etv Scandal! actor Brighton Ngoma (34) shares how growing up without his father encouraged him to embrace fatherhood.
By: Kwanele Mathebula Pictures: Hema Patel
The early stages of my upbringing were difficult. When I was five years old my father left our family and returned to Switzerland. We initially kept in touch, but eventually lost contact because my mother and I moved around a lot due to her job as a nurse. A few years later, my mother had another child and things got tough. I had taken up the responsibility of caring for my brother because my mother worked long hours. I resented our situation because I grew up much quicker than I would have liked.
I met the family that would eventually take me in when I was 8 years old. When they met my mom, brother and I, they found out about our situation and began to assist us financially to get through school. When I was in high school, things had gotten worse because my mother couldn’t afford to pay our fees, my would-be-foster-family stepped in to help even more. They were a family of five who were generous and kind to us. In 2002, when I was 17 years old, my mother died. They then took me in, and continued to raise me even though there was no formal conversation about them fostering me. My brother was fostered by another family.
When I found out that I was going to be a father I was nervous. In 2016, my wife Tshepi and mother-in-law told me that I was going to be a father. Although we had been together for eight years, news of the pregnancy was unexpected. I needed time to wrap my head around the idea of becoming a father. This is because I feared that because my father didn’t raise me, I couldn’t fulfil the role for someone else. I told my close friend, actor Clint Brink, and he talked me through it. Our conversation made me realise that this was the next step in my relationship, although I wasn’t ready for it. Clint also made it very clear to me that I had two options; I could walk away or stay and take care of my child. I knew that I couldn’t leave my child like I was and decided to stay.
Reality hit that I’m a father after the birth of my son, Leano (1). After giving birth in January 2017, Tshepi spent the first six months with her parents so they could guide her on her new role as a mother. It only hit me upon their return that he was here, and I was a father. I realised that I had a child who looked to me for everything as basic as mimicking what I do. It dawned on me that I would be imparting certain things to him whether I was aware of it or not. I started questioning the kind of father I wanted to be. Would I be the sort of father that he could talk to or would I be strict? Also, at times when he wants to play and be a child, it was difficult for me to fully get into playing because I felt awkward and weird. Fortunately, my wife is much more relaxed and playful than I am, and she’s taught me to loosen up as well.
Fatherhood has made me a lot more aware of my impact on other people’s lives. Before Leano was born, everything used to be about me; after a bad day, I’d be in a bad mood all day. But, having a child has opened my eyes to the responsibility that my behaviour has on the world. Since his birth, I have learnt not to take life seriously. After a bad day, when I get home and see his face, I forget about the world. He demands that I am present, which has made me a much more thoughtful person. Fatherhood has also forced me into a level of maturity that I wasn’t ready for. Because of my childhood, I hadn’t considered having a child or starting a family. There are times when I look at my son and wonder if we’re raising him to be able to stand on his own like I was raised. But in those moments I remember that by virtue of the environment he was born, he’s going to have a much better childhood than I did.