Nadine Bowley is an art and drama teacher at Amanzimtoti Primary School, she’s been married to her high-school sweetheart, Gareth, for 18 years now. Gareth leads Oasis Church and together they have four of the most gorgeous, delightful children you’ve ever met. And I am allowed to say that because Nadine is my sister and these four children are my nieces and nephews. I became an aunty for the first time when Hope was born. She’s now 14 (!), then there’s Samuel (12), Luke (10) and Alexandra (7). Nadine always wanted four children and loves being a mom. She also loves creativity and art and has too many hobbies but not enough time. Being a neat freak, an art teacher and the mother of four has its moments. Read on to see how she manages her daily juggle…
Describe a typical working day for you.
My day starts at 5am. I like to be up and sorted before waking the kids at 5:45. The kids are old enough to get themselves ready, so we somehow all get out the door by 7am. Gareth often drops Hope at school (she’s in high school now) and I take the other three, since I work at their school. School starts at 7:30 and it’s flat out busy until 2pm. Since I teach special subjects, art and drama, I teach almost the whole school, so I come into contact with about 450 kids a week. I love my job, but dealing with kids all day is certainly not for the faint hearted. Alex goes to aftercare at the school from 1-2pm. On a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I run an art club at the school. Alex often joins in and the other three normally have sport at the same time. If not, they sit in my classroom and wait if Gareth’s not around to fetch them. That ends at 3:30, so Alex and I normally hang around until 4pm when the others finish and then we go home. I try and get to gym twice a week, so on those days Gareth normally cooks, or we take something out the freezer. I rarely cook just one meal at a time. Most times I cook double and freeze the second meal. The evenings are pretty full, but we all pull together and get it done. The kids all have their chores… Set the table, clear the table, pack the dishwasher or wash the dishes. They also all make their own lunch for school the night before. I often leave the kitchen when this is all going on and fold washing or sneak into the bath! It’s loud and chaotic, but miraculously gets done! In all of this there is homework to check and help with. Each evening is different because of all the different activities and various times. There’s ballet, cricket and squash, so we normally eat together at the table, but often one or two are missing and catch up when they get home.
What does your job entail?
I teach art and drama at a primary school. I normally get to school at about 7:15 and the day begins at 7:30. Our school has four classes in each grade, so I see about 450 children through the week. I love choosing art projects and seeing the amazing creativity of kids. I teach grade 1 all the way up to grade 7, so it’s fun having a range of ages because you get to try so many different projects. The days are very full – as one class leaves, the next arrives. I have to be super organised because often there is a lot of prep to do before each class. It is very rewarding putting the kids art up around the school and seeing everybody enjoying it.
Do you have extra help with looking after your children?
My children are at school when I’m at work, so that’s quite convenient. Gareth does work from home, so he can rearrange his schedule if we have a crisis, like somebody being sick. Alex is the only one who has to go to aftercare. There are days when they all wait in my classroom because they have no extra-murals and I have to stay for various reasons.
Who does the cooking and the cleaning?
I have a lovely lady who cleans the house twice a week. That is a real lifesaver! Gareth and I share the cooking. Thankfully I have a husband who loves to be in the kitchen. Some weeks my schedule is crazy and he cooks more often than me, and other weeks I do most of it.
What do you like the most about your current set-up?
I love the fact that I am at the same school as my kids. I teach all of them and it has felt very natural and uncomplicated. Alex is in grade 1 this year and she comes for a kiss and a hug every break. I don’t need to make special plans to be at school events because I am already there. I can also keep my eye on them!! And I get to spend holidays with them.
What do you find the most difficult about your current set-up?
I never have the house to myself! Whenever I’m there, so is everyone else.
When do you spend the most time with your children?
The weeks are pretty busy, but we get snippets of time here and there. I love when we all get to eat supper together. As the kids are getting older we are having lots of fun conversations, however, some nights it’s all about instruction… ‘eat nicely, don’t put so much in your mouth, slow down, don’t be nasty, cheer up, leave your sister, blah blah!’ We all love Survivor and The Amazing Race, so we normally record it and watch on a Tuesday evening together. The weekends can also get busy with everybody going in different directions, but when we’re all together we watch movies or braai together. The beach is a few minutes away, so walks and trips to skimmer board or swim are frequent when things aren’t too hectic. The school holidays are nice because I’m also on leave, so we do fun things together and hang out more. We also like to go camping, but are putting those trips on hold until we can get a bigger car! The older they get the more they want to take, especially girls 🙂
Do you have any family rituals?
Birthdays are big in our house. We have pancakes for breakfast and the birthday person chooses what’s on the menu for supper. The little ones wake up to a string tied to their door that they have to follow all over the house and garden to find their presents. As they’ve gotten older they follow clues that Gareth makes up. We also always have a breakfast cook up on public holidays and dad cooks it! We have a special spot in Sedgefield that we have been going to for years, so most Decembers we head down there.
How do you and Gareth make time for each other?
We have a date night once a week. Hope is old enough to now babysit for us, which is fantastic. Sometimes we go out for supper or coffee and other times we stay in and watch a movie or Gareth will cook us a special meal. We don’t always get it right every week, but it’s in the diary, so we do it when we can.
Do you find any time for yourself?
I do! Lying in the bath with a book is one of my favourites, however I normally fall asleep. When I’m not too exhausted in the evenings (maybe once a week!) I like to sew, paint or do something creative. I always have knitting or crocheting in my hands when I’m watching TV, which feels like time for myself. Sometimes on the weekends I sneak off to the mall on my own or get some time to be creative.
Do you look at other working parents and wonder how they do it?
I think we all look at other people and wonder how they do it! That’s why comparisons are so unhelpful. We’ve got grace to do what we’ve got to do, not somebody else’s life. Sometimes reading too many blogs makes me feel like a bad mom, because everyone else out there seems so perfect. It’s good to have friends who are in the same boat because it helps you feel normal. Don’t assess how things are going in one week… look at your life in three week blocks – so much more realistic, because let’s face it, some weeks are just horrible and nothing feels like it goes the way we think it should go.
What advice do you have for other moms on how to juggle all these important roles?
Laugh! I know I get so serious about things, but I just need to lighten up and laugh at myself and my kids. Keep things in perspective… are the things we stress about really the end of the world? Have fun. Gareth is so good for me in this area because he is spontaneous. Sometimes after supper he asks, ‘who wants to go to McDonalds for ice cream?’ We quickly clean up and all pile in the car for an ice cream trip. Enjoy life, don’t keep looking forward to the next step. You miss out on the wonders and joys right in front of you, that pass by way too quickly. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s such a difficult thing not to do, but it can make us miserable. I love the quote from Theodore Roosevelt, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’