Carte Blanche presenter Claire Mawisa on motherhood myths, social media, and tough decisions
Born in Gugulethu,Claire, 37, and her brother were raised by a single mom. At 15 she was scouted by a modelling agency at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront – it was the first time Claire got a taste of the spotlight. Fast-forward a few years, and now she’s a single mom to her son Neo, 11, a familiar face on M-Net’s Carte Blanche, and a life coach for Code Teen, a support platform for teenage girls that she co-founded.
Successness Fest 2019 – Claire Mawisa Photo Gallery
After school Claire set out to do a BSc degree, but during her third year of studying, she had to drop out because she couldn’t keep up with payments. It was then that she was contacted by the SABC, who were looking for a continuity presenter for one of their channels. Securing this position is what led her to Johannesburg, where she’s been ever since.
I had a textbook pregnancy – it went so well that even my gynae was impressed.
But when Neo arrived, I was completely overwhelmed. The hospital wanted to discharge me the next day and I was shocked. I couldn’t understand how they could let me take this little human being home, without knowing if I was capable of looking after him.
I always thought that motherhood would come naturally to me – I think most women do.
I imagined holding my baby and suddenly the universe would bestow upon me everything I needed to know; I’d be like the all-knowing oracle of motherhood. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way. Other mothers would tell me to be patient that ‘it’ [the maternal instinct] would come, but it didn’t. Those first few months were really difficult; I struggled to breastfeed, I was scared to bath him and I worried constantly that I wasn’t doing my best for him.
I’m honest about my parenting struggles and tell expecting mothers the truth.
That motherhood won’t necessarily come naturally, but that it’s ok. All you can do is your best. There will be days when you won’t even have time to shower, but there’ll be other days when everything is just right. Be kind to yourself, be patient, and eventually everything will fall into place.
My son lives with his grandmother; its one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
I’m a single mom and I travel a lot for work. When Neo started primary school I knew that he needed stability and someone who could be there for him 24/7, so he went to live with my mother in the Eastern Cape. At first I questioned whether I was just looking for ‘an easy way out’, or if I was really making the best decision for my son. But I know I made the right call for my family, and it’s a decision that I have to ‘remake’ and re-commit to every day.
Sometimes I feel judged by other working moms who can’t understand why I can’t juggle both.
Being away from Neo is hard, and I hate missing out on things like watching school plays or going to sports activities. But I don’t really have a choice, as I’m the sole breadwinner for my family, My job also means that I often have to work very late, and travel at a mere moment’s notice – I just couldn’t thrust that kind of instability on my son.
I feel strongly about helping young women.
I co-founded Code Teen with life skills coach Karen Burt in 2004. It’s an organisation that empowers teenage girls with life skills that they can’t learn from a textbook. I wanted to inspire and support young women, and the project has grown so much over the years. We go into schools and hold workshops around the country.
As adults we tend to belittle the struggles of younger generations; so often girls will come up to me after a workshop to thank me for taking them seriously.
When I was first offered the job on Carte Blanche, I was taken by surprise.
I felt a little out of my depth because of the stature of the show. I respect the presenters so much, and I didn’t know whether I’d be able to live up to those expectations.
But after getting to know the team, I realised it’s not this big, scary thing.
I still have these little moments when we’re prepping for the show, and I can’t believe how incredible it all is; hearing the iconic theme music still gives me goosebumps.
No amount of training can prepare you for working on a show like Carte Blanche.
There are times when people know they’re in the wrong, when they are obviously trying to hide something – and that’s before the interview even starts. So by the time we sit down with them, they’re already on edge; it doesn’t make for easy interviewing.
You also need to think on your feet – constantly.
Sometimes an interviewee will drop a bombshell of new information – you just have to roll with it. Dealing with people’s emotions and outbursts, or trying to talk to them through their pain and frustrations, is sometimes tricky to navigate, too. I have come to realise that situations are not always predictable, and neither is human nature.
At the moment I’m concentrating on self-improvement.
I feel like I still have so much to learn from my journey on Carte Blanche, and the work that I’m doing with Code Teen. I’m also looking to better myself as a mother, and carry on working towards the day that our whole family can be together again.
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