• Shona Dee

When Being Strong is Your Only Choice

When Being Strong is Your Only Choice

How many times have you heard statements such as:

‘Ohhh I could never do what you’re doing’

‘No, I could never survive without a husband, I don’t know how you do it’

‘That’s great that you've got five kids and work full-time, but that’s not for me… I could never do that…’

Or something along those lines?

When Being Strong is Your Only Choice

I was having lunch with a work colleague recently. This lady is currently battling the early stages of breast cancer, and like me, she has two teenagers. And, like mine (and quite probably like all teenagers who have ever existed on this planet), they have their belligerent moments.

We were ruminating on the fact that whilst she is about to undertake one of the biggest journeys of her life – ie fighting CANCER – she still has to deal with one child (girl) stressing majorly over final year exams, and another child (also girl) who is basically just doing what teenage girl child’s do best – being (ahem) slightly demanding.

Naturally, the children are very worried and very anxious about what is happening with their mother, and this would in part explain the stress and challenging behaviour surrounding them at present.

As we ate our lunch my colleague, looking quite harried, expressed to me her desire that her teenagers help out a little more around the house, particularly at this time. She was in no way complaining, she was merely stating a perfectly reasonable desire.

As I listened to her, I felt a little anxious, a little eager to offer everything I had to her, and a little awestruck that one lady could endure SO MUCH AT ONE TIME. Some days, I feel that raising two people is about all that I can endure. To be quite sick on top of that, well, the first thing that came to mind was I don’t know how she does it.

And this is when I had my lightbulb moment. No, I have never battled cancer. But I am a single mother. And since very unexpectedly becoming a single mum, I have had many well-meaning people utter similar sentiments to me – How can you possibly do it? or You’re so strong, I would never survive, how can you do it on your own? and the like.

Well, the simple answer is, I had no choice. Just like my colleague has no choice.

I remember, in the early days of my husband leaving, when it seemed the whole world was conspiring against me. Stressed-out kids, pressure at work, not able to keep up with housework, my ex already in a new relationship … and, more than anything else, the overwhelming loneliness that came with the realisation that I was doing it all alone.

One night in particular, as I lay on the kitchen floor thinking (actually screaming) 'OKAY WHAT ELSE CAN POSSIBLY HAPPEN ??!!' … I honestly felt that I was done. That I couldn't take any more things happening to me.

Then, something else did happen. I can’t remember the details exactly. But, I interestingly did not die, and the world did not stop spinning. I still had to get out of bed each day, I still had to feed my children, I still had to turn up for work, I still had to be a citizen of the world.

In a nutshell, I had to be STRONG.

I didn't know I could be strong, I didn't have prior lessons in how to act should I ever find myself as a single parent. I did not ever have any intention of being a single parent. It was what life unexpectedly threw at me.

My colleague did not ever have any intention of being a cancer patient – but this is what life is pitching at her at the moment. So, she will fight it. She will be a warrior and she will be strong and she will give it her best shot. And I believe she will get through it.

She will continue to be a supportive mum to her kids, a loving wife, and a beautiful and valuable member of the community. Because life does not ever stop happening.

And the thing about life is, it is in her cruellest and toughest moments that we are forced out of our shells, to face our biggest fears and fight our biggest battles, and become the warriors we were always meant to be.

If there is to be a moral to this story, this is it: two years ago, I learnt that I was strong. Just as YOU are strong. Life may not have made you aware of this yet, but it is true. So today, give yourself a pat on the back, a few words of encouragement, or treat yourself to something lovely. You deserve it. We all do.

Has there been a time when you've had to find strength you didn't know you had? Tell me in the comments!

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