Occasionally, we come across adversities as we navigate through life. Sometimes these obstacles that life throws at us seem insurmountable. For many of us, the easiest thing to do when faced with hardship is to retreat. Then there are those who are brave in enough to soldier on kicking down all the barriers. One such phenomenal woman is grade 1 special needs teacher at the Sparrow Foundation School, Michelle Pellaton.
We live in a society where a lot of women are raised to aspire to marriage and be mothers. For a lot of women, being a mother forms a large part of their self-image. When life happens however, and it does not turn out as we wanted it to, the consequences can be crippling. “When a woman cannot bear children, it tremendously affects her identity, but the pain can extend far beyond her to impact personal relationships,” says Lindsay Getz, a Freelance writer based in the United States of America.
A New York based Psychotherapist, Marni Rosner, explains, “Women often begin to imagine themselves as mothers long before actually trying to have children, and this is certainly influenced by implicit cultural and societal messages that idealize motherhood. When this imagined self of a mother, however tentative, is withdrawn, it may result in feeling a loss of control, threaten her imagined future, cause her to doubt her womanhood, and feel like an assault on her ability to self-actualize.”
When Pellaton found out she could not have children, Instead of succumbing to depression and anger, her passion for children is what got her through. “I asked myself, ‘who are we to complain about our lives when there’s so much we can do for these children?’. There’s no reason why we should be allowing them to grow up thinking that that the world is cruel,” says Pellaton. She further adds, “Honestly, when I was going through Chemotherapy, these are the people that really got me through (Her learners),” Pellaton says.
Her passion for dealing with children with special needs was partly inspired by her brother who is dyslexic. “I love autistics, I have so much love in me and I choose to give it to my children,” she says as her face lights up. From as early as 19 years old, she helped run a nursery school for five years in Sandton, Johannesburg. She has been and is still involved with various charity organisations including Nkosi’s Haven. Her classroom consists of children facing various learning barriers including autism, abuse and some are from places of safety.
As we all celebrate womanhood and pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of women across the country, Pellaton has some grievances. “For me women’s month means nothing because women still don’t get enough respect. I feel that it should be an ongoing thing, not just in August. There should be more respect and more understanding,” Pellaton explains.