Neziswa Kanju spoke to author Nondumiso Myataza who has published a book in which she shares a perspective, from her own life experience, which she says is missing from most books on the subject — the perspective of children impacted by their parents’ decision to end their marriage
Nobody gets married with the intention to divorce but circumstances along the journey of marriage lead couples to make this decision.
Often when a couple announces a divorce those closest to them try their best to minister to the two people. Their parents and those who are told of the decision speak to the married couple and try to minister to them hoping that they will reconcile.
The extended family, especially in Black culture, is called to intervene and speak to the two, reminding them of their commitment to each other; reminding them of their love and asking them to forgive each other and try to rebuild their marriage. This is often the time when the wife is reminded that, “Kuyanyamezwela emtshatweni” (You endure marriage).
This expectation of the wives to endure whatever hardships they encounter in marriage has been a sore point with many wives who, as the latest divorce statistics show, are the ones who file for divorce. By the time a decision is taken to separate, a couple would have been through countless arguments and fighting.
Because emotions are high and their attitude is justified for that moment, nobody thinks how their continued loud fighting is affecting their children. The two will eventually take the decision to divorce because they feel that they cannot “continue to live like this!”
Nondumiso Ndumie Mataya, the author of Oh! But Divorce — Looking at Divorce through the Eyes of the Affected Child, says that children’s feelings are not taken into consideration when parents decide to separate. She has written a book from the perspective of a child to educate society about the impact of divorce on children.
Nondumiso was born and raised in the township of Motherwell in Port Elizabeth. She comes from a family of three children — two girls and one boy. She is the oldest. She has documented her own journey as a child of divorce (“COD”) relating her own experiences when her parents divorced when she was a teenager.
“Most books, although written for children of divorce, you can tell that they did not ask the child about the divorce and their feelings were not taken into consideration.
“Most of the books that are out there are from the side of the parents and not of the children,” she says.
She feels that other children affected by divorce could benefit from reading the book. She wants to give them a voice because, like her, children of divorce are misunderstood.
“One of the reasons I have always enjoyed writing was the fact that I could dig deeper, in the attempt to understand myself, and the underlying feelings, I might have. My lightbulb moment to write a book on divorce came after such an instance.
“I felt misunderstood at times. I then wanted to write something that would give people my perspective and hopefully help them to be more understanding of my actions.”
She was 15-years-old, going through the normal changes of adolescents, when her parents told her they were going to divorce.
“I grew up in a warm home. A home is where you take shelter. No matter what happens out there, home is where you run to get love and protection,” she shares.
She needed a sense of security at home, something that she said was taken away when her parents announced their divorce. She relates how they went from being in a warm loving home to a home that was broken. She felt uncertain and her self esteem was shattered. She chose to pour out her feelings in her diary rather than speaking to someone because she knew her diary would not ask her many questions. As an introvert, a diary provided the best outlet for her to “vent.” After she diarised her experiences she felt that other people could benefit from her insights.
No one wants to see their parents divorce and Nondumiso was no different. Her parents told her the news first because she was their oldest child. She had thought that they were going through a phase and would later reconcile. The announcement that they were divorcing came as a complete shock and surprise to her. She had sensed some tension between her parents but she never thought it would lead to them ending their marriage. It was a lot to digest and she found solace in her trusted diary.
She is thankful that she had her faith during one of the most trying times of her life.
“Through my darkest hour, my faith kept me alive. My reasons for having a relationship with God were redefined. God shifted from being a Being who only punishes and rewards, but to being a Friend and a Provider who carries us and who sustains us.
“He became a Father whose love will always cover us no matter where we are.”
Church became a refuge where she could escape from all that was troubling her.
“It was the best escape for me, especially as the teenage girl I was.”
Oh! But Divorce is a timely book. With the national lockdown, due to Covid-19, many marriages are facing difficulties, including financial and relational conflict. The South African divorce rate is on the rise. South Africa is ranked 83rd out of 154 countries for divorce. According to the stats, most people in South Africa have multiple reasons for divorce, but the most popular single reason, “There is no love, respect or affection between the parties.
“South African has seen a 20% percent increase in divorce applications since level 4. During lockdown level 5 there was an increase in divorce applications but they could not be speedily processed because of the lockdown limitations and delay in services.
Nondumiso has a blog where she hopes to bring hope in these hopeless times. She hopes that her book Oh. But Divorce: Looking at Divorce through the Eyes of the Affected Child, will make readers aware of the seriousness of divorce, especially to children. Divorce can be cruel if it is done carelessly without comprehensive knowledge, consideration and preparation.
She says she faced many challenges as a child of divorce. Financial challenges, especially, caused dire ripple effects in her life.
“This aspect affected my education, self-esteem, just to name a few.”
She could not study further after matric because of financial issues but God made a way and she was able to graduate.
She said the book has made an impact on many who have read it. One reader, Lindithemba, wrote: “After reading your book I’m never looking at my wife and kids the same again.” Another reader said the book was an eye opener, packed with knowledge and experience that one can never find in any textbook.
The book was written for children of divorce but one reader observed that, “a child born out of wedlock can relate, a single parent who never got married can relate.”
Nondumiso’s future plans include starting a ministry to CODs.
“I do want a safe space where fellow CODs can come together and get the support that they need.”
Her parting words to her readers are: “The Bible says in Psalm 34:19, many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all. With God on our side, we able to withstand all challenges that come our way. Our God is faithful, He can use the very same challenges that were meant to break us, to make us. Trust Him.”
Oh. But Divorce was self-published — “A route that is very challenging, but equally rewarding,” says Nondumiso.
If you want to know more about her work and how you can order a copy of her book, you can visit her website at www.ndumiemyataza.co.za.