Single, dating and a teenage dad

I knew things would be difficult the day me and my baby mama broke up. While her parents showed no interest in their granddaughter knowing her father, it was she who made it possible for us to spend time together. She always made the extra effort to bring her to the park or to the mall so my baby could see me every week. And I was right; in the six months since we broke up, I’ve seen her about a handful of times, and that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.

I was a full-blooded first-year business student when I scored one of the most beautiful girls at my campus.

My daughter just turned four years old. It’s surreal to imagine that at 23, with my life only now beginning to take shape, my main focus is shifting towards how I can make the right moves going forward, not only for myself but for us both.

I was a full-blooded first-year business student when I scored one of the most beautiful girls at my campus. It wasn’t so much about me being attracted to her than it was about my social status. I wanted to be seen with the baddest b*tch!

After swooping in and dropping her off at home whenever her dad was late (which was often), she quickly took a liking to me and it wasn’t long before we started dating and getting intimate. I soon started spending most of my free time and all of my weekends at her apartment. To appease my mom, I’d tell her that school was gruelling and that I needed to spend time studying with a friend.

Reckless as we were, she fell pregnant barely a month into our relationship.

Reckless as we were, she fell pregnant barely a month into our relationship. I’m not too proud to admit it now, but I vividly remember trying my level best to convince her to have an abortion. After all, we barely knew each other and our lives were literally just starting. Despite initially agreeing with me, she changed her mind and decided to keep it, saying that she could already picture the baby with my eyes, my nose, my curly hair.

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I was upset at first, but my focus quickly turned to how we were going to make this work. Coming from a family where my dad has about 16 children from several different women, and only takes care of one or two of them, I was determined to be different.

I decided to hold off telling my mom about this situation until December, six months into the pregnancy. I suspected she’d kick me out and I wanted to complete my first year. And this was not because I was particularly committed to my studies, but because I didn’t want to face the humiliation of having to leave during the middle of a semester. Her mom was distraught when I told her, but she got over it soon after and became supportive.

My mom kicked me out. I expected this because we’ve always had an edgy relationship. I knew she’d hate that she’d become a grandma at such a young age–she was 39–and she would think I’d thrown my life away. I’ve always felt like she didn’t want me, even though I was her only child. She had me at the age of 19, the same age I was at the time. But part of me still hoped that she’d understand and we’d get through this together.

‘You know you’re my only child,’ she said to me, crying.

‘I’d been thinking about having another baby, and now I can’t. Why are you so selfish?’ I was speechless–I’d never thought about it this way–and I was hurt. She went on to remind me how she’d warned me when one of my best friends, who was a year older than me, had had a baby two years prior and scolded me for being so reckless before telling me to leave.

I didn’t have much money to my name, so after staying at baby mama’s apartment for a week (she was back at home with her family as it was school holidays), I moved from Johannesburg to Durban where I worked as a counsellor at a summer camp called Sugar Bay. It was a gruelling work day there, but I didn’t mind, I had free accommodation and three meals a day (plus I nibbled on camper’s snacks).

The night before my daughter was born, and only because we had a Christian school over at camp, we had a rare worship session in our hall. This was the first time this had happened in my time at camp. Although I’m Christian, I’ve never been a very religious person but I worshipped with passion and vigour that night; I’d sacrificed so much for this moment, and I wanted my journey as a father to be a blessed one.

She was quiet and tiny and beautiful, with a light brown complexion that made her skin look like a milky cup of tea.

My daughter was born on the morning of February 13, 2013. Her grandma (my baby mama’s mom) called me that morning and said, ‘Your daughter’s here now, and she’s white.’  She was born with pure, milky skin. I was so happy, and I prayed and thanked God for this blessing.

I first met my daughter during my visit back to Joburg during a break in our camp schedule a few months later. She was quiet and tiny and beautiful, with a light brown complexion that made her skin look like a milky cup of tea. She was also fragile, her mom told me, and so I held her softly against my chest until she fell asleep. I knew I wouldn’t see her often, and so I made sure to savour every moment.

Nearly a year after I’d been kicked out, my aunt urged me to go back home to Joburg and reconcile with my mom. I was bitter and still upset. But I was struggling financially with no prospect of the situation improving, so I did. She apologised for her ‘overreaction’. I apologised for ‘my mistake’. Our apologies were empty.

I moved back home and went back to school soon after. I hated studying business and desperately wanted to write, so I took on a role as an unpaid intern at a local online mag. At this point, I’d see my daughter behind my mom’s back every other week at the park. She’d told me to stay away from them and focus on school. This was upsetting for both me and my baby mama, and over time our relationship began to fade.

I’ve had a few brief relationships since and each time I’ve found myself grappling with whether or not to be upfront.

At the end of my internship, I got a decent paying job at a top media company as an entertainment writer, which finally meant that I could get paid doing what I enjoyed and contribute more towards my daughter.

What my job also meant was that I got to go out a lot more and rub shoulders with A-listers and a range of beautiful women. And in October last year, I got into a sexual relationship with a famous musician. I didn’t tell her I had a baby because I thought it would lessen the chances of her wanting to be with me. Not sure why, because she had two children and probably wouldn’t have minded.

After digging through my Instagram and some pics I’d been tagged on she found out a few weeks in and confronted me. I apologised for not revealing this and explained how I had intended on telling her soon. She hesitantly forgave me and we continued our ‘relationship’. But things were never the same and it didn’t last long after.

Will they be afraid of my baby mama biting back?

I’ve had a few brief relationships since and each time I’ve found myself grappling with whether or not to be upfront about being a father. Will they judge me? Will they be afraid of my baby mama biting back? I’ve tried to dodge these issues by simply keeping my situation private.

My family and baby mama’s family still don’t see eye to eye. In fact, there is absolutely no interaction between the two families. I rarely make financial contributions towards my daughter because, as my mom told me, those contributions need to be rewarded with more time to spend with her.

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But a few weeks ago, I ignored this and asked my baby mama’s mom if I could send some money. She said that would be welcome. When I sent her R800 (which I actually felt was a reasonable amount) and explained that it was the extra bit I had this month, she fired back, ‘But we don’t raise kids with extra money from their parents, kids are our first priority.’

I have not responded or spoken to her since. My mind has been consumed by ideas on how I can find a way around this. I’m about to buy a car and take over my mom’s bond as she’s moving to another province in April. This seems like the perfect time to take this matter before the courts and make my case for joint custody. I’ve also saved up quite a bit of money. It’s in preparation for the child support I’ll most likely have to cough up because, as someone once told me, ‘We don’t raise kids with extra money from their parents, kids are our first priority.’

This is part of a guest editorship series by Shingai DarangwaAlex Kamutondole and Thebe Kadiege who are bringing you the best new culture and news from Johannesburg.

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