We never stop marveling at the infinite endurance of our mother.

Our father however did not do the same. He looked down on her because she was never “good enough.”  He insisted he loved her, yet his desire for another woman was far stronger.

He remained indifferent, knowing this tortured her, shattering her happiness, confidence and independence. Mom felt robbed of her position in her own family and often wondered if she ever mattered.

Our father died 17 years ago and his death revealed many unpleasant surprises bringing our mother’s emotional torture to a peak. As children, we were too young to see and understand the ongoing torture she endured throughout our childhood.

In fact, we tended to see her as unreasonable and we were unable to understand why she had a problem with our father’s polygamous marriage. We could not comprehend why she was so bitter about the loving relationship we developed with our step-mom and siblings.

She resented our step-mom’s financial independence and the comfortable lifestyle we got used to. We received a good education, and never slept without food. 

As we grew up, we slowly began to understand. For our sake, she endured the pain and suffering of being married to a man who led a double life and even had another family. However, the worst of it all was that she was mostly unaware, only figuring out these torturous facts and suspicions as she went along.

There was no honesty or consultation. My father prevented her from seeing his other life and other wife.
She did not know that we were growing up with our half-siblings, or that she had been forced to be a housewife under pretext that she did not need to work, only required to look after her children.

While our mother was pregnant with twins, our father’s other wife was pregnant with a daughter.

Later they had another child, but my mother did not know.

Then one day she was forced to accept the permanency of another woman and another family in the form of a ‘marriage’.

To her dismay, his family and friends had for a long time, accepted this other family.  What is worse is he had built her a house next door, and every day she saw another woman caring for him. Mom was helpless.  We were too young and too busy being educated to see this unfold, or even stand up for her.

She had to look on and watch as her own family was cast aside, because he had cast her away. Usually in our culture, where polygamy is accepted, the first wife is always respected, she is consulted and family decisions require her opinion and blessing. 

But this was not the case for our mother. He denied her respect, belittled her, and made her endure a life and marriage of deceit. And she bled on, until he passed on.

Even beyond his deathbed, we as her children forced her to accept a family he imposed on her. She remains tormented and this torments us, because she does not have answers and she sees no recourse or closure. Without a doubt, this emotional violence still hurts her, but she remains undefeated, looking ahead.

Despite all this, she put all her trust in God and remains fixed on a dream for a brighter future. She instilled love in all of us, and never expected us to hate or disown our father and other family. She never once pitied herself, but instead rose above it all, remaining headstrong and positive. To this day, we still wonder how she did it.

Thanks to mom, we are all wise, strong and kindhearted. We are independent women with careers, life partners and families of our own. We continue to love her, our parents and siblings. Mom remains victorious and lives on with purpose as she has always done. We hope that she sees all her life’s blessings.

Polygamy has become a norm for many women.

Some choose to acknowledge it whether forced to or not, while some battle with it secretly in the eyes of a ‘laughing’ society.  It robs a woman of her security, independence and comfort in a union meant for two people. Men worldwide should realise that this is abuse in one of the worst forms.

Ts’epang Mosena (nee Ts’ita), Nts’epeng Ts’ita and ‘Malisema Mahloane (nee Relebohile Ts’ita) are sisters and co-founders of the BAM Group, business conglomerate specialising in media, training and IT. They were born and raised in Lesotho where they run their businesses. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, special series on celebrating Phenomenal Women, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.