Motherhood is a complex never-ending journey but add deputy parenting and marriage to the mix – and you have the perfect recipe for the most rewarding but “toughest job ever”, Tshepiso Musehani from Pretoria says.
The 27-year-old isn’t only the mother of two beautiful boys, seven-month-old Rotondwa and four-year-old Rofhiwa, but also a deputy parent and legal guardian to her siblings Katlego and Gontse.
Growing up as the firstborn of her four siblings, Matlhogonolo (22), Refilwe (19), Tshepiso Katlego (13) and Gontse (10), Tshepiso was always her mother’s greatest advisor.
“My mother valued my opinion when it came to my siblings’ future, and we made a lot of decisions together,” she tells YOU.
However, after the untimely passing of her mother in 2019, her role was taken to a whole new level.
“My husband received a phone call at around 7am on 4 January 2019, informing him of my mother’s death,” she recalls of that tragic day.
“I was in the shower when he came to tell me about the strange phone call he’d just received and we both thought and hoped it was just a prank or that someone accidentally called the wrong number.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t a prank, and my mother had left us.”
As the eldest child, Tshepiso automatically became the deputy parent which was something she’d done throughout the years – the only difference now was that her mother wasn’t there to guide her.
Deputing parenting is no new phenomenon, according to The Conversation. Firstborns are thought to be born with natural leader character traits, which means parents are likely to trust them more to manage things in their absence.
However, being a deputy parent is one of the many struggles firstborns have to endure in addition to having to grow up fast compared to their siblings, according to Pulse.
For Tshepiso the role has come with both benefits and challenges.
“I knew I’d have to take care of my siblings, but I didn’t know how I was going to juggle being a young mom, a newly wed wife and a deputy parent at the same time.
“Fortunately for me, I’m blessed with a wonderful husband who welcomed all my siblings into our home,” she said.
The corporate communication officer, who recently started working from home, reveals that deputy parenting is something she’s been doing all her life as a firstborn.
“I feel like being a deputy parent isn’t new to me, the only different part is me doing it without my mother’s support,” she added.
“All this just feels like a never-ending long weekend visit with way more responsibility and no mother to call for backup.”
Tshepiso admits the first few months of having her siblings living with her were difficult.
“The first few months were a bit tough on Rofhiwa as I had to give more attention to Katlego and Gontse.
“I was struggling to keep the balance between being a mom to my sons, a sister to my siblings, and parent at the same time. Things are better now, but it does get overwhelming at times,” she said.
Tshepiso has also worked out a routine for her young ones during the lockdown, which has helped her work better from home too.
“I’m working from home with a seven-month-old baby, so a schedule is very important,” she stressed.
“It’s not always easy to stick to our schedule but we try to stick to our bathing, working and napping time. The most important thing is to ensure that everyone gets their work done by Friday.”
When Tshepiso has her other two sisters around to assist her, things run a lot smoother. “Having a baby makes it very difficult to get through my daily task, but everyone tries to help out, and the kids also have daily chores that make life a bit easier for me,” she says.
“I’ve always wanted to be a young mom but never thought my days would be this hectic.”
Although it hasn’t been smooth sailing, she says seeing her little ones finally coming into their own has been rewarding.
“Parenting is one of the toughest and yet most rewarding jobs ever. You feel so proud when you see your child finally getting the teachings you’ve so painstakingly taught them.
“I’m forever in awe when Rofhiwa corrects me on mistakes I corrected him on, and I often find myself in tears when I think of how proud my mother would’ve been to see how well her babies are doing.”
While Tshepiso has had to sacrifice things like her personal space and freedom, which “can be a lot to deal with as a young mother”, she adds that it’s close friendships and relationships that’ve kept her going.
“You still want to have some time with friends. Sadly a lot of friendships suffer when the other friends don’t know much about the struggles we face as mothers. I don’t have the luxury of going on spontaneous coffee dates with friends,” she added.
“But I’m fortunate enough to have a village of people who are willing to help me out when I need some time off.”
She also emphasised the importance of young moms having time to themselves.
“It’s very important to make a conscious decision to enjoy your youthful days as a mother so that you don’t blame your kids for losing out on having fun.”
In terms of juggling parenthood during Covid-19 and school, Tshepiso reveals that her little ones are enjoying home-school.
“The flexibility of home-schooling has allowed them to learn in a space they’re comfortable in, and it also allows them to try out learning approaches that work better for them,” she shared.
“These reasons and the current instability in the department of education had us moving towards the option of doing home-schooling for the rest of the year and going forward.”
But having the children at home 24/7, she now appreciates and basks in the rare moments of silence she’s spared.
“When you have a full house, you appreciate every few minutes of silence you can get. I use my quiet moments to read a book or listen to a podcast that will lift my spirits and keep me motivated.”
Tshepiso further highlighted that, “The reality with this pandemic and the ongoing gender-based violence is that we’ll have more deputy parents arising from this.”
This is why she hopes her Instagram page, where she shares her journey, experiences and realities of wearing multiple hats, will serve as inspiration or even a community to others like her out there.
“I hope pages like mine will give them hope that it’s possible to carry the responsibility of raising your siblings and still get to enjoy life and work towards your dreams.”
"My advice for parents struggling with modern-day parenting is to remember that families differ in so many ways.
- It’s ok to read up on parenting advice and ask for advice from fellow mommies, but don’t compare yourself with other parents.