Today, I introduce to you the South Africa Chapter of Mindful Return.
If you had asked me 10 years ago, if I’d be a working mom of two boys and the CEO of a company with a global reach, I probably would have laughed at you. “Risk averse law firm partner laboring away on Medicare regulations, more like it,” I’d have said. And yet, here I am. And here Mindful Return is.
Growing up, I always had a penchant for learning about other cultures, traveling, and connecting with people who looked and sounded different than I was. Somehow, I found myself jumping off a moving train in Siberia at age 16. (Yes, I use that story every time I play “2 truths and lie”.) Minoring in French, and working in Alsace at a French Prefecture during college. Meeting my now husband in the Loire Valley. Riding a boat up the Mekong after taking the NY Bar exam. And, as my last big trip pre-kids, kayaking with penguins in Patagonia.
Yet despite my international passions, I deliberately chose a professional track that focused on domestic issues. Why? My honest answer is that I was afraid of what so-called “work-life balance” would look like if I chose an internationally-focused legal practice. It turns out, though, that we can’t run away from ourselves. Or we can for a while. But if we’re lucky, our real selves will come running after us. And hopefully catch us before it’s too late.
As Mindful Return turns 8 years old this year, I am so incredibly thrilled to announce the launch of yet another international Chapter of our programs. This time: South Africa!! If you’ve been following along, you know that we already launched our programs for new parents in the UK, India, and in Spanish Language mom and dad versions.
Today, however, in heading to South Africa, we venture to yet a new continent. I’ve learned, through this journey, that although we, as working parents, may live all over the globe and be subject to different policies and resources, we are more alike than different. We all care deeply and passionately about our babies and our careers. We all feel a jumble of conflicting emotions when we return to work. And we all benefit from supportive communities that can shepherd us through crazy times.
Now, please meet the two fearless mamas leading the *brand new* South Africa Chapter of Mindful Return: Stormme Hobson and Noloyiso Tlali! At Mindful Return, we are so thrilled to welcome them into our global working parent family.
Stormme Hobson and Noloyiso (Nolo) Tlali are two Mzantsi (South Africa to the rest of us) mamas who have joined the Mindful Return community as the leaders of the South Africa Chapter of Mindful Return.
Stormme is fortunate enough to call Zimbabwe (the country of the majestic Victoria Falls) and South Africa (the Rainbow Nation) her homes. She became a mother in 2016 and 2019 and has two beautiful, energetic boys. Nolo describes herself as born, bred (bread) and buttered in the city of Johannesburg (the financial Capital City of South Africa). She is a mother to a feisty and independent little girl born in 2019.
They both marvel at how different their lives are. Yet, they are bonded by motherhood and all the wonders and stressors that come with the amazing blessings of being a mom.
What Brought These Two Mamas Together
These two fierce mamas met close to 14 years ago as naïve young professionals serving their legal articles in Johannesburg, South Africa. They went on to pursue different careers. But in 2020, they reunited over a common goal of creating spaces where mothers can learn more about the transition to motherhood, while juggling work and all that comes with being a functioning adult.
Additionally, they wanted a community that would be open to discussing the great and messy parts of parenting in equal measure. A community that recognises that there is no one-size-fits-all transitional journey for mothers. Some of us are still keen to chase our professional careers. Others may open their own business (à la Stormme and Nolo). Some work from home. Some choose to be stay at home moms (a very hard job). Yet we can all use strategies that see us as the working moms we are, regardless of role or title.
A Need for Working Mom Support in South Africa
Both Nolo and Stormme approached motherhood using skills they learned as legal professionals. What are these, skills, you may be wondering? The biggest one was RESEARCH! They are both big readers. So they went in search of any material (books, resources, Facebook, and Instagram accounts) they could find on motherhood, balancing work, and motherhood, being a working mother, etc.
Soon they both felt frustrated, as they found very little on the challenges faced by – and more importantly strategies to help – professional working moms re-enter the corporate world and/or run a business. Stormme was fortunate to come across the Mindful Return course, which she later introduced to Nolo. The course has offered them a community of like-minded mamas, regardless of where they are in the world. This community was especially important to them during the pandemic, when all the pressures faced by parents – especially mothers – were magnified for the whole world to see.
Parenting is not easy. But it’s particularly difficult at the moment, as the global pandemic continues to wreak havoc with our daily lives. There are floods in parts of South Africa. And conflicts around the world cause heightened stress for children and adults alike.
Daily Life Chaos…No Matter Where We Are in the Globe!
As we write this post, Stormme and her family are stuck in Dubai, due to unscheduled delays. Sounds like a great place to be stuck, right? In theory, sure. But Stormme and her husband should be back at work. Plus their laptops are sitting in South Africa. Now add two little boys to this situation, and you can imagine the chaos.
Nolo, on the other hand, is dealing with a sick toddler. While juggling running her own business and a number of extended family needs as the eldest child of her family. In many families in South Africa, the extended family remains a core part of a person’s family. However, with the pandemic, the benefits of extended childcare that normally come with a large family have changed drastically over time, living many mothers without their village of supporters.
Stormme and Nolo have partnered on bringing Mindful Return to South Africa, with dreams of expanding the course to more parts of Africa in the future. They both agree that they are on an exciting journey that will offer a chance to grow a community and network of mothers, while offering practical strategies for all working parents.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave