boy again.Still,ure a mom and a half coz u actually care that ure going away n leavin him.Most moms just dnt give a flying F.,n would probably be mo worried about leaving their husbands than children.

  3. This is deep stuff. In this instance, I can really only imagine what this feels like. On my course, as I am sure you will have the same fortune, I have had the opportunity to interact with mothers who have left their children back home to pursue their degrees. It’s hard, sometimes painful, sometimes guilt-ridden … but at the end of the day it’s a way of fulfilling a desire, a dream, of furthering not only themselves but also the fighting chance of their children.

    You will call him, send him pictures, find ways to keep in touch. And who knows, you might even make a trip home just to be with him. It will be well. And I am sure that you will see this when the year is over and you have achieved so much, made so many new friends, laughed, cried, learnt, lived!

  4. buzzybusi says:

    I know how you feel. I always ask how women today cope with these fast changing times. But hey, a woman has to do what she has to do to make tomorrow brighter for her children. Remember, educate a woman, educate a community. So we encourage you to go out there not just for your dear son and yourself, but for us too who will look up to you and point our daughters at you and say “look at her, if she did it, so can you”. You go get it girl!

  5. Robin says:

    Delta, even if you go a million miles away it will not take away the fact that you are a mother. The love you have for him will always be felt chero urikure. he too will understand that his mummy is going away but still loves him. it may be a hard move but i know its worth it!!

  6. Maggie says:

    It’s never meant to be easy and sometimes we just have to do things for ourselves too, knowing that it is temporary and with hope the benefits in the future will outweigh whatever losses in the form of time together. As a mother I know how hard it can be to be away from your child for however long. But let me tell you this, you won’t love him any less, you will still be his mother and isn’t it great that we live in the age of technological advancement. he will be proud of you some day when he can understand. And honey time flies, 9 months will be up sooner than you think. So chin up and lets kick ass!!

  7. Maggie says:

    And BTW I so love your style of writing. Even when you write on touchy personal issues such as this, you are as laid back as ever but still lucid.

  8. itsdelta says:

    Thanks y’all….for taking the time to give me a cyber thumbs up; and figuratively give my hand a ‘squeeze’…. why did motherhood look easy when our mothers did it, lol!

  9. Stash says:

    I always wallow in the fact that nothing is permanent, except change itself. Work now and you will have all the time in the world for your son.

  10. andile gama says:

    lets hope we are going to be getting writting from u sisi otherwise wish u all the best bopha ithumbu mntasekhaya and do t for the boiiiii

  11. rtendo says:

    I can so relate to your blog, Delta. Too often, mothers are called upon to make huge sacrifices for their children and just because the world is now different and works on a different set of rules just makes it all the more harder. In Shona there is a saying: “wotosunga dzisimbe” which is loosely translated to mean; ‘you best tie them up in such a manner that they are strong’ this is a saying that is said when one is being called on to make a really hard decision or choice. In the end, all is well that ends well, right?- not so much for parents as this is really a hope.

  12. Fortune says:

    Difficult choices are made when you are a parent and like you i had to leave my daughter to complete my honors degree. The sacrifice was worth so much more than anything because now i don’t have to worry about my education and i have that level of success to give my child whatever is necessary. Children are more resilient than you can ever imagine and they do forget. As long as you are the best you can be when you are together then you and your child will be great

  13. Difficult one but it is only 9 months and hopefully will go by quickly

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