Olivia Matshabane: Slaying a career as a young Mother

When you fall pregnant at a young age, many people still believe you can’t be a good mother or have a good career. When Olivia Matshabane got her son at the age of 21, she knew she had to do her best in order to create the best life for both of them.

At 25 years old, Olivia is one of the youngest black female South Africans to be completing a Ph.D. She started with an undergraduate degree and further pursued a Master’s program in psychology.

Despite not being a high achiever in high school, she was able to graduate with honors for her undergraduate and a distinction for her Master’s.

But how did she manage to perform well under the pressure of adjusting to motherhood? Olivia highlights her journey to success below.

1. Dream

The first step to becoming successful is developing a dream. Think big, carefully and critically. Think about what kind of life you would like to have and what would allow you to get there.

Everybody should be visualizing their future lives and use that vision as a basis for your dream. Dreams are powerful things. The excitement of the possibility of reaching that dream keeps us motivated and encouraged to keep striving for it!

2. Write down your dreams

I believe that writing down your dreams makes them plans. When I was 18, I wrote a 10-year plan that included my education goals, getting a child, being with a stable partner and finally living in New York.

Though some things shifted mildly, I was able to achieve all my goals. Often, I still look at this piece of paper to encourage and promise myself to keep going.

Writing down dreams has worked for me and can work for many young women. Even though you are not comfortable to share your dreams, it is important to write them down. This helps you remember your dreams and not let go of them.

However, you should be open to changes and shifts in your plan. And that’s okay. Just try to make sure that you then update your plan accordingly.

3. Make a plan

Once you know what your dream is, it’s important to decide on the specifics. What do you need in order to get there? Is it training, a mentor, a coach, or a business partner?

Whatever you need, you should develop a plan on how you are going to get it. The better and more detailed your plan is, the better your chances of not getting confused during the process.

To get a detailed plan, you need to research! Make sure you research before settling on anything. For example, if you plan to study something in university, research costs, best institutions, available funding and important dates. All information is key!

4. Get a support system

Getting a support system is important. Though it may not be easy to ask for help, when you are a young mom it is important to establish networks that you can turn to for help when you need it.

My support system allowed me to study late on campus, work on weekends and later travel for work. I had the comfort of having people to take care of my son.

So build that support system! Even if it is a group of young mothers just like yourself who help one another out with babysitting when needed. If there isn’t one around you, initiate it! It will make the process a lot easier.

5. Put in the work

Just because you are a young mother and have a lot on your plate does not mean that you should be lazy. Remember you are working towards, YOUR dream and so you need to put in the hard work!

When you have deadlines, make sure that you set sufficient time aside, in order to meet those deadlines. You shouldn’t give people excuses simply because you are a young mother.

6. Don’t easily accept NO for an answer

When you send in applications for things and know you are qualified, do not easily accept no. Make an effort to find out why. Sometimes there is a glitch in the system or your application was not received or looked at for some reason.

This actually happened to me during my undergraduate application. I knew getting rejected would derail my plans and so I inquired until I found out I was actually accepted.

Also, there may be something you did incorrectly in your application. Adopt the mentality that feedback is critical, as it will always help you better yourself for your next application.

7. Don’t feed into your insecurities

You may feel overwhelmed by the idea of becoming a young mother and still pursuing your dreams. It’s certainly not easy! You may have moments where you doubt your skills, but hang tight and don’t feed into those insecurities.

The thoughts you feed yourself have enormous power, so feed yourself positive thoughts. Always try your best to be in positive and motiving spaces and try to celebrate the little successes.

8. Be your child’s role model 

Think of the kind of person you would like your child to be and then model that person! Remember children learn best from what they see modelled.

If your child sees you working late at night, they can see what it means to be a hard worker. If your child experiences love from you as a parent, they will learn what it means to love.

9. Take time out

Proper rest is important. Firstly, take time out of your work to focus on spending quality time with your child. This could be a few hours or days to focus on your child only.

Secondly, time spent alone is equally important as you need to re-energize, remind yourself of your goals and reflect and plan on your journey.

Thirdly, take time with family members and/or friends. A good laugh with your loved ones will remind you of the beauty of life. Young hard working mothers need to remember to take time to be genuinely present and happy.

10. Don’t listen to people who say you can’t do it!

Most people tend to focus on the hypothetical negative effects of becoming a young mother. But you can have a really positive outcome in your career and in your relationship with your child.

Believe in what you tell yourself. If you tell yourself that you are doomed and will not be successful, then sadly that’s what you may be.

However, if you tell yourself that you will use your experience of becoming a young mother as a source of inspiration for you to draw on to continue pursuing your dreams, then believe that you CAN DO IT!

Nobody said it would be easy, but what I am saying is that you can still pursue your dreams - OP Matshabane Click To Tweet

Do you have any tips for your Motherland Moguls? Let us know more here.

Jessica Layado: I had to tough up and take it like a woman

jessica layado she leads africa

I was barely done with my secondary school education when I found out I was pregnant. I clearly had no business having sex. Yet there I was, at the start of my long holiday, finding out I was pregnant.

My first stop on finding out, was the house of the responsible other party. I got the shock of my life when he frankly told me that he wanted no part in the drama of unexpected parenting. So, here I was, fresh out of secondary school with no idea what was next for me. Watching people parent was one thing but being a single, young parent was a whole other thing.

I could either decide to be a child and cry about how unfair the world had been or tough it up and take it like a woman. I cannot dispute the fact that I was very scared but one of us had to be the grown up and seeing as this miracle was growing in my womb, that person had to be me.

I found a job and started to plan for both of my baby and I. Fast forward to a few months after, my dear little princess was born.

Working with Family Life Network

After that, I decided that I wanted to work with NGOs that focused on family planning and sexual awareness. That was how I got started with the Family Life Network.

Five years and so many workshops later, I cannot even begin to say how remarkable a journey it has been to impact the lives and choices of youth. We encourage kids to know and understand their individual worth at such a crucial stage that is often subject to peer pressure.

It is very rewarding for young girls to look up to me for mentorship, guidance and counsel. It is such a big deal to have the kind of power to influence their choices for good, to cry with them in their hard times and assure them that despite the storm and the pressure, in a little while, they will be just fine.

Moving on to Lamera

Over time I realized that my circle of influence was growing and a lot of the would-be young girls had grown into fine young women in the work force. Now, my focus has also grown to helping them maximize their financial ability and as much as possible, learn to be independent.

A year ago, I started Lamera, a project that seeks to empower young women with as many necessary skills as they need to survive in this era. Some of the practical skills include jewellery making, knitting, cooking skills particularly making and packaging peanut butter better known as odi in Northern Uganda.

The essence of Lamera is to empower women to know that their worth is determined by them and the world will only value them based on how they value themselves. I strongly believe when a woman realizes this fact, the world then becomes her stage. She becomes a force to reckon with and can do pretty much anything that she sets her mind to!

Balancing my initiatives with being a single mum

Starting Lamera is a dream come true for me. My biggest challenge was and still is breaking through to the woman at the grassroots. A lot of the women that have zero access to these skills are hidden in rural Africa. To work my way around this, I am building relationships with churches and individuals who have access to these women so I can assess their needs in order to be relevant to each set of women.

None of my passions were negatively affected when I chose to have Stephanie. If anything, being a mother awakened my creative juices causing them to flow much better and faster. I kid you not!

Amazingly, Stephanie is the split image of me. She loves singing, dancing, reading and always actively participates in her school productions. She is such a brilliant child! She recently reached the finals in her class spelling bee competition and I cannot begin to tell you how proud of her I am.

Never give up

I reckon my work is cut out for me and I’m enjoying the thrill of the challenge. I have been told that I cannot be relevant to all women but I believe in starting one woman at a time and that ultimately is my strategy.

To work with one woman at a time and knowing how much women like to share, the knowledge will spread one way or the other.

My biggest belief is that to start a thing is more important than to say you want to start it. Sometimes you’ll be the only person who believes in what you’re doing but keep right at it. If one way doesn’t work, don’t quit! Try it another way and if that doesn’t work, try another way!

Keep at it until you find your way to what works for you. Believe in yourself even on the bad days, especially on the bad days and keep your head up knowing that it only gets worse before it gets better and surround yourself with positive people.