What does it take to be a great Mom? We speak to four local mothers

Nothing can compare with the unwavering, fierce love a mother has for her children. Too often a mother denies herself her own needs and desires, simply to ensure her child’s happiness.

To honour the sacrifices mothers’ make, we celebrate Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is more than a day of celebrating our mothers, It is about honouring them for the influence they have in our society. It is a day where we look at the most special woman in our lives. A woman whose love for us will never dwindle.

In honour of Mother’s Day, we chat with four local mothers and their journey through motherhood.

Natasha Pretorius

Natasha Pretorius is a mother of two. Her children, Corban who is four-years-old and Shiloh who is two-years-old, are the centre of her world.

As a mother of two small children, Natasha’s journey in motherhood is one of strength and pure love. However, Natasha faces a series of challenges many mothers do not have to face.

Corban is autistic; a disorder which many do not fully understand.

“When my husband, Louis, and I found out Corban was autistic, he was already 18 months old”, explains Natasha. “The first thing that went through our mind, was: will he have a normal life? As a baby, an autistic child acts much the same as other babies do. But the older they get, the harder it becomes.”

Not knowing what autism was before Corban’s diagnosis, Natasha and Louis immediately began researching the subject to understand their son’s condition.

“It was a shock at first”, explains Natasha. “You go through anger and question yourself. You start asking if you did something wrong? Should you have done something differently? I really thought I had done something wrong.” She explaings

Yet, as Corbin grew older, Natasha found herself more and more amazed at his vibrant and loving personality.

“If you tell him to clean up his room or do something, he will do it immediately and will do it perfectly. Whereas, Shiloh will say no and walk away,” Natasha laughs.

With two very different children in the household, Natasha says there is no definition for normal in their family dictionary.

As someone with autism, Corban is an orderly child, and this can be seen in how he cleans up his room. Natasha explains that everything needs to be in order, according to size and colour.

“But if you take him to another room and tell him to clean it up, he will have a meltdown as he does not know where anything is supposed to be. At home, everything has its set place and because he doesn’t know where everything’s goes in a strange environment, he can’t deal with it,” says Natasha.

As a mother of an autistic child, what are the challenges Natasha faces?

“Every time I go to the mall or shops, I am in Mama Bear mode and ready to fight”, says Natasha with determination in her eyes. “I have been told I am a bad mother; that I must learn to discipline my child and so forth. Sometimes, Corban has a meltdown in public and people do not understand.”

Despite facing a lack of understanding, Natasha says there are several joys to having an autistic child.

“They have a good sense of humour. Corban loves to play rough and he will play with Louis, then he will suddenly come and try to pin me down so he can tickle me”, says Natasha with a gleam in her eye. “It is the little things he does, like giving me a sudden hug and greeting me in the mornings that really matter”.

Then there are his habits. Natasha says he amazes her daily at how he insists on putting everything in an orderly fashion. “I am constantly amazed and I wonder if a four-year-old is really capable of this”, says Natasha.

Then there is his confidence. “If you show him how to do something and if he does it right the first time around, he will not bother doing it again. It is as if he thinks he managed to do it, so why must he do it again?”, she laughs.

With her two very different children, Natasha says she has learned a lot as a mother and as a teacher. “I have learned to have more patience. Also, as a teacher, if I notice a child is having difficulties, I will take my time to assist them”, says Natasha.

Her growth as a person and as a Mama Bear, who is ready to fight for her children, Natasha Pretorius is a mother of note.

Sanet Bezuidenhoudt

Sanet Bezuidenhoudt, the PA of the Hospital Manager and Nursing Manager of Mediclinic Newcastle is a mother of a 19-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter.

 What does it mean to be a mother for Sanet?

“A mom is like a child’s first best friend and friend forever”, says Sanet. “In my situation as a mom, I love it when my children ask me for advice. Although they might not use it, they trusted me in the first place to ask. I enjoy supporting them in everything they do and to eventually achieve success.”

As a mother, Sanet says that one of her greatest joys is seeing her children smile and laugh. “I love seeing my children happy. It kills me to see them upset or hurt. I struggle when I see them sad.”

“We are a very close family. My son is working in America and is returning in Novembers. So, a video call from him on Mother’s Day will be more special than any present. My daughter is at boarding school and having her with me is all I need to have a wonderful Mother’s Day. The best Mother’s Day gift from my son and daughter is three simple words: “ I love you,” says Sanet with affection.

What does it take to be a mother?

“A mom makes a lot of sacrifices, which no one realises and therefore, I would like to quote Tenneva Jordan: ‘A mom is a person who on seeing four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.’ This explains a mom’s sacrifice perfectly,” explains Sanet.

As a working mom, Sanet says she is fortunate in that Mediclinic Newcastle is an understanding company. “I am lucky to have a good boss and a good job. I feel sorry for those who are not as fortunate as me”, says Sanet with satisfaction.

What advice can she give to young mothers?

“Always be there for your children and never let them see you sad, even if you have to pretend everything is fine”, says Sanet.

As a proud mother, Sanet extends a heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day to the community. “I want to wish my mum and every other mom a happy Mother’s Day, filled with pleasure and a future that is as happy as the memories you treasure,” Sanet concludes.

 Gwen Williams

Motherhood is a journey filled with love, compassion and sacrifice. It is a journey that is often faced alone, with single moms juggling their careers and families.

One such woman is Sister Gwen Williams, the Unit Manager at the Maternity Ward at Mediclinic Newcastle.

As a single mother of a 16-year-old son and working in the maternity ward, Sr Williams is a woman whose life revolves around motherhood in more ways than one.

“It is like being a mother 24/7; here at work and at home. At work, I check up on the mothers, their babies, work out budgets and at home, I care for my son and work out budgets as well,” she says with a smile.

But how does Sr Williams juggle being a single mother and work full time?

“I have a lot of help from my mother and sister because being a single mother does need assistance”, says Sr William. “I am lucky that my son is now a teenager and can look after himself to a certain degree.”

While being a single mother seems a daunting task, Sr Williams says it is not without its joys.

“I get to make the decisions and there is no chance a single mother’s child can play up with parents,” she laughs.

However, there are challenges. One of these is being the authority figure, yet needing to be the loving mother and the disciplinarian.

“One of the toughest parts of being a single mom is that you tend to feel guilty that the other partner is not as involved in your child’s life. Which is why you need to be a strong person”, says Sr Williams.

Does being a mom assist her in her career?

“Being a mom does help with my work, as I work with newborn babies”, says Sr Williams. “You can empathise with the mothers and are more patient. The patients become extended family and I get to help the moms and cuddle the babies.”

What advice can Sr Williams give other single moms?

“Time management is important because you need to make time for your children. It is also important to get a hobby so you can have some ‘me’ time, meet others and get out a bit”, she says.

As a strong, independent woman, Sr Gwen Williams is a true mother, working and raising a son single-handed.

 Colleen Schoeman

Colleen Schoeman is a mother of two and Mediclinic Newcastle’s Head of Human Resources Department.

“I have two daughters, one 28, an architect, and one of 17 doing matric at Ferrum High School,” says Coleen with a smile.

Working at Mediclinic Newcastle for the past 17 years, Colleen says that when she looked for a job, she searched for one which would cater to her needs as a mother. “It was the first thing I looked for, something with flexibility”, says Coleen. “I have wonderful bosses and Mediclinic Newcastle is a super company, as it allows me to be a mother and a career woman.”

But what does it mean to be both a career woman and a mother?

“I think if both parents work, children become independent quicker. However, it is important to have a balance between your family life and your career. I am fortunate in having a husband who has always supported me, pushing me to become a better person. If it was not for him, I would not have been able to do it. I would not have been able to be a single mother; because I am no superhero,” says Colleen with satisfaction.

She admits that in her early days at Mediclinic, she needed to travel occasionally to Bloemfontein. While the evolution of technology minimised the trips, there were times she missed school plays and concerts. “But”, says Coleen, “Children do understand, and I always do my best to be there for them.”

 What is one of her fondest memories of her daughters growing up?

“There are so many fond memories, that I can’t really give one specific one. But, if I had to say, it would be their giggling. While there is a 10-year age gap between them, they are always so happy together and find everything funny”, says Coleen with a gleam in her eye.

What is one of the hardest aspects of being a mother?

“I would say the hardest part is watching your children get hurt and you can’t fix it,” Colleen says.

Now as her youngest daughter prepares to finish high school this year, Colleen has found another avenue of motherhood that has warmed her heart. She has recently become a grandmother, with her oldest daughter giving birth in December 2018.

“It is a privilege to have children and an amazing feeling to have a grandchild”, says Coleen with pride. “While I am a social person, I am totally content to be at home with my family”.

With her eyes and heart on her family, Colleen urges young mothers to relax. “You will think you have it figured out, but it will change the whole time”, advises Coleen. “You just need to relax and take it as it comes. You can also never love your children too much”.

As a mother and a grandmother, Colleen is a woman whose love for her family knows no bounds, continually making sacrifices for the benefit of her children, always seeking to find the right balance.

The Newcastillian would like to wish all of Newcastle’s and South Africa’s mothers a very Happy Mothers Day. Thank you for being so awesome!

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