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Jamie Williams, part of the team making Nederburg’s whites, reflects on being a mother, a wife, a daughter and a winemaker. A mom to a son of 22 months, she’s expecting her second child, also a boy, in September. She’s just completed her ninth harvest, her fifth with Nederburg. This is her story:

I don’t think anything prepares you for motherhood. You can talk to friends, read parenting books, take antenatal classes but even with all the received information in the world, you seriously don’t have a clue until you’ve lived it. If all goes well, there’s the immense thrill, the exhilaration, the pride and excitement, your endless flow of love. But also, the lack of sleep, the anxiety (Am I doing this right? What does that scream mean? Why won’t he settle? Is he hungry? Is he sick? Is it serious? Will I ever have five minutes to myself. I can’t believe I look such a wreck. Is it safe to have a quick shower? On no, he’s niggling again. How can I cope at work in the morning? …) 

When I look at my mother, a successful nursing sister, I wonder how she’s done it. Up all night with a grizzling me when I was little and then kind and caring and calm with her patients the next day! I come from a single-parent household and was brought up by my mom, with a lot of support from my gran, who died while I was in high school. She was central to our lives. I still miss her. My mom does too. So much. 

To say I’ve always appreciated my mother is an understatement. I know rationally and emotionally how much she has been and done, and still is and does. But to be honest, it’s only when you become a mother yourself that you understand the depth of that unfailing, selfless parental love, where you put your child first in everything.  

I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for my mother: her sacrifices, her support and encouragement, her belief in me and her own example as a working mother.  That’s not to say we haven’t had our differences. Of course we have. But when you experience that vast reservoir of love for your own child, it gives you a different perspective on parents and parenting. It also helps to understand that just like we are, our parents are human and fallible.  

My relationship with my mom is so much richer now. It makes me cry just to think about how much! She is so strong and gives such great value to independence and honesty and has taught me to do the same. Look, she can be direct to the point of bluntness, but I really get it now. She is giving me the best advice because she wants the best for me. And I’ll say this: she’s been there for me through some very difficult times and never judged me. 

My mom had my gran for love and support and guidance. I have not only my mom but my husband. He’s an amazing person all round. Terrific company, a rock and such an important sounding board. My respect for him just grows and grows.  Which is not to say that I don’t resent him at times. Just a teeny bit. He doesn’t have to breastfeed at all hours. His body hasn’t physically changed. But luckily, we can talk frankly and with maturity. Having that kind of communication is essential. 

And over harvest, he’s incredible.  Like any other winemaker, I work spectacularly long hours when the grapes come in. Weekends too.  People ask if there are any parallels between motherhood and winemaking. Believe me, there are! The humility in recognising that however much you plan, organise and arrange, you can’t always control what’s going to happen. Aiming for perfection is naive. Just be gentle with yourself and try to keep all the balls in the air.  

Perhaps you are having your first decent sleep in forever, and the baby wakes unexpectedly. Perhaps it’s a call from the cellar in the middle of the night during harvest. However exhausted you may be, becomes irrelevant. You stay alert, sharp and focused to be able to think calmly and act wisely to resolve the situation. No room for panic or self-pity or calculating how long you’ve been without sleep. You can’t measure time lost to you. You just do what needs to be done and give it your best shot. And you remind yourself this too shall pass. 

And then there’s the battle of conflicting priorities – longing to be with your baby when you are away from him and the guilt of long absences like during harvest, when you can miss out on some of his milestones. That’s compounded by the guilt and disappointment when you can’t attend an important meeting or work event because your baby’s ill and needs to see the doctor. 

Is this unique? Absolutely not. And now there is so much more acceptance and understanding of the multiple roles mothers are demanded to fill. You want to give 100% in each case, but it just doesn’t work that way. So, you just come to terms with it and have gratitude for an amazing support structure both at home and work. That helps to keep your balance, your focus and to do your very best.  

And talking about balance, there’s also life to live and food and wine to savour. It feels like we went from March to May, with winter striking overnight! I’m sure you’ll agree that these chilly evenings call for creamy butternut soup served with yummy garlic bread and a glass of our creamy-textured Manor House Chardonnay. They bring out the best in each other. 

But I also want to mention that I have a special place in my heart for our Double Barrel Reserve blend. This Bordeaux-style red is an absolute winner. It doesn’t matter if you’re a connoisseur or new to wine. It’s so delicious and versatile.  

Cheers to my mom, my husband, my son, to all the mothers and daughters out there and to all of us in trying to get the balance right. 


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