Anjanie, 41 years old
“It is unfortunate that single motherhood is taken for granted so frequently. When a man walks in the park with a stroller, people are in awe. A woman by herself with a stroller, people don't even notice that. This while you are doing so much more than just going for a walk.”
From her Hindustani-Surinamese background, Anjanie grew up with clear expectations surrounding her marriage: it's better to be unhappy together than to be happy by yourself. Yet Anjanie and her then-husband decided to put an end to their relationship of sixteen years, of which they were married for seven years. "I remember the relationship as a happy time. The arrival of a baby created different expectations of each other. Jaïr was now priority number one for me. The distance between me and my husband grew over time and toward the end of the relationship I was very lonely. In our culture, there is a lot of shame surrounding divorce. I thought our marriage would work as long as I kept adapting and kept ignoring my own needs. But I couldn’t ignore the needs of my child. I just would have liked for Jaïr to have happy parents, like the ones you see elsewhere. But that wasn’t us. It didn't become a dramatic divorce, there was no fighting and for me there wasn’t much change: The three years Jaïr was there I did almost everything alone with him. Now we have established co-parenting and Jaïr has a good relationship with his father, who, like me, loves him very much. He is with him regularly."
"I was coming out of a very dark period when we broke up. I suddenly had more freedom, but I was also mourning the loss of my family. One time I walked away to cry. Jaïr was three and a half at the time, held my face and said, 'I'm going to take care of you.' I said, 'No. Mom is going to take care of herself.' That was a turning point for me. What kind of mother do I want to be for Jaïr, how do I want him to see me? These are questions I started asking myself. It felt like a new chapter was starting in which it was all about me and Jaïr."
Working on myself
"I always thought: you have to be strong and just deal with everything that comes your way. I just kept running and didn't allow my emotions to enter. Eventually I developed physical injuries and a burnout. I was given all kinds of medication, but just had to learn how to relax and allow emotions to come in. One day, out of nowhere, I just started meditating, practicing yoga, walking and taking more rest. And I never let go of that routine ever since. The sun started shining again for me when I consciously started working on myself. I learned to be more gentle with myself. The impact of being a single mother allowed me to reconnect with myself. Expectations of others do not always help. Imagine getting your life together and enjoying your new life and then someone asks ‘are you dating yet?’ or ‘how’s your love life?’ As if you can’t be happy until you’re in a relationship.
Letting go more and more
It has been a journey for both of us. As a mother you follow the phases of your child, gaining more and more freedom for yourself; but also having to let go more and more. Every time you feel like you are needed a little less. Jaïr and I also talk openly about such feelings with each other. Last November Jaïr turned eleven and for the first time on his birthday he spent the evening at his fathers house. Unexpectedly I found myself crying alone at home, in my decorated living room. When my family found out, they said ‘we are all going out for dinner tonight to celebrate your motherhood, because you are doing so amazing.' I learned that you are only 'alone' when you don't express what you’re feeling. Sometimes it's okay to just say, ‘I'm tired.’ Or ‘I'm sad’. Motherhood comes with loneliness. Healing a broken heart takes time. We love our children, but sometimes it's also hard and you don't get the appreciation, recognition or understanding you deserve. I have so much respect for women who do this alone, with or without a relationship. You are not alone, you are a hero, a goddess.