Over the weekend, it was confirmed that Ashanti and Nelly are expecting their first child together. The couple has had the overwhelming support of social media users and longtime fans since they rekindled their relationship.
It seems like a whirlwind romance, but when you consider the fact that they dated for about eleven years the first time around before splitting in 2013, they really did lay a solid foundation for their second go. And perhaps that’s why it seems like things are taking off so quickly.
There are a few things I love about this story. First, it’s what it says about the role of patience - in life, but especially in any given relationship. Second, it’s a pleasant reminder to women who may struggle with imagining motherhood past 40. And lastly, it’s the hope it offers to the second chance romance, a reminder that is especially timely around the holidays.
For the most part, fans have been thrilled to see this couple back together and have actively been encouraging the two to start a family and perhaps tie the knot on social media. And though Nelly has two kids from a previous relationship, this is Ashanti’s first baby. So her waiting until this point, and choosing to get pregnant with one of her first loves is poetic – and a true symbol of patience.
Though I had my daughter young (I was 25), and I’m thrilled that despite a few aches and pains, I am able to keep up with her, I do often wonder how much further I would’ve made it in my career without the “interruption” to what was a fairly quick ascension of the career ladder. I imagine a lot of women have this thought, or thoughts like it, at the risk of feeling a bit guilty any time thoughts other than sunshine, lollipops and rainbows exist when it pertains to your children.
Even beyond the professional scope, I wonder how much more I would’ve been able to travel, whether I would’ve gone off the grid for a year or done a backpacking trip in Europe before real responsibility came knocking at my door. It’s not to say I’m not okay with how my life turned out, but there is and will likely always be that wonder.
These are wonders Ashanti may not have, considering that the last few years, she has been living her best life, sharing photos of her looking amazing on Instagram and sharing snapshots of her travels. In the 21 years since her debut album, she’s earned multiple number one hits and has appeared in a few movies, including Coach Carter, John Tucker Must Die and even some recent Lifetime holiday movies. She’s had the chance to explore, literally and figuratively, because she wasn’t tied down by a man or a baby.
It's very important that women see other women enjoying life outside of marriage and motherhood. Because as I’ve written before, sometimes we don’t realize that we’re only after certain things because that’s been the prescribed lifestyle by society. So seeing women that opt to go their own way can serve as the reminder and the vision that there is life outside of what’s common, what’s normal.
Lastly, this story is about the good old second chance romance, a perfect message, just in time for the holidays. There’s so much I love about second chance romances. It reminds us that we’re not always right and we’re not always ready. It reminds us that timing, though, not everything, really counts for a lot. But more than anything, it reminds us that we can course correct.
This is something we’ve seen with other couples that reunited after spending years apart. Consider Bennifer, another romance that was 20 or so years in the making. Those two got engaged less than a year after her engagement to A-Rod was called off. And they bought property together within the first year of reconnecting, too. They may not have gotten it right the first time, but they went on and had experiences that ultimately led them back to each other as more enriched and fulfilling partners.
For Ashanti, those experiences appear to be her travels. Exploring the world may have been the key to her experiencing happiness outside of romance. Whereas for Nelly, it was his kids, which, to be clear, he had before he and Ashanti’s first stint. When Ashanti gifted him a custom convertible recently for his birthday, in his caption, he wrote:
Sometimes all you can say is “Thank You” Best gift I ever received besides my kids!!!!
He acknowledges that fatherhood is a fundamental part of his life, and though things may not have worked out with their mother, or his second long-term relationship with Shantel Jackson, the fact that he is willing to go down that road again, at this point in his life, and with Ashanti in particular, shows that despite me expressing concern over his apparent non-commitment in the last piece I wrote about the couple, that he is committed, in some way. In his own way.
Patience and self-agency truly was the key to getting them both to this point. For whatever reason they split back in 2013, they both spent their time apart doing and learning things that would allow them to come back to this relationship as better people and better partners – even if, as Nelly said in the past, it wasn’t planned.
Nelly never gave in to the pressure of getting married, and I have to commend him for that, even if other people feel it’s wrong that he “led” women like Shantel and Ashanti on despite not having intentions to marry. It’s a sign that he knows himself and as long as he is transparent about that, no harm no foul.
And I suppose the last thing I love about this story was perfectly encapsulated by a social media user. Under a photo of the car she gifted him for his birthday, someone wrote:
“Nelly and Ashanti gone have my generation seeking and believing in love again 😂🔥❤️.”
It’s no secret that I’ve been a skeptic about love, marriage, and despite being a mom myself, motherhood. I have always doubted, and likely always will, whether these institutions serve women in the same way they do men. But sometimes, stories like this come around and for a wrinkle in time, I find myself asking, who cares about all that? And getting lost in the idea that two people who experienced a deep love in the past have rediscovered it and are happy and celebrating what’s bound to be one of the greatest loves they’ve ever known.