Hey there, I am Sharon and I’m Umi and welcome to the Round Table. This is a space dedicated to the women of the pacific who are trying to figure out life just like we are and we are going to ask questions that you’ve always wanted to ask to a new quest every episode and leave the vail on unspoken topics. We talk about everything from personal image and relationship to everything in between. Come and join us. Ale yumi Storian. This project is made possible with the support of We Rise Coalition and PACMAS.
On this episode we will be discussing the Positive impacts of young motherhood and we will be exploring the challenges as well as the positive impacts of what it is like to be a young mother in Vanuatu and the Pacific and we want to be very clear that we are not in any way encouraging young girls to become young mothers, we just want to understand and share the reality here in Vanuatu and believe this is a very common in Vanuatu and as well in the Pacific. We want to flip the script in this scenario and shine the light on the beauty of this experience. Being a young mother means you have so many responsibilities and a big part of that is making sure your child is able to grow in a nurturing and healthy environment. But this can be challenging to achieve as a young girl or a young-women. Being a young mother in a society where sex is such a tabu topic when a teen gets pregnant her family are often ashamed of her because her pregnancy is prove that she has sex, this result in family turning their backs on her to fend for herself and her child commonly without the support for the father of the child as well. And we know that there are many challenges and we have heard and talked about the negatives of these kinds of situations but there’s little focus on the positive aspect of being a young mother. So today we have Dawn Reuben. Dawn is from Papua New Guinea; she is currently the Programme Manager for the global partnership for Education with the ministry of Education and training. She has her first child at an age of 20 until now she is looking after 10 children, six biological children as well as 4 others that she is currently taking care of. So welcome Dawn, thank you so much for coming in to join us. Alright we’re just gonna straight into it.
Umhh so Dawn first of all could you tell us the first challenges you faced when you felt pregnant at a young age and how did you manage to deal with the emotional toll that comes with falling pregnant?
I think that’s interesting like each of us given that I’m form Papua New Guinea, we came with our own cultural beliefs and upbringing values and also a set of responsibilities and expectation. I was the oldest in my family and I felt pregnant when I was studying in New Zealand. Uhm but I think what kept me going was that I saw my mother was the young mother and she raised us. She was very young straight out from Senior Secondary and I admire how she grew with us as well. She could have conversation with us at that level that we were. she was still young in her mid-20s, mid-30s and I really admire her and I wanted that. The worse thing I had in my head was I don’t know wanna be old, you know bending my back when trying to explain things that are outdated for my children. So, I think in general I had a lot of thought process and thinking about it but I wanted this. Like even if it meant that yes, I did accept my parents especially my mother saying that you know this is not what you planned for, this is not what we had expected. You going to New Zealand being the eldest in the family and I have 6 sisters and one-half brother. So, you can imagine what I meant by expectation on my shoulder and I’m that throughout my schooling of Senior cycle secondary levels in for years 7 to 10. Two years in catholique mission school that you know a lot of my Christian values and believes were impacted in my life as well. So, you know I was so humble about the process of my family. It’s part of the cultural process for us in Melanesia. I had to go through that, the scolding, the name callin all of that. At the end of the day, I knew that I had my life and my value of me being on this earth is bigger than my mindset and somebody else bigger and setting their paths right and for me being a young mom at 20, I wanted to be a mum like that and I saw that from my mother. But I didn’t go through the emotional toll and it took another level that I was here in Vanuatu when I told my parents that I was expecting. I got a scolding through the phone even though it was a cultural experience being a first year here in Vanuatu after studies and I can tell you it was a lot of crying nights by myself but a lot of nights like lord please I know you’ll get me through this cause there’s no way I’m getting rid of this baby. You know there is an ethical and also a spiritual part of you and you know it. It’s inside your soul that you know something bigger than yourself that’s happening. But being a mum especially for the first time it’s the most important life changing moment for you and it’s so important that going through this emotional toll that you first have to be the one having the conversation with yourself. I had a lot of conversation with myself and that was supported by upbringing my values most importantly my beliefs. I spend 6 years in catholique boarding school and there was faith beyond my imagination and like you said raise 10 kids 6 are mine and 4 are my other nieces and nephew but I find ways just to be there to care, guide them and support them well those are the things but if one of these four are sick and be in the hospital I would be there for them like just find a way to be there. That didn’t come easy and we can’t just like Melanesian just cut out the process of being scolded its part of the journey to be scolded but I guess to be reminded that it’s also important that to have that process, self-reflection, looking at the bigger picture and I think when you have a supportive system around you that supports you emotionally and say we gonna be there cause I was in a different country it does help especially when are on your own. First time mum at the very early age when the rest of the peers are out enjoying life and exploring things yeah It did have an emotional toll big time.
Yeah, Dawn I really understand where you’re coming from unlike easy uh being a young mother at the age of 20 uhm I wanna know can you remember what the first year your motherhood was like for you?
Yeah, I mean I can remember, I mean my eldest son Is 17, I look at him he’s change physical appearance I mean he’s got like a little baby moustache here but I fell in love with my son because I came from a family line of six sisters and one half brother and when I saw my son like I saw my father, I saw my uncle, I saw my whole other father that were not here. My mother wasn’t here when I had my son, so it was hard but it was a very humbling experience given that I was raised in the city so we get everything done you know. But I was met to learn and do things on my own the hard way to be a mum but to be there for my son day in and day out. Like if I was back home, it would probably be like okay I’ll do my son bathe him, do this, do that and I probably can’t sleep for a couple of hours. Mum can help me take care or my aunties can do the laundry. I did everything by myself for the first years, especially the first year. You get to see your body change as well. You need to be aware that you need to take care of yourself as well and be cautious of the elderly aro und you, they would advise you to take care of yourself and there are you know tabus slangs like every time you have one child is like you letting go of inner strength you become like you know you are giving power to a new life, something like that. It’s also in the process, you need to have it’s part of the personal growth for you as a woman you know that I’m on this journey and like being a mum. I didn’t envision having more than, but I have now but I’m blessed.
So uhmm What are the biggest challenges you have faced with say time management ever since you have your baby, let’s say when you had your first son what was the biggest challenges with time management in your daily life?
So being a mum yes for sure like time management is the biggest challenge, yes and along with time management I think you need to be fair with yourself too. Taking care of kids day in and day out is a full time job and there you are raising another human being, another life who is gonna be another director, another DG or doctor, a cleaner a pilot and you are doing the best you can with the most you have. With the time management, the challenging thing has always been for me was I am a foreigner that I decided to move here and started raise my family I had to put so many other people before me even my children being first and then every-body else could come with and their families and I often lost track of myself into reward myself with time that could value myself be as reward for myself. Oh maybe I could just have some friends outside the cycle of my children or just hang out and laugh a little, chill. So like keeping a tab of that along your schedule like time Management is such a big topic but to have a schedule and say like okay this is my daily routine on my weekly routine, this particular day or this particular time I’m gonna have it with my friends I’m just gonna laugh, I’m just gonna chill. I kind of lost track of that over the years.
Also, what are other positive traits that have come out of this experience that have made a positive impact on your life from having a child at an early age?
That question is like paramount, it drives me forward and it has driven me from day one to now and the positive experience has been that being a mum from my eldest son to my youngest twins and I knew I had the strength and the courage and the passion to even look above and beyond what I had to care for others and the reward that came with it to be able to help others and I think it’s a personality that and the attitudes and attributes that you learn to grow with to develop along the way in the journey, these things we don’t learn in school. It’s a principle of life. They will carry you further than you can ever imagine. Uhmm I had to do it in a way where there’s diplomacy because I live with my in-laws. So, you know those dynamics? I have to learn and develop that along the way. There’s so much that we can learn in school but principals of life are good attitudes. We only learn through experience and this kind of sharing, this kind of talanoa storian session like this, as women we are emotional beings. We connect on emotional levels and it’s only when we talk about it and express it that we can relate on that level. I think I also developed that trait to be able to say if I can get through this and make it and there’s a greater being before, behind and within me, you can do it too. Cause ah I remember when I had my fourth son and when I was studying in Fiji doing my bachelors, I was told by the nurse that oh you are having twins, I cried and I’m like oh my god how I’m gonna complete this double degree course lord? Like the timing is just off. Okay I get it I love my children but the timing is off. But then it was something beyond my control. So I had to go around the campus carrying 6kg babies. They are both like 3kg each. Looking back now I was a role model. I get it. The lord needed to use me to say to other women and mothers that you can do it, you know we are only a vessel here, we are only here for a limited time. We have a greater purpose and I see that impacting all this experience on my children, especially I have two daughters and three nieces, so I have this conversation about having these dreams in women. It’s fine. One of my eldest nieces she’s one of us and you know is expecting. She is seven months old. I have this conversation, I’m like okay you know you gonna give birth, you gonna take six months off to take care of your baby, you gotta take care of your body and you gotta get back to work. I never knew that I would grow those sorts off. I think the heart, the courage and the patience to be able to say this because I was raised by a mother who was like a oh my gosh communists. So when I sit back again and a lot of time I’m in tears Thank you Lord for this Journey. It’s a journey, it’s not always that bad. It takes a bit of personal time to look at how far we come to look at a bigger picture behind.
How do you measure your success as a parent or like you know when you are a young mother how do you measure that success?
So I think there was a scenario I will give, the scenario of one of my children, well a couple of my children. A family member on their father’s side uhm they have a step daughter and so we had this conversation like okay he doesn’t take care of his children but he takes care of these child and he forget his children and my children go oh mummy you know she’s innocent just like our cousin so we shouldn’t you know. You know I was like, I turn around and say oh my god thank you lord I did something right with my children. Like indirectly they have this compassion and it’s hard to say, you know this judgemental thing is we don’t see it but it’s all in there. I’m like oh god thank you for this journey and like I’m raising good people. That is my dream. Like the struggles and what not, but that is my dream and that is my purpose to raise good people who are compassionate, loving and forgiving that they will go to school and learn the same thing as everybody else but they have these extra qualities that we know I’m part of. So I feel like raising all my children through this journey one of the most rewarding things as well for me was it keeps me grounded and focused. Sometimes I sit around with other sisters and friends and they are like how do you do it? And I was like you know what? Like God just knew it. If I have two children I wanna be disgruntled I wanna be defocus but he had to put a lot and say okay you just gonna deal with it this way. You don’t have to keep your focus, so my kids grounded me from day one until now and I think 6 wasn’t enough, so I had to help with my nieces and nephews. But that’s fine.
There are good motivational drivers, aren’t they?
And I think they take up so much of your time and so much of your strength. But listening from what you have to say I feel like it’s more of like a passion you do and a love you give to your kids.
Sharon I tell you, when you are a young mum and you grow up with your children, at some point you will be like okay can I just have 5 minutes to myself? Some of them will say mummy can you keep your voice down or you shouldn’t say that. Like they draggs you which is a good thing but sometimes it’s awkward when you are in different places and they are not suppose to say things but it’s really rewarding like when you think about lifestyle now when people had NCDs and what not like you have the certainty to be there for the most important times in their life. And you know what I meant like you’ll be capable and able to say okay I can see them off to their secondary schools or boarding school. Like I was so emotional with my sons. Like I only have one half brother so my sons like the rest of the family they laugh at me. They went to Santo last year to plan kava with their relatives. I said okay you gonna be 18 next year, you need to start adventure and exploring. I’m not from Vanuatu, you guys are man Vanuatu so I send them off. My son is like okay mummy, it’s okay you can just hug us here. I’m like no no I’ll go put you. You walk in and I’ll just hug you. He’s like mum and he’s like hovering on top of. He’s like a mummy. It’s okay I’m like can you let me cry first. He’s like I’m gonna be okay. So they refine you in just a way that you have to be this kind of person where you are able to absorb their emotions, filter and some of those emotions and just be you know a mum will always be his son’s first love. You gotta show them that the women they need to take care of and that kind of women that they want to have in their life. And daughter, daughters first love will always be their father and she will always represent that love through her father. And will always make that reference. And I think having those experiences with my sons, it’s always been like it’s not that bad. You know it’s gonna be okay and that they are old enough we have those conversations and it’s been meaningful. I mean it’s been meaningful being a young mum raising young teenage kids and you can have these conversations.
Dawn I would love to ask you this, how would you describe your peace as being a young mother a few years back from your peace now, would you consider a difference in your peace on what being a young mother feels like back then as opposed to how you feel peace now?
Yes Sharon, that’s sometime I laugh at it, my children laugh at it especially my teenage kids cause ah when I had my eldest son, I look at it I’m just like okay so you’re gonna have a girlfriend, you gonna be with me, you gonna do this and that. And I have four sons. So, trust me, I am bullying them left right centre and now they are like. The youngest of my son is 7 and the eldest is 17 and the other one is 12 this year and the other one is 10. Umh and they look at me and now like if anybody comes up with a conversation and their sisters are like so mummy uhm today Reuben to go down and talk to this girl and I just give him this look and I’m like. He just look at me and no so she needed my guidance and I’m like yeah okay you know I don’t have white hair and he goes mummy I know. I’m like okay so it’s gonna stop there. You know like how we have to be able to communicate in a way that its their fibre, you know the young ones. You can’t just be dictatorship cause I’m fearful cause like I’m not from Vanuatu. I don’t wanna lose my kids. They are the only thing that grounds me and holds me together and keeps me going. So I’m congest of thing there. I’m just congest that they are changing. Like I even reach out to friends and I’m like I’m so like can you help me with this conversation with my sons and they are like yeah we can help in this conversation with them so that keeps you going in that level of a lot of thinking. But my perception of raising children back then to now and the peace that I have I think it’s involved at the level that there’s more understanding, there’s more maturity and it comes with a lot of love. You have to do things with love with children, you have to. Even with discipline like I stand up and say no is no and when you say no is no, they can. You have to remember our children have been brought up in our womb for 9 months, so just hearing the voice and vibration through their ear they know it comes with love. Even though the physical expression is off they just come and hug you and say I’m really sorry mummy and I’m like okay well just give me 5 minutes. The level of peace if I can compare myself back then when I was I mum, then referencing to my mum, no I’m totally different. Yeah.
Thank you for Sharing Dawn. Honestly, this episode is a bit emotional for me as I had my daughter when I was 19. I am a young mother myself. So, it’s ah quite inspiring to hear what you have to say. Our last question here and I would love to hear this and this could be a little monotron honestly. We wanna end this episode with three positive words that sum up your whole experience as a young mother. Three words take your time.
As a young mum, If there were three words that I could probably three phases that I could give for take away with, I would start with it’s okay to be you. You are you and you have to be you to be able to carry life into this world. I think the second one would be to be able to be chosen as the versal to carry this life into this world. You are blessed. You’ve been divinely chosen. Your purpose is greater than yourself especially being a young mum and it’s on the journey to shape you to be someone bigger and better that’s my second thought around this whole experience. The third one will be I think two main positives: always see the good in every part of the journey. You know what doesn’t give you makes you stronger. Like you always stick in the positive part. The other parts are just part of the experience, refine you and say okay I can learn from this; I cannot do it the next time you know. You can pick up from that and learn. So, it’s both. I think if you go back to my first one, you know you have to stick to being you. You have to be you first. You know you carry a box so the child comes into the box. You have to be you. Don’t even lose focus of who you are. You have to be you. The second one is you are blessed and with that blessing of being the mother comes its reward and it’s gonna be along the journey and I think the third one would be most importantly is it’s a life changing experience. So empress it but stick to the positive paths that will build you, shape you, mold you and keep you driving forward, onward and upward.
Thank you Dawn, that’s beautiful.
So you have it guys. You know it’s not the end of the world and I have experienced that at first from what I am getting from you is that it doesn’t matter if you say you mess up and have a kid, it’s not the end of the world. Often when you get pregnant at a young age, you get a lot of negative comments but from what I am getting from this, you are telling us that it’s not over and it only gets better from here. It’s just the beginning, trust me. It’s just a beginning for better things. I meant you are living a life for yourself but you know the greater one says no you are capable of raising so many more. That means you have the power to change yourself probably, some others may have the chance to change with only one or two children or maybe without any of them at all. But if you are being divinely chosen to say you are my version the true you I will raise the next. And like I think before we close there’s a personal experience raising these young children I would get the feedback from like the in laws saying that oh there are too many and stuff like that. They will start differentiating between my nieces and my own children and I hated that to a point where I say look we have to stop this. Because I didn’t plan to have all of this but I know for sure that deep down in my soul that we are raising a pilot, we are raising a doctor we are raising what so and so but then we gonna achieve it unless we work together and find how we take care of them and how we groom each of them. So it’s a whole journey, not a single stop. It’s a whole journey, so we need to engage in conversation in spaces of these young mothers and encourage young mothers and women to learn from other young women mothers. Don’t think that you are going through this and say no I’ll stick in my corner. You know they paid my pride price, okay that’s fine, respect everything culture and tradition but you have a life for you Umi, you have a life for you Sharon. Dawn I have a purpose in your life and can I just get into that space and be me in that five minute and say oh did you finish your degree and say yes, I did but I have to take care of my children and you know it’s a moral boast and a human level and an emotional level. It’s nothing like you said. Like this conversation needs to continue.
Thank you thank you so much Dawn, alright to close this up guys please check us around facebook, Instagram and Tiktok. Sista Vanuatu on facebook Sista underscore on Instagram, as well as our website sista.com.vu and also by following our website you can also listen to more of our Round table podcast that are already on there including the upcoming episodes. This is Sharon and I’m Umi from the Round Table ale lukim yu.