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In 2011, Nthabiseng’s mother passed away and she became the legal guardian of her younger brother, Kamo, who was four years old at the time. When she met Tshepang in 2013, her family expanded to include the love of her life. Here, Nthabiseng and Tshepang share more about their journey.
Can you tell us a bit more about your family and what family means to you?
Nthabiseng: In 2007, my mother gave birth to my younger brother, Kamo. He was just the sweetest and most beautiful being I had ever seen in my entire life. Unfortunately in 2011, when Kamo was just 4 years old, our mother passed away. At that point, I had to take up the role of guardian and become not only a sister but a legal parent to Kamo as well. Fortunately, there is a 21-year gap between us. In 2013, I met Tshepang, my partner. It was honestly love at first sight and we moved in together in 2015 and married in 2016 in a beautiful beach ceremony. We have been this small and close-knit family unit ever since. We look at Kamo, who is 12 years old now, and just can’t believe that we have raised a whole human being who is extremely intelligent, loving, caring and just all round wonderful.
We didn’t decide to have children. Life just threw this responsibility at us and it is a responsibility we have taken very seriously ever since. It is for this reason that we need to affirm and recognise different family structures in our country. Many families are headed by siblings, aunts, grandmothers or extended family members, who are raising children whose parents are not around anymore. Of course, life and its complications have led to these situations, but that doesn’t mean those family structures are less valid. They deserve our support as well.
Tshepang: As a queer family, we have come to understand that the definition of family is not as rigid as society has made it out to be. ‘Family’ can take so many different forms to different people. It can include your blood relations, it includes people you have joined with through marriage, it’s the supportive relationships that come about out of kinship or necessity in place of or in addition to our biological families. These different forms of family are all valid and should be celebrated.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey? And the most rewarding?
Nthabiseng: I think the most challenging part is thinking and knowing that you are making the right decisions for the child. Raising a child comes with so many insecurities and you are bombarded with so much information on how to parent ‘correctly’ that you begin to question yourself. In the end, we just want to raise Kamo in a way that will allow him to be the best version of himself and not necessarily what we want; to raise him so that he will have as few toxic habits and behaviours as possible. But that is also difficult because you teach him one thing and he goes out into the world and the world might teach him another.
Tshepang: I think for me what was difficult was that Kamo and Nthabiseng were already thick as thieves when I entered their lives. Because Kamo was not used to me yet, I constantly felt like an outsider and constantly questioned decisions I made. I soon realised that we all had to earn each other’s trust and be there for each other because it was unfamiliar territory for all of us.
Are there parenting blogs or social media accounts you follow?
Do you belong to any online support groups or communities?
Nthabiseng: No, we don’t, but we have a massive support system in our family and friends, especially the ones who are also queer parents.
What is the best parenting advice you have received?
Nthabiseng: I think the best advice was to spend more time outdoors together, which includes camping, hiking and walking. It not only works wonders for everyone’s health, but it also gives us time to be alone and to catch up since we live relatively busy lives. It allows us to talk about what really matters and to be on the same page emotionally. It also creates great memories that we will forever cherish because this is our thing as a family.
What advice can you give other parents or potential parents?
Tshepang: Parents should be gentler with themselves. Parenting can be challenging. I think a lot of parents are constantly beating themselves up for not being good enough or not having enough money to buy the things that their children want, or they fear that they are not good enough parents. I think the moment you are gentler with yourself you are able to be gentler on the children you are raising.