“Hope. We tend to be very low and down during times like this...
It’s pretty hard to stay positive when the majority of our country doesn’t know whether they will survive the next month. But I love how our president is a very hopeful person and inspires some hope in us,” says Olwethu Leshabane, the South African mother, digital entrepreneur, blogger, speaker and female sanitation advocate when we ask her what she wants to see more of in the news and on social media. Right now, she’s in lockdown with her three boys. We spoke to Olwethu about her childhood, her career, and her approach to parenting. “We have a high rate of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in our country and my biggest fear is raising boys who see women as tools to be objectified. In our home, there aren’t roles for boys and girls. Everybody gets things done. It’s hard to know what the future holds and what kind of boys I will send into the world but I pray that they will never let the patriarchy that lies dormant in them take over their view of women and girls when they get out there.”
Read on for more of her honest and inspiring insights.
Tell us how you’re adjusting to our new world/how your family is adjusting?
I think we are adjusting well considering how we all got thrown into this new way of life. The boys have taken well to online learning but miss their friends and cousins terribly.
Can you tell us a little bit about your own childhood growing up in SA?
I grew up in a middle-class family with my dad being the sole bread winner most of our lives. I have a younger brother and sister. My dad worked for a corporate and we were constantly traveling across SA due to his work. This resulted in us changing schools quite a number of times. We eventually settled in Pretoria but in high school, our parents decided to send us off to boarding school in Port Elizabeth.
Tell us about your work as a Maternal Health Advocate?
I am very passionate about women’s health, but it particularly pains me to see how women are the most affected when the economy is in a slump. I’d particularly like to see maternal health become priority in our national agenda especially indigent individuals and mothers who are under privileged.
Talk us through your career to date and some of your greatest highlights...
I started off in the property industry as a property manager for a small family run property business. I was headhunted from there to join a marketing company (I know, such different worlds), but I would soon learn that they aren’t so different after all – the two worlds are all about building value, maintaining and flipping. I worked at the marketing company until the birth of my second son. I then starting my own below-the-line consulting company and upskilled myself in the digital space as the needs for digital expertise were picking up around this time (2013). I founded CreativeSHOPPË, my digital strategy business, in 2013 and have never looked back since.
Would you describe yourself as ambitious? And have you approached your career strategically, or do you go with the flow?
Absolutely! I’m super ambitious! I 80% go with the flow and 20% strategy… this has particularly served me well during this lockdown. A lot of pivoting had to happen.
As a working mother, do you put pressure on yourself? What stresses you out?
I do! I put a lot of pressure on myself. I work very hard because I hate depending on anyone but myself. I’ve also had to teach myself and have to keep reminding myself to ask for help. I’ve gotten quite good at delegating workload now.
Becoming a mother for the first time can be isolating – did you ever feel lonely? And where did your support come from?
I did struggle. I was a young mom. I had my first son at 21 and then the next at 23. And now have three before 30. It can feel lonely especially with two under 2. The loneliest I felt was trying to navigate two under 2 and still having a career. I had to accept that I needed help and that I can do it, just not all at once.
Do you feel mother’s guilt?
I have a lot of mom guilt. All the time. Especially with this lockdown. I’m still working my usual hours and having to do home schooling for three boys.
What are your top time management tips?
During lockdown, it’s so hard to apply some of the tips I have always practised. So I won’t even try sharing those. But what I can share is, try tag team time with your partner if you are quarantined/on lockdown with one. Hubby and I tag team based on strengths. He has the patience for the teaching and I have the patience for the crafts and extra murals.
Podcasts you love right now?
Last book you read?
What’s on your list of loves at the moment? Could be anything from a fashion brand to a NETFLIX series to food.
Favourite brand – Tory Burch, Vanessa Gounden & Goyard
Favourite Perfume: Chanel (I still wear it every day at home)
TV Show – Hollywood, Little Fires Everywhere & Billions
Food: Anything with tons of carbs (the outside will have to accept the body I give it)
All-time favourite movie: The Things We Lost in The Fire