Motherhood

11 Surprising Things About Parenting in South Africa

Parenting in South Africa

Today, our Motherhood Around the World series takes us to South Africa where we meet Bongi Hill, a 33-year-old Xhosa physician who lives in the Western Cape with her husband, Deane, and son, Lukhanyo, who’s nearly three. We talked to her about the challenges of raising a mixed child in South Africa, local traditions of babywearing, popular snack foods (ever hear of biltong?) and the one wild animal her son knows not to mess with…

Parenting in South Africa

Bongi’s background: Bongi grew up in a traditional Xhosa community on South Africa’s Eastern Cape. She’s a physician specializing in pediatrics who works part-time at a hospital in the city of Paarl. She and her husband, Deane, a South African of English descent, have been married for five years and are raising Lukhanyo in the rural town of Tulbagh, about ninety minutes from Cape Town.

She was happy to share her experiences of motherhood in South Africa, but stresses that hers is just one thread in the elaborate fabric of the country. “It’s impossible to talk about ‘typical’ South African traditions because the country is so diverse, with 11 different languages,” she says. “The wide socioeconomic gap also makes for very different lifestyles — we have first world and third world experiences in the same country.” Still, between her professional and personal lives Bongi has been able to cross more than a few boundaries, which has made her an excellent cultural guide.

Parenting in South Africa

On first foods: Mielie-meal pap (a corn porridge) and oat porridge have traditionally been used here for weaning babies. Pap is also a staple food for adults, often eaten with stews. But these days people are moving towards steamed, puréed vegetables as a first solid for babies. My son’s first solid was avocado; I only added porridge in the form of oats after vegetables and fruit. When babies and toddlers start teething, a lot of mothers will give them dried meats — biltong (dried, cured meat similar to beef jerky) or droëwors (a dried sausage) — to chew on. Both are popular snacks for kids and adults in South Africa, and we almost always have them at home.

Parenting in South Africa

On children’s diets: Unfortunately, the average South African child doesn’t have a very healthy diet. I know from my patients that its common to give a two-year-old a lunch consisting of a packet of crisps, a (sweetened) yogurt and a fruit — it’s simply what the parents can afford. And though you might think that the fruit is very healthy, it can be a problem. Where we live, in farm country, the fruit is so cheap that you might see a child eating five peaches in a day, which is way too much sugar and also leads to a cavity problem. Other convenience foods you often see children eating are Vienna sausages, fried fish fingers and instant noodles. There’s a popular brand of noodles here called Maggi — you boil the noodles for two minutes and add a powdered flavor sachet.

In our household it’s a bit different, because I’m a physician and my work is all about promoting health. So for breakfast Lukhanyo will have an oats porridge and strawberries, or scrambled egg and avocado with a rusk (a hard biscuit popular in South Africa) and milky rooibos (red bush) tea. For lunch, I might give him sardines and maybe avocado or peas. For dinner he eats some version of what we eat but like any other child, his favorite food is pizza!

On being part of an interracial couple: It’s a mixed bag, to be honest — some good, a lot bad and often awkward. My husband and I both come from very open and accepting families, so our immediate families were supportive. But sometimes I get this attitude from others, like, ‘You’re a black girl and you’re with a white husband? You’re a sell out!’ Which obviously feels terrible. And then on the opposite side of the spectrum there are people who will say, ‘Oh Bongi, you lucked out with your white husband, now you have it made!’ And obviously that’s not true either. Living in a small, rural community we are even more of an anomaly than if we lived in a city. Sometimes people look at us like, huh? For instance, we recently started going to a new church and I left my son at the childrens’ program. When my husband went to collect him afterwards the people running it sort of balked —it didn’t click for them that Lukhanyo could be this white man’s son.

Parenting in South Africa

On raising a biracial child: My husband and I don’t believe in teaching colorblindness. We feel quite strongly that Lukhanyo must know there is black and white because our society recognizes these divisions and it’s important for us to recognize the disparities in how people are treated and the way resources are allocated.

We gave our son the name Lukhanyo, a Xhosa name that means ‘to be a shining light.’ Lukhanyo’s second name is Ethan because it was important to us that his full name be reflective of both of our cultures, and we want him to have pride in those. We are also raising him to be trilingual. I mainly speak to him in Xhosa; he and his father speak in English; and thanks to his nanny, Lukhanyo also speaks Afrikaans, which is the main language in our area.

Parenting in South Africa

On babywearing: Where I grew up, all mothers carried their babies on their backs using towels or blankets in the traditional Xhosa style called ukubeleka that’s been the custom for centuries. Wearing your baby lets him feel safe and secure, while still giving you the freedom to do other things. I was carrying cousins and friends’ babies this way before I had my own child. My son is nearly three and still loves to be carried. For his size, I find that a woven wrap (a long piece of woven fabric which comes in different lengths) is the best for us. But there are so many different styles of carriers available these days that there is one for every parent. Wearing him makes my life so much easier — for instance when I go to shops, he’s not running around and I don’t have to stress about keeping him under control. We do own a stroller but we’ve only used it a handful of times, as we find it bulky and inconvenient.

Parenting in South Africa

On breastfeeding: I grew up on the Eastern Cape, where there was never a taboo about breastfeeding in public. It was considered a natural part of motherhood and traditionally encouraged and supported from mother to mother through generations. The first time I heard of the whole ‘normalize breastfeeding campaign’ I remember being very confused because I didn’t realize that it needed to be normalized. It was only once I started living in the wealthier communities of South Africa that I began to feel self-conscious about breastfeeding in public. There have been many well-publicized cases where moms were kicked out of restaurants and wine farms for breastfeeding, or told they have to go to a toilet to feed their babies. Unfortunately, as a country we still have a long way to go with this issue.

Parenting in South Africa

On maternity leave: Because I work at a state hospital, I receive government benefits, which include four months of maternity leave. In South Africa, government jobs such as mine are quite coveted because they provide good working conditions and benefits, solid retirement plans and are generally secure. When I gave birth to Lukhanyo I was actually able to take a total of six months off by combining it with vacation days and additional unpaid leave. My boss has been awesome.

Parenting in South Africa

On independent kids: Most children in South Africa learn to be independent from a very young age. Especially among poor families in the informal settlements, you will see children out alone without adult supervision. Their parents must go to work, or they have died and it’s older siblings keeping an eye on the younger ones. Of course you see less of this in the more privileged communities, but because most of South Africa is so poor, there is no way police could attempt to enforce a law requiring parents to supervise their children. When I was a child, I definitely ran around the streets on my own or with other neighborhood children — it was nothing people worried about. Now of course I’m a mother, and when I see small children playing on their own, sometimes under unsafe conditions, I worry. But it’s a fact of life here.

Parenting in South Africa

On childcare responsibilities: In Xhosa communities, everybody works, and the baby is brought up by a nanny or a gran or put into a crèche. Most middle to upper class families can afford a nanny in South Africa, as the minimum wage for domestic workers in urban areas is only about 15 rand [about $1 USD] per hour. Of course, there’s a wide range in what people pay and we pay our nanny much more than this, as we don’t think the minimum is an adequate salary. We are very blessed to have her.

In our household, I’m often away from home for work and Deane is a perfectly capable parent without me. He changes diapers and does most of the cooking, as he loves to cook. But this isn’t the norm. We visited France recently and my husband and I were struck to see a lot of men taking care of their young children and babies, even during the day. This is an unusual sight in South Africa where caregiving is still very female dominated and you rarely see a man pushing a stroller, and almost never wearing a baby on his body.

Parenting in South Africa

On spanking: Last October, a high court banned corporal punishment in the home, and it is now actually illegal for parents to hit their children. This might sound extreme, but we had to pass this law because child abuse is quite severe in South Africa. As a doctor, I have personally seen many horrific cases. And because there was historically very little legal protection for children, there was very little authorities could do.

In fact, it was only a couple decades ago when corporal punishment was outlawed in our schools. When I was in school, I’d be hit on my hand with a stick or a ruler. One teacher used to pinch us very hard on our cheeks. The boys got hit on their bums. Now, of course, when I look back on this it seems incredible that this was considered normal and perfectly acceptable.

Parenting in South Africa

On local wildlife: South Africa is famous for its game reserves where tourists come to see lions, elephants, rhinos, etc. But where we live on the Western Cape, we are two hours from the nearest game park — the animals you most commonly see here are cows, sheep and pigs! We do have baboons on the outskirts of our town and once in a rare while a neighboring farm will have a leopard problem. But in terms of local wildlife, my biggest fear are the snakes, which we see on a regular basis. The most dangerous is the Cape Cobra, which is a bright yellow venomous snake that’s one of the most lethal in Africa. We’ve talked to Lukhanyo about snakes many times so he knows how to behave when he sees them. My husband is actually something of a snake fanatic (he used to collect them as a child!) so he’s taught Lukhanyo how to recognize different snakes and how to step back calmly when he sees one. It’s important to know this growing up around here!

Parenting in South Africa

Thank you so much, Bongi!

P.S. More Motherhood Around the World posts, including Kenya, Hungary and Sweden.

(Mielie-meal pap via MyRecipes. Tulbagh houses via Flickr. Breastfeeding photo and family portrait by Love Made Visible. Other photos courtesy of Bongi, via Ndibambe.)

  1. Ruba says...

    You are such a beautiful and loving family. Your little boy is precious😍😍Thank you for sharing.

  2. Mara says...

    Wish these great pieces ran once a week like before! So does this new iteration post every 3 weeks?

  3. Lucy says...

    I found her colourblindness comment interesting. I agree that I don’t think this is the best way to go with teaching a child. The realisations I had growing up of how privileged I was to be born white, compared to my cousins who are brown (I come from New Zealand and my cousins and I are both of Maori descent). There were definitely circumstances where I have been treated differently, and it is possible that I had access to more opportunities because of how I look.

  4. Man, that is a cute kid!!
    I love this series, like the other readers! Thank you all so much for sharing!

  5. Katy says...

    Great post! I love this series and this installment was fascinating. Bongi sounds like an amazing parent. I’m reminded of Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime. I learned so much about South Africa from it. Highly recommend!

    • Jessica says...

      It was the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to. The way he tells the stories from his childhood and growing-up had me laughing until I cried. I must have looked a fright when people saw me at stoplights!

  6. I love this series! It’s so fab to see the different ways in which children are brought up and also what we ourselves can take from other cultures. I love that the post touched on interracial families too. Another important topic! Bongi is gorgeous and so is her family!

    Lots of love,
    Molly xo

  7. What a lovely post! I’m originally from SA actually so it was so nice to read about being a mother there, and all the references to some of the foods made me smile :-) will be following along for the series now! X

  8. Elmarie says...

    Beautiful read. From a fellow South African.

  9. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  10. Emma says...

    I feel so connected to all mothers, especially when I see them shlepping baby. Something about the weight of a baby, constantly on you, it is a universal feeling.

  11. Sanaa Rahman says...

    it’s funny how, the world over, marrying a white person tends to yield the same set of reactions (I am Pakistani, my husband is Irish-American)!

    Thank you CoJ for always bringing us new perspectives, new places and some pretty damn adorable kids!

  12. Christina M. says...

    This is my favorite series – I go back and read past entires multiple times. I had to comment on this beautiful family. The pictures are stunning!

    Thanks again COJ for the wonderful series.

  13. Betsy says...

    What a great post! Such a beautiful family. I’m a mother of two one-year old boys in the States so I especially loved hearing about their little boy and what it’s like for him growing up in South Africa.

  14. Rebecca says...

    What a beautiful family, and an amazing post. I enjoyed it so much – I feel like the farther away the country is from the US, the more fascinating the differences become!

  15. Ilona says...

    What a beautiful family! I really enjoyed reading about being in a mixed-race couple in SA and about teaching your child that inequalities exist. Bongi sounds down-to-earth and like the kind of woman you’d want as a best friend.

  16. Meggles says...

    What a beautiful family. And Bongi’s thoughtful words gave me so much to ponder…thank you, Bongi.

  17. Jazz says...

    My 4 year old eats grazes on fruit most days come to think of it , after reading this ! We will brush more now!!

  18. Rue says...

    this baby, you guys. I cannot get over how cute this baby is.

    • Megan says...

      Me either!

    • Laura says...

      Same! He is so beautiful!!

  19. Traci Sims says...

    Such a beautiful piece. And, from one who dates interracially…kudos to you for teaching your son to NOT be colourblind. I think this is a mistake a lot of the Western countries make–to sweep it under the rug.

    And by the way, the husband is handsome, the wife is beautiful, and that child—SO ADORABLE!!

    Thank you, Cup of Jo!

  20. Wow this such an insightful to read as it teaches that every culture has their way of parenting. I can not get enough of this series.

  21. I have always loved and have had such a draw to South Africa and the people who lived there! I loved this post and getting to know their people and culture on a deeper level!

    Paige

  22. Patricia says...

    What a lovely family – I enjoyed every word of this …. such thoughtful, informative answers. The love this family has for each other shines through the words. And I have to say – what a beautiful baby boy ! He is adorable.
    Love this series so much – really makes you become more open to different customs and cultures when read through a Mother’s perspective – at least for me it does and I’m grateful for that !

  23. Lauren says...

    Daaaamn, what a cool and interesting read. I would read about Bongi for days! I love how this one is written, too. The author’s got some strong interviewer chops :)

  24. Saskia says...

    I read the title with a bit of apprehension, but I should have known you would take a thoughtful approach to the complexity of experience of life in SA. Thank you!

  25. I loved every bit of this. Thank you for sharing!

  26. Wonderful! While I totally appreciated the disclaimer, I also loved that Bongi was so thoughtful in her responses and in acknowledging other experiences and perspectives within her country.

    I spent several weeks in South Africa a few years ago and the number of offhand comments starting with “I’m not racist but…[insert super racist statement here]” was pretty shocking to me, as was the number of stares and even comments we got as a diverse group hanging out together in Cape Town (2 white American girls, an African American, an Indian from India, a Native American, and a white South African of English descent). So Bongi’s eloquent words about not raising her son colorblind really resonated.

    PS Lukhanyo is the cutest!!

  27. Jessica says...

    What a beautiful family!! Really love this post from the series – very warm, inspiring and again so beautiful!

  28. Heather D says...

    Love this series so much.

    If you ever want to talk about foster parenting / adopting from foster care in the US, I’m here! =D

    • McKenzie Randall says...

      I would LOVE a post on this!!

    • I hope they jump on this.

  29. Sharon says...

    I’ve been waiting for a post from South Africa for so many years. I thought you had forgotten about this wonderful vibrant country! As a woman who grew up in South Africa in the early 70s, I am so pleased to see mixed race marriages and happy families with children. I absolutely loved reading this post! And I agree with the other comment about seeing more families of colour in your parenting around the world series. Africa is huge and there are so many different countries you still need to post about!

  30. Hi Catherine,

    I think I should clarify something here. In South Africa farm lands are not rural areas because rural areas are places that don’t have any kind of infrastructure that you can think. Tulbagh is rural (maybe for white people) but not from the perspective of a South African.

    Rural versus farmlands:
    Rural areas do not have running and clean water, don’t have paved roads, don’t have electricity, don’t have proper transportation, don’t have better access to clinics, some kids walk about 4KMs to school. Whereas, in farmlands areas there’s electricity, telephone lines, running water, paved roads, people have their own means of transportation, clinics and strip mall.

    As sesi Bongi mentioned, South Africa is really diverse nation, one shoe doesn’t fit all. Also, she was humble when she said this: “we have first world and third world experiences in the same country.”, instead of saying South Africa is a segregated country. That’s it! In Mzansi the environment that one grew up in, do somehow define what you can become.

    I just want to that to say Tulbagh is in rural area is misleading. If sesi Bongi grew up in Eastern Cape she knows that Tulbagh is not rural.

    Kea leboga,
    Mbhele

  31. Sara says...

    Gorgeous family. Love this series so much. I haven’t worn my two years old in a month but seeing this makes me want to get back into the wrap game!

  32. Jen says...

    What a lovely family! Their warmth and love just radiates from these photos. I love reading this series, great job!!

  33. I’m so glad you’re raising your child to see and understand color, so many people don’t understand how important this is for a child’s identity and how they might be viewed in the world. He’ll be an awesome dude for it!

    I agree, I’d love to read about more mothers around the world, especially in more countries and/tribes in the motherland.

    Blu

  34. I remember punished in school as a child. I squat with the other kids for long minutes for not doing my math assignment. It hurts so much but its also acceptable in our culture before. I am so glad that its different now!

  35. Kim V. says...

    I loved this! So very interesting and beautiful.

  36. Kate says...

    What she was too humble to mention, is that Bongi is an incredible advocate for babywearing in South Africa and has helped so many Moms (including me!) ditch the pram for a cosy wrap or carrier. As a South African, I loved this wonderfully balanced view of our beautiful country. Also, I saw a hilarious meme the other day “a good husband is a gift from God, and a good wife is from the Eastern Cape”. As a fellow wife from the EC yeah!

  37. Thank you, Bongi, for sharing. This was lovely to read! Your family is adorable.

  38. Johanna says...

    I love these posts and all posts on parenting. I’m going to be bold though and say that I notice the majority of them are white parents. And if there is a person of color he or she is usually partnered with a white person. In fact I am a woman of color and the father of my children is a white man. I know there is beauty and validity in Bongi’s family and all families. And it is for this reason I really wish these posts would feature more families full of color (and by that I mean no whiteness involved). It would say and mean a lot. Please note that it was a choice to make this a public comment and not a private email.

    I await any supportive replies to this. And any that are perhaps angry/argumentative as well.

    • Annie says...

      I’ll agree with you Johanna (and I say this even though I LOVE this post!) I am also a black woman married to a white man, so I wouldn’t qualify, but I find that people respond to me and my children differently than my sisters/brothers/nephews/nieces because that bit of whiteness makes it acceptable. (It’s the same when people say — “your kids are so beautiful!” It annoys me because I think they are really saying “your kids have an acceptable level of blackness!”) Anyway, I obviously love celebrating mixed race families, but I’d also love to celebrate and normalize families that all look different.

    • Cynthia says...

      I agree. You have a valid point.

    • Alexia says...

      As a white woman, I 100% agree. The Congo series a few years back was interesting, but both of the women were white and (probably unknowingly) enforcing colonialism in that way (as a British expat born in one of the colonies, I am guilty of this too).
      I think for South Africa in particular it was interesting to see a mixed race couple. Since South Africa remains highly segregated, it allowed Bongi to speak to two aspects of society. But in future, I would love to see more families of color (including Asians, who I feel are often neglected from this discussion).

    • Sasha L says...

      I would love to see families that are not white depicted in this series. I want to learn and be a better person. (White lady married to white man living in a very white state in the US). I want to see those who haven’t been represented in the past because of racism, represented and celebrated now. If this series became nothing BUT poc that would be absolutely ok with me.

    • Ashley says...

      Johanna, your comment is exactly what I was thinking. I would love to see families and partners of color. It’s a bit invalidating to see the posts and not be represented by them at all. I love this series and the families in them, but I don’t ever see a family or relationship that reflects mine. Representation is important and I do know that there are wonderful people/partners/families of color that would be a great addition to this blog and series. It’s just a matter of looking for and reaching out to them. Diversity matters and it’s okay for people of color to fully be themselves without a drop of whiteness or “acceptability” politics.

    • Daynna Shannon says...

      I second your request to see more families of full color. I’m white and I love seeing the differences and similarities in, not only the country being featured, but between myself and the family sharing their experiences.

      I am assuming that the reason that families, as well as most of CoJ’s staff and the people they feature, are mostly all white is because her readership demographics skew heavily white. My guess is that Jo is trying to appeal to her target audience. But, I don’t work there, nor do I know any of them, so I’m happy to be corrected, if that’s the case.

    • Grace says...

      My personal view is that this is already one of the more (not most) diverse, kind and intelligent sites on the Internet. The editorial team already have that mindfulness, and I suppose will continue working to elevate their content towards that. I just feel that everyone is so easily offended these days (not saying you, just in general), and it’s impossible to please everyone.

    • Anna says...

      Johanna,

      I totally agree that it would be nice to see more representation in this series. I am black( a second generation American), and I have a bit of a visceral reaction of discomfort to always seeing white couples living in Africa, Asia or LatAm on this series. I distinctly remember my feelings of discomfort at the Congo post, which I still can’t shake. It was super enlightening, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the levels of privilege embedded in those posts.

      I also agree with a previous poster that you can’t please everyone. However, I don’t think that precludes the Cup of Jo staff from being more mindful and trying harder. We can all try harder, and they don’t get a pass because they’re trying harder than the rest.

    • Samantha says...

      Most of the families are white because this series was specifically about American parents living outside of the US. Most people in US are white. The Namibian family had both black parents, and many others had at least one black parent. Latino and Asian parents have also been featured. I must add that many black women have been despicted in other series, like Week of outfits or Beauty uniform, and others have written essays for the website. Maybe you’ve missed those posts. My point is, there is an effort to be inclusive on this website. Most of the countries despicted have been white countries, yes, but I highly doubt it is made on purpose or because of lack of effort. They probably have not been able to get in contact with people in other contries that would be willing to be featured. Maybe you could reffer some families.

    • Lauren S. says...

      I do not think Cup of Jo strives to hit any sort of ‘white’ demographic… perhaps what the staff lacks is volunteer families! So I do hope any or all of the women who commented: black, white, asian, whatever, make themselves as vulnerable to criticism as Bongi has done with her family! And as vulnerable as Cup of Jo has done entertaining this topic of such differing world views… I sincerely look forward to hearing your stories. <3

  39. Maryann says...

    Fascinating read – thank you for sharing your perspective on parenting from your corner of the world, Bongi!

  40. Jean says...

    Lovely family in an interesting part of the world. Thanks.

  41. Joggie says...

    What a beautiful family! I have lived in Cape Town my whole life (now 51 years old) and have loved reading about this family on your blog! Although there are many challenges, we live in a vibrant, diverse and beautiful city and country.

  42. Maggie says...

    Fascinating…so cool…so interesting…. SNAKES?!?!?! ::Closes out window:: 😂

  43. I love this series, and I love this beautiful, happy looking family :) My daughter is hitting 17 months soon and she’s been very eager to walk. But I am considering pulling out my mei-tai carrier again, just to see if she’d be up for it: Those lovely photos and the precious memories of carrying make me a little nostalgic – and it would be nice for walking longer distances!

  44. Abby says...

    Thankyou so much for sharing your experiences. Two things struck me. You have observed and tried to understand in great depth what is going on around you in the local culture and you’ve obviously talked and tried to find your place within it bearing in mind your own cultural backgrounds- then you’ve thoughtfully chosen how you would raise your own son in that context. You are pretty inspiring! Secondly, you all seem happy and comfortable with difference and respect it. That is an incredible gift to give your son.

  45. AHHH! I loved this one! Thank you Bongi. I visited South Africa years ago and it was so incredibly beautiful! We were asking our safari guide (who was white and spoke english and Afrikaans) about racism there. He said “oh, I have plenty of black friends!” When we asked him “what would your parents say if you brought a black girlfriend home?” He said, “Oh I wouldn’t date a black girl….” I loved Bongi’s point of view and the realities around not being blind to race. Thank you!!!

  46. jeannie says...

    What a gorgeous family and such an interesting post! I love hearing that breastfeeding is so widely accepted and natural in the Eastern Cape and wish that were the case here in the U.S. Also, that you (Bongi) don’t try to raise your son color blind, but rather teach about the realities in the culture. Thank you for sharing your lovely family and a bit about South Africa.

  47. Heidi Bone says...

    I really enjoyed reading about Bongi and her world and beautiful family ❤️

  48. Mwis says...

    I remember so vividly as a very young child watching my parents dance and celebrate the release of Nelson Mandela. The struggles of the country from apartheid was such a foreign concept to me having been raised in Kenya. I have since been fascinated by the south African people.Their strength,culture,the music and the rolling hills.I plan to visit one day.
    Thanks for the disclaimer,these stories do in most cases showcase mamas in the middle upper class and I loved the fact that you tried to still make it known that your privileges may not be those of others.Bongi you have a lovely family and clearly a lovely soul!

  49. Courtney says...

    As diligent follower but infrequent commenter for 10 ish years (sorry!), I just wanted to say an incredibly belated thanks for this series! I LOVE reading and rereading (and more recently delving into past comments- so good!) these every year, and the diverse places and perspectives that are included. As a married but childless expat living in Korea for the past 4 years (after years as a displaced Midwesterner in NYC), it’s so wonderful to see and hear so many strong women and mothers living abroad. It makes me inspired and hopeful for the future (with or without children) and in whatever part of the world we might end up in with time.

    I’m breaking my silence ;) because I would love to see this series in particular continued and expanded. I’ve loved your blog since it was just you (Joanna, I started following when I was planning my wedding at the same time as yours :)) and have loved to see it grow and to see your community and writers expand. Have been super inspired by your writing and more recently Caroline’s, Stella’s, Ashley’s, etc. WONDERFUL. Incredible range of women in different stages and phases of life that are powerful, beautiful, inspiring role models (in reference to Caroline’s most recent post ;)) Also love your style posts and essays and the diverse women included there! You are seriously killing it lately, and it’s amazing. I’d love to see more women in different phases of life abroad in this series as well (regardless of relationship, family, or age status). Living abroad is wonderful, but parts of it can be so challenging and isolating so hearing and relating to others experiences means so much. I think further perspectives could only enrich this series. Honestly, when you first started this series I naively didn’t read it much because I didn’t know how much I’d relate to women in the motherhood phase of life (Don’t worry, I’ve since changed my ways and am caught up many times over! :)) BUT I’d love to hear more about what it’s like being single, getting and staying married, working in a variety of professions, getting older and beyond abroad. What are these womens’ hopes/fears/experiences/communities like?

    But beyond that and more than anything, just thank you a million times over for representing such a broad range of women and for making so many humans feel seen and heard every day. I feel so enriched by this community on a daily basis, and I am so grateful for this little corner of the internet and the world!

  50. Nina M says...

    Thank you, Bongi, for portraying motherhood in South Africa in such a beautiful and honest manner. Love from South Africa, and more specifically, Paarl :) xx

  51. Barbara says...

    Thank you for featuring Bongi and her beautiful family. Their radiant smiles and her thoughtful/critical/kind observations just melted my heart.

  52. Magdel says...

    So lovely to see someone so inspiration from my home country XXX

  53. MLC says...

    So appreciative of Bongi’s insight into raising a biracial child acknowledging socioeconomic disparities. I’m a new mom, looking for guidance in raising my biracial daughter with clarity and confidence! Thank you for sharing, Bongi!

  54. Stacey says...

    This is my favourite one yet! Having been born and brought up in the Western Cape and being of mixed race descent (and now being one half of an interracial couple), I love how Bongi and her husband don’t shy away from teaching their son about his identity. I also loved seeing so much I recognised from my childhood. (pap! biltong! rooibos!)
    PS. Please do a Beauty Uniform with Bongi. :) x

    • Ellie says...

      I lived in Joburg for 3.5 years and married a South African (1/2 Afrikaans, 1/2 Scottish), so in a similar way, I totally agree with seeing so much familiarity! Love it!

  55. Anna says...

    I love this! What a beautiful family, and such interesting insights.

  56. Great point about being in an interracial relationship. It still takes me aback sometimes when my gf(white) and myself(chinese/viet) constantly get stared at by strangers, even in San Francisco! I’ve had an uncle tell me his son married an asian because none of the “caucasians liked him” and that I “got lucky.” I feel lucky because a wonderful woman chose me, but I don’t feel lucky just because she has white skin.

  57. Anne says...

    I always feel like I learn so much from these posts. Making a note to try out some jerky on my teething toddler and to bust out our carrier again. It was also so refreshing to see another mom breastfeeding her 2-3 year old. My son is only a year and a half, but all the other moms have weaned their kids where I live by this point and I feel weird and lonely. Seeing such a happy, normal family makes me feel like I’m not alone. Thanks. :)

  58. Denise says...

    I would love to see a Motherhood Around the World from a Central American country. It would be fascinating to see how they live despite their hardships. And while I’m sure their stories include violence or other scary things, it would be good awareness for us as Americans to understand why they are fleeing their countries and coming all the way here to seek asylum.

  59. Jessica says...

    Really enjoyed reading this article. Would love to see more posts or a feature on raising biracial children. Speaking from my experience of raising three biracial children with my husband, we are always interested in learning about how others teach their children.

  60. Sally says...

    I love this one. Such a thoughtful mother with a beautiful family.

  61. Mac says...

    Love it! Now I need a beauty post from her, because her hair and skin is incredible ❤️

  62. Michelle says...

    This was a great one, CoJ team & Bongi! Thank you!

  63. Angela says...

    But who is the fabulous author, Catherine Hong?! Did I miss something?

  64. Kelly says...

    Those are some serious million dollar smiles on that family! Adorable!

  65. Leah Rose says...

    What a beautiful family, and their little boy!! He is gorgeous :)

  66. Roxana says...

    LOVE this! What a beautiful family.

    I love her perspective and how they navigate issues they encounter, especially the idea of not teaching “color blindness.” She speaks with wisdom and grace. I wish I could be friends with her :).

    Also, her little Lukhanyo is ADORABLE. And the photo of her carrying him on her back, while they’re both looking at the camera is gorgeous.

  67. Candice says...

    Such a beautiful family! Another great pick in the books!

  68. Liz says...

    I studied abroad in South Africa! Living in Cape Town for 5 months gave me a glimpse into life there, and I love seeing a new perspective from this beautiful family. South Africa is a stunning country with many lovely people but it definitely has a ways to go in terms of racial and economic equality.

  69. Claire says...

    Lovely family, and what a beautiful, articulate, intelligent mama. I always enjoy this series. I’d love to see some installments that families that have teenage children, too.
    Thanks for sharing these stories!

  70. Gina says...

    I was so thrilled to see a South African mother featured.
    This is a beautiful part of the world.
    My brother runs a winery in Stellenbosch and it is absolutely
    breathtaking.
    He is so far away…..but thank goodness for modern technology!

  71. Yesss! I’ve been waiting for SA to be covered on this series. Thanks!!

  72. EKZ says...

    My husband and I leave for South Africa on Friday! What a fun way to kick off our week of anticipation!

    • Elisabeth says...

      My husband and I leave for our honeymoon to South Africa tomorrow! So just great timing! Happy travels :)

  73. Sarah says...

    Oh my goodness, I Google Image searched “cape cobra” and cannot conceive of casually coming across one on the road. Terrifying!

  74. Nicki vV says...

    So special to read about such a gorgeous family in my hood. A candid utterance about the challenges of motherhood where we live.

  75. Nicole says...

    Could you do a post where you go back and talk to some of the mothers from previous mothering around the world posts and see how they are doing? I love the mothering in different parts of the world and it would be so interesting to see if anything has changed,

    • Anna says...

      I would love to read more about these families too!

    • laura says...

      Yes, I would LOVE this! It would be so interesting to see how their views have changed as their children have aged and as they’ve spent more time in the country (or moved to a different country)!

    • Courtney says...

      Love this idea!

    • Nicole says...

      Yes I would love to get some updates

    • LOVE this idea! I love when the mothers you interview have blogs that I can follow, but when they don’t I miss not knowing where the years have taken them and their families!

  76. Kristen Anderson says...

    P.S. More Motherhood Around the World posts, including Kenya, Hungry and Sweden.

    I think you mean HungAry

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Ha, thank you!

  77. Jan says...

    What an absolutely Gorgeous couple!!!

  78. Lisa says...

    Absolutely love this! Im South African (but white middle class, English speaking) so it’s amazing to see a mix of things that are recognisably home (Biltong! Rooibos!) but also new because I actually have very little experience of the lives of black South Africans (particularly rural areas). Makes me want to go back to visit ASAP

  79. june2 says...

    Can Bonghi do a gif or video tutorial for tying her baby wrap for toddler size? That would be great, thank you!

    • Jamie says...

      Look up fwcc (forward wrap cross carry) on youtube. It looks very similar

    • june2 says...

      Thx, will do!

    • Lauren says...

      If you click her name in the intro it brings you to her blog which focuses on babywearing tips. Lots of info from her!

  80. Anna says...

    Enjoyed this perspective a lot, especially about food and health, but please do a beauty uniform! Bongi is beautiful and glowing in every picture, plus as a doctor-to-be I’m highly curious how she incorporates self-care and beauty routine in everyday hassle. x

  81. Charlotte says...

    Such a beautiful family! Thank you for sharing, Bongi!

  82. Summer says...

    Oh, I love everything about this! The whole family is beautiful, but Lukhanyo’s little smile is a showstopper! I’d love to get to go to Cape Town some day; thank you for sharing your family with us.

    I also had to chime in and recommend Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” for those that haven’t read it yet. It taught me so much about South Africa that I didn’t know and made me question things I’d never thought to question.

    • Sasha L says...

      Summer, thank you for book recommendation, I really want to read Noah’s book.

  83. Lauren says...

    Hey thanks so much for including the section on wildlife! It really helps to give a sense of place! I’m always interested in how people interact with the animals around them day-to-day, not just the people :)

  84. Catherine says...

    That little Lukhanyo is so beautiful!! I love this article!

  85. t says...

    It is so fascinating how different cultures and circumstances have their own unique challenges. If I could get my kids to eat endless fruit it would be so much healthier than the junk they get their hands on. Then again, we are able to take them to dentist regularly.

  86. Barb says...

    What a lovely family and so interesting to hear about their lives. I can’t imagine having to worry about encountering snakes in the day to day, eek. I’m glad we only encounter them on hikes.

    • You wouldn’t easily come across a snake in a town or city, but you would on a farm (where they live) and certainly on hikes in the mountains. That said we have had some dangerous snakes in our suburban garden sometimes and I have had one slither across my driveway in front of me – but that’s a rare occurrence!

  87. Allyson says...

    He is so cute! What a beautiful, happy little guy. I really, really love this series.

  88. gfy says...

    They all look very happy and it is my wish that they always are! I hope things get easier and easier in SA.

    Also, this was very well put: “… between her professional and personal lives Bongi has been able to cross more than a few boundaries, which has made her an excellent cultural guide.” It says so much, in context to where she lives and who she is! Lastly, huge kudo’s to her husband for crossing a few boundaries of his own! Big hugs to you all!

  89. Hillary says...

    Love to see Bongi addressing the racial and socioeconomic issues of her home country so eloquently. The women in this series always offer so much perspective. In America, it’s so easy to get caught up in the “right way” to parent, but this series has really opened my eyes up to the broader world.

  90. Lucy says...

    Great feature. As a South African mom I had my reservations about how ‘true-to-real-life’ this article would be, but it’s a great representation. Well done Bongi and the writer!

    • Melanie says...

      Agreed! As a white middle class Mom from KZN, I really feel like this was a great representation.

  91. Sasha says...

    The parenting post I’ve been waiting for! As an expat South African, I so enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing.

  92. Heather says...

    What a gorgeous little boy – I love his smile!

    • Katie says...

      I agree, he really embodies his name!

  93. Nancy Johnson says...

    So interesting – I love this whole series.

    That is one adorable baby!

  94. Beautiful family.

  95. Erin says...

    Love this series! And what an adorable family. :)

  96. Shelley Ahrens says...

    Oh yay! Just the other day I was wondering when South Africa would feature in this series and I loved reading this very much, love from another mama in Cape Town…who reads A Cup of Jo over a rusk with tea when the littles sleep whenever I can! Love the Shweshwe porridge shot. Thank you Bongi x

  97. Sasha L says...

    Such a thoughtful post. I enjoyed Bongi and her lovely family and her humbleness in expressing her experiences within the broader context of South Africa. Her sharing of things that aren’t so positive made this that much more thought providing too. When she said “we have first world experiences and third world experiences in the same country”, I thought, we do too, in the US, but it’s rarely spoken of with such honesty here. Thank you COJ, this series is so wonderful and this is an especially enlightening installment.

    • KGB says...

      This struck me as well. I enjoy hearing about how different motherhood is based on location, but the comment about third and first world experiences reminded me that location is just one variable, and that a perhaps even more distinguishing factor in parenthood is income/wealth of the parents which saddens me. It feels as if this difference isn’t as stark in some countries as in the US. I pray that will change someday soon with leadership focused again on important issues like this.

  98. Sandra says...

    OMG Lukhanyo looks good and happily contented in all the pictures, it’s so cute ! (my kids look like demons when I take a picture)

    • t says...

      I was thinking the same thing!!! My kids never smile in photos and this kid is so content in every one. Must be happy little guy.

  99. Kate says...

    What a beautiful family!

  100. Naaz says...

    Such an apt and beautiful post on motherhood in South Africa. Coming from a South African living in the USA

  101. Nina says...

    I love this thoughtful post. I’ve always wanted to go to South Africa – except snakes….maybe not.

  102. Donna says...

    Lovely to see a Cup of Jo Parenting post from here! Yay! Beautiful family and story! ❤️

  103. I love this series and this one was so fun to read! So thoughtful, beautiful and wonderful to hear these stories.

  104. RN says...

    Beautiful family!!

  105. Emily Crowder says...

    *Frantically searches house for baby carrier* My 2 year old has been feeling so BIG these days; she’s nursing less, switched to a toddler bed yesterday, and is potty trained. I had kind of forgotten about the carrier but Bongi and her family have me excited to take her for a snuggly walk soon <3

    • Neen says...

      Toddlers in carriers are the best! We started using ours again a few months back (when my daughter was almost 3) and she LOVED it. Enjoy :)

    • Lisa says...

      She got me at the comment about the toddler not being able to run away *flashback to recent trip to pharmacy*

      I have worn my toddler (2.5 yo) recently due to complex baby and toddler transport logistics. He keeps on asking to go back in but I feel really self conscious carrying a toddler around London. Maybe I shouldn’t feel that way – he’s happy and snuggly and the photos above just melt my heart.

      I grew up in SA and I remember another SA colleague pointing out the irony that in the UK you can spend hundreds of pounds on carriers / slings, whereas in SA women just use towels / blankets / whatever fabric to hand and it works fine.

  106. Ruth says...

    Loved her insight. There is so much love in that family, it’s clear from her answers and the pictures.

  107. Emily says...

    Thanks for sharing. I just have to say the pictures of her wearing Lukhanyo are the SWEETEST! He looks so happy to be close to his mama.

  108. Nicki says...

    As an early 30’s female whose (white) parents of German/English descent were raised in South Africa, thank you for showcasing Bongi and her family! I was born in Canada and now live in the US, however, we traveled to South Africa quite a few times when I was growing up. So much of what Bongi has mentioned were staples of my own childhood: biltong and droewors (I refuse to eat any beef jerky in the States because NOTHING compares!) and mielie pap and rusks (which my Mom still makes and we dunk into Rooibos tea!). There is so much culture to South Africa, and the languages are so unique – it is absolutely wonderful that you chose a lovely mixed family as some of my cousins are now part of mixed families and, as Bongi mentioned, it is not easy but it can be done. :) xoxo

    PS My favorite desserts will always be melktart and koeksisters!

    • Naaz says...

      Can so relate. Living in the USA but forever homesick

    • Becky says...

      I grew up in South Africa but now live in the US. This was such a fascinating perspective and I love the way this family is a wonderful blend of different cultures. Growing up speaking three languages is really special. Bongi and her husband strike me as loving and thoughtful parents. I really appreciated her commentary on child abuse, which as she says is still a big problem. Of course I also loved hearing about all the South African food. I buy Rooibos in bulk when I’m home and I’m lucky enough to have a husband who taught himself how to make biltong. Sadly the koeksister is an art I have yet to master.

  109. Kaitlyn S. says...

    I love to read a perspective about South Africa from a native. I feel so often we get perspectives from visitors or people who are “new” to the country. It’s so important to hear the voices of those who are living there – just like in the US we wouldn’t ask a student on a student visa for the final say on what it’s like to live here, we shouldn’t be making the same mistakes with other countries. Bongi, your family is beautiful and thank you for sharing your time and words with us!

  110. Colleen says...

    As a fellow South African raising mixed race kids I loved reading this – thanks for sharing Bongi! We live in the city so we encounter many more mixed families and we either don’t notice the stares or don’t get stared at anymore. Although when my kids were younger I was often confused for being their au pair. It drove me mad! Being dark-skinned with light-skinned kids I was immediately assumed to be the help. My fair-skinned friend with dark-skinned kids was always assumed to have adopted her kids. It’s taught me to b careful about making assumptions about anything.

  111. AP says...

    I loved this statement: ” My husband and I don’t believe in teaching color blindness. We feel quite strongly that Lukhanyo must know there is black and white because our society recognizes these divisions and it’s important for us to recognize the disparities in how people are treated and the way resources are allocated.”

    This is so important for children of ANY race, and dare I say, especially white children. People of all races must see that there is always an “other” before we can join as one with respect and kindness.

    • Neen says...

      Agreed! There are some really great resources out there about why color blindness can be harmful, despite the best intentions. I’m so happy to see this discussed.

  112. This was fascinating!! Love these posts.
    Allie

  113. Lula says...

    What a thoughtful, thought provoking post. I loved the disclaimer at the start. Such a fascinating insight!

  114. Becca says...

    Wonderful, thank you for sharing your experiences! What a beautiful family :)

  115. I loved how thoughtful this is! And always good to read about interracial relationships outside of the U.S

    xo
    LaTonya

  116. Kristiana says...

    Loved this Motherhood post. Xx

  117. Chelsea says...

    This was lovely! And the picture of Bongi wearing her son on her back is so adorable!!!

  118. Awesome! I loved this post so much. It’s the first time I read one of your motherhood around the world posts from the perspective of a local mother. Living right next to South Africa in beautiful Namibia I enjoyed it that much more – also raising a multicultural and mixed race family.

    One spelling correction, the language is Afrikaans not Africaans.

    Wonderful photographs too! Thanks for a lovely post.

  119. This entire article is fascinating and I appreciated her thoughtful disclaimer at the start. Also, your smile is just stunning, Bongi xxx

    • Luna says...

      Agree!