Sharifa Medford would tell you that being a young single parent is not at all an easy task. There are many lessons to be learnt and sacrifices to be made; many tears to be wiped away and much comforting to take place.
At times, your schedule, which completely surrounds your little charges, seems overwhelming and rushed. But for Medford, those trying times are made worthwhile by the contentedness and satisfaction of hearing the laughter of her three children Nyobi, 8, Nathan, 7, and Nailah, 4.
Added to that, the countless hugs and kisses she receives are priceless.
She would not change her delightful bundles for the world.
“I enjoy my children so much! I am not going to say that at times they don’t have me angry, because every child would do stuff that makes you kind of ticked off, especially if you tell them don’t do something and they do it.
“But that’s just children; they have short attention spans. It took me a while to totally understand that; but I got it.
“Once I do, they always make me laugh, especially when I am right about to just blow. Nailah would come and give me a kiss and she would put her face in some kind of funny position and I would just laugh and say, ‘Where this child come from?’,” she told Barbados TODAY during a recent interview in the living room of her Six Men’s, St Peter residence. Sharifa, who had just picked up her kids from school, sat down for a frank talk about her reality as a single parent.
It was almost four years ago when her life changed tremendously.
“It was an eye-opener,” she said, nodding at her own declaration.
“At first it was hard because I was adjusting from living a pretty relaxed and easy life. I always had help because their dad was very active in their lives. I moved from that to doing it on my own.
“When we first broke up I moved into an apartment by myself and it was just me and them. And my job is not an 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. sitdown-at-your-desk, all-day job. I’m always on the go and have to work at nights and on weekends,” said Sharifa, who works in public relations. Nevertheless, Sharifa soon found a way to make life a little easier for her and the children. She developed an effective routine.
“Today, my routine is to get up 5:30 on mornings, tidy up the house, make breakfast, get uniforms pressed. Get [children] in the bath and then get them dressed. Hair is usually done from weekends. I have to leave home at 7:30 a.m. in order to get to work for 8:30 a.m., so I have to take them to Before Care at their school, which starts at 7:30. I then go up to work all day, having to get back to the school by 5:30 on evenings because After Care finishes around 6 p.m.
“I come home and more than likely have to cook, but luckily my mother owns a bar; so most of the time she has food left over for us; but still most evenings I have to come home and cook. Then I tidy up the house again and listen to all the stories that happened at school.
“Sometimes I bring home my own work; so when I put them to bed I would do my work. Sometimes I say that I am going to watch TV, but I don’t ever get to watch TV,” she said.
Her priority is her children whom she said were doing really well at school, which makes her extremely proud.
“I am like, all of this hard work, all of this running around, being tired all during the school term, staying up late to help with homework, doing projects paid off.
“At the time it feels tiring, but when those reports come home it makes me feel really good.”
It’s clear from her schedule, Sharifa lives a hectic life, which leaves this former “party girl” with little or no time for herself. Before motherhood, she used to look forward to going to various events, especially during Crop Over.
“But I actually don’t mind because when I look around and see the kind of things going on at parties and stuff nowadays, I tell myself I kind of glad I wasn’t there. I still go out occasionally but most of it is work related; so it’s kind of a blessing that I have a job that allows me to go to cocktail receptions and parties.
But most stuff I go to outside of work, my children can go to. We go to endless children’s parties and fairs. My favourite place is Animal Flower Cave, where we go and just relax and sit on the cliff and look over and see the water and the rocks,” she said.
Being a single mother also comes with financial challenges. But Sharifa says she determined quite early that sacrifice was key. In her case, that meant less dressing up for Mummy and limited visits to the hair salon, since most of her money is now spent on the children.
“I love to see my children looking dressed up; I love to see them looking clean. As a single mother, one thing you would realize is that people always have their eyes on you. People always watching to see if you failing or if your children look unhealthy, or if your children look unclean. So one thing I have learnt is that my children could never ever be the topic of anybody’s conversation. I put my needs behind and I must say it was a struggle, but once I adopted the attitude [that I must make personal sacrifices for my children], it is okay.”
The 29-year-old mother of three had never envisaged that her life would be what it is today.
In fact, her first child was supposed to be her only child.
“When I got Nyobi I wasn’t supposed to have children after that because I had eclampsyia, and I was in a coma for a while; and I was told I can’t have any more children. I had memory loss; my heart had stopped; it was awful!
“Nathan came, and God was so good, that nothing happened; and I was good. And then Nailah came. I was blessed to have them from one person and I am happy that they came so close because they would grow up together. When I am 41, Nailah would be 16 and they would all be gone and I would still be young enough to live my life,” she quipped. Sharifa has absolutely no regrets over bringing her three children into this world, and is happy with where she is at, though she sees room for development in her life.
“I want to achieve a lot by the time I am 30 years old; and I would say that I am three quarters on the way to achieving [my goals]. But I am definitely going to work on it. The good thing is that they [my children] are young; so I have a lot of time.
“I am setting myself up now, so by time Nailah is 16, I should have achieved everything that I want to, as it relates to having my degree, to having my house, to having the car that I want.
“I want to achieve all of that in 12 years and I am the kind of girl that when I want something I get it. So I have no doubt that in 12 years when she is 16, if I want to go and pump gas to maintain my bills I could go and pump gas. I just think hard work could stop when she reaches that age,” she said determinedly.
She also expressed gratitude to her mother, father, grandmother and a few close friends for being there for her and her children when it mattered.
As she watched her children sitting at the dining table doing their homework and awaiting dinner, a look of satisfaction was evident on her face as she rattled off some encouraging words to single mothers like her.
“Don’t see your children as a burden or a setback because they aren’t,” she said.
The former Harrison College student noted that Barbadians were fortunate to have a system that provides social development programmes and many avenues for assistance.
“Research them,” she urged.
“Get out there and ask some questions and make some calls. Google information and find a way to help yourself. If you are not working, don’t think that you need to get an office job or a big Government job to help yourself. All you have to do is to sell yourself as a confident successful individual that you can do it and you will succeed.
“There are a lot of online jobs that people can tap into; buy some stuff and sell. Don’t ever think ‘I have children, I am living alone and I need to go and find somebody to keep them because I can’t handle this any more’.
“I mean, there are times that you would feel overwhelmed because you just want some rest, and nothing is wrong with taking a little rest. Send the children to play to take a nap, and take a nap with them; and you would find that once you have been rested enough, you are ready and willing then to basically tackle yourself and go again.”