The 'American Idol' runner-up reflects on the joys and lessons of being a mother
They tell you that your life will change after you have a baby, but they don't tell you just how much this child will consume your every waking moment. This has been one of the biggest surprises and greatest joys in my two-year motherhood journey with my daughter Nayalee Kaya.
When I was younger, doctors told me I would never be able to conceive because of trauma I had suffered. When I got pregnant, I was shocked because I had spent my life thinking I would never bear a child and yet here I was, pregnant and in an abusive marriage. I started thinking about how I was going to take care of this little human being growing inside me and what my next step would be.
When Nayalee was just a month old, I found the strength to walk out of that bad situation for good. As difficult as it was to leave and face the world on my own as a single mom, I knew that staying would do more damage than good to my daughter. I did not want her having bad memories of her childhood when she got older.
I knew that she would be missing a part of her family in her father, but as her mother, I could still make sure that she had positive father figures around her. I could teach her how a real man is supposed to treat her and what a healthy family unit is all about.
I was truly blessed to have the support of my entire family when I chose to leave. My mom, dad, and my sister have all been very supportive of me. They keep me strong and give my daughter so much love. I’m aware that a lot of women in abusive relationships don’t have any support when they’re thinking of making a change, but there are other resources available out there to help us.
In 2015, two months before I auditioned for the final season of American Idol, Nayalee and I lived in a women's shelter. The shelter helped me transition and get to a good place in my life. I also had God, faith, and prayer to help me. My entire system of faith and family worked for the greater good.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, it has all been about Nayalee. Motherhood has completely changed my priorities. I can’t do anything, say anything or feel anything without thinking about my daughter and how it’s going to affect her, whether or not it’s going to benefit her. I find joy in knowing that I can take a little person and nourish them and grow them into something beautiful.
I’ve become very careful about what I do, what I say. All of my choices revolve around her. Her being in the forefront of all these big decisions has not been a limitation on my career; it has kept me grounded and true to who I am. She has even inspired me in my music.
Nayalee has also inspired me to be the best version of myself by bringing out the softer side of me. Before her, I was not a very emotional person. Now I will sometimes sit up, look at her and get emotional for absolutely no reason. She brings out the kid in me. You can’t play baby dolls with your daughter and not be a big kid yourself.
When Nayalee came into this world, the first thing I thought about was that I wanted her to be better than I could ever be. I think that's a dream all parents have for their kids. So now I sometimes get so anxious for her to learn, evolve and grow into something.
I find myself putting books in front her, teaching her, reading to her because I want her to be educated. Then my mom has to remind me to slow down and let her be a kid. She tells me to make sure to treasure every stage that my daughter goes through. She says there will be plenty of time for her to learn, just enjoy these moments. So I have to live in the present instead of always thinking of the future.
I keep that advice close to my heart as I navigate my life with Nayalee.
I wish you all a blessed Mother’s Day.
As told to Lihle Z. Mtshali