By Selam Fesseha
I am a single parent, a mother of two beautiful kids. Kids who were abandoned by their father when one was not even born and one was just a year old. A man who left me for another woman when I was pregnant with his baby boy. Yet, I am not the victim in this story. I am the heroine. I am the heroine who went through it all alone. Why am I writing about this? I want you to learn from it.
Divorce is never good for anyone at any age while you’re in the midst of it. If you have young children, as I did, one who I was pregnant with and one who was just a year old, it’s terrible for them, but I went on because of them. It was the most difficult time in my life, I’m not sure if I could make it if it wasn’t for my children. There are no words to explain what I went through by that time. The emotional and physical burden I had to carry was too much, still I didn’t want to ask help from my family and friends. I told myself that I got into this mess by myself and I will get out of it on my own, and guess what? I did. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t know where to start or what to do. There were days when I thought I came to this world for nothing, days when I felt useless, days when I gave up on my life and thank God, I didn’t! I was lonely. I didn’t have anyone to turn to, I even became homeless for a while. But still, I never missed a day from work. I woke up like nothing is wrong and worked so hard so that I can provide for my children, so that they can eat, so that they can live. I sent my son all the way to Ethiopia to my mom when he was just six months old, I didn’t want him to suffer with me. Of all the pain, I felt in my life there is none which hurt like saying goodbye to my baby boy. My heart was broken to pieces. It hurt as if a part of me was taken away from me. I had many sleepless nights and many tearful days. I missed him like I never missed anyone else. He came back and I had to send him again when things got tough. Now he is 9 years old, still he is afraid to sleep by himself thinking I would leave him again. Through this all the father of my children never paid child support until I sued him and he got arrested.
My untold story is a lot and with God one day I will write a book about it. In the end, I managed to be a perfect mother, working hard paying bills and come home, clean and take care of the kids. I survived through it all. The psychological trauma stays with us. But today is another day. I work hard, I have smart, happy, and healthy kids. I am back to college to set a good example to my family.
What made me want to write this specific article is watching a show where my ex-husband was interviewed on. Few weeks ago, he was on the Seifu Fantahun show. Boasting about his incredible body with Seifu’s help. Which I don’t have a problem with. For the first few minutes where he was bragging about his body and Seifu was praising him for he reminded me of a man called, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The similarity between my ex-husband Yonas Mekonen and the former governor of California is astonishing. They both have passion for fitness (body building), they both live in the USA, they both have achieved big accomplishments by working hard on building their body, and their biggest similarity? They both destroyed the love and trust of their wives. Schwarzenegger slept with his house maid and fathered a boy while he was married. My ex -husband slept with the person he trains at the gym, and got her pregnant while we were married.
The further I watched the interview the more I got angry. I asked myself what is it that makes a person big in other’s eyes? A man who is behind on child support on his own children, why is it important for him to travel all the way Ethiopia just to be on TV? How important is to look big in front of the public when deep inside you know that you are very small? What is the point of acting like a hero in front of the entire country when you can’t be a hero in your children’s life? How are you going to help people in Ethiopia with their physical fitness when you can’t even help your overweight daughter lose some weight? Which should be easy considering you are her father and a trainer by profession?
‘‘Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.’’ once said John Wooden. From this interview, I saw how my ex-husband was so worried about his reputation when in real life his character was depraved. I didn’t know if the interview was about fitness and health or just looking sexually attractive. The words both Mr. Yonas and Mr. Seifu were using and the comments they made regarding me were very inappropriate and sexist to say the least. Starting from how my ex-husband was addressing me and his current wife, which was ‘ኢትዮጵያዊቷ’’ and ‘ነጯ’’ when he could have said my ex and my current wife, to the unnecessary dirty jokes Seifu was telling about the reason we divorced, ‘መቼም እሷ ከስር አትሆንም’ his exact words. To my knowledge, this is a show watched by millions and yet, here they were having rubbish locker room talk.
This isn’t the first time I watched how this specific show undermines women and use sexist language. Of the many influences on how we view men and women, media is the most pervasive and one of the most powerful. Woven throughout our daily lives, media insinuate their messages into our consciousness at every turn. The show communicates images of the sexes which usually perpetuate unrealistic, stereotypical, and limiting perceptions. Language can influence people’s perception, and when sexism is spread around on TV by a man who has a lot of fans, that normalizes his sexist thoughts. I hope he be cautious of the language he uses in the future.
At last here is what I want to tell other women who’ve been left behind. Even if at the moment you think your world has ended because someone walked out on you, you have options out there. You can do better than him — you can do better by yourself. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, get tough and get going. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. The lasting satisfaction of living well without him is worth all the hard work.
I have a big place in my heart and home for my lovely kids that he abandoned. They are smart and in advance academic program. I am back to school and is studying health information management. I want to show my children education is important. I am not going to set on welfare. I have career, and a passion to make the world a better place. My desire is to have a healthy family, community, and country. I know this world can be scary. It can be intimidating and overwhelming and at times it can feel impossible to navigate and I will make some mistakes, I will mess up. But that’s okay. Because like a baby who stumbles while learning to walk, I will recover from each misstep. I get up and I start over, like I did ten years ago. I let go of my hatred and I gave him forgiveness which he never asked for. I am happy with happy children. With every day that passes, milestones will be reached. While my old world ended with a whole lot of “lasts”, this new world is full of “firsts” which I am excited for.i