Helping you to better navigate life's changes. #LoveChange

Nokukhanya, the parenting & mental health influencer who shines a light on life

Ruda Talks Change, is what we call it, and it’s all about those, those Change Moments in life. When either you make a decision or life makes a decision for you and takes your life in, into a different direction. And today my guest, Nokukhanya Khanyile.

Her name means “mother of light”, and for Nokukhanya Khanyile, a Paediatrics Registrar at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg, it’s a dream and a prophecy come true. Not only does she get to spend her days doing the work she loves — helping parents of young children cope with the challenges and demands of parenthood — but she herself is the mother of a beautiful baby girl. And her influence on maternal matters stretches far beyond her own home and the hospital doors, because Nokukhanya has made a name for herself as one of South Africa’s most popular social media influencers. Not the pouting-selfie-with-a-brand-to-sell variety, but the kind that can and really does make a positive difference to the lives of her multitude of followers. On Instagram, Nokukhanya has close to 200,000 followers, a direct result of the high profile she has earned for her generous knowledge-sharing and empathetic advice on radio, print, and online. Aside from her speciality subject, Nokukhanya is also passionate about destigmatising and promoting mental health, all the more so in a society still struggling with the impact of the pandemic.Nokukhanya took time out of her busy schedule to chat with Ruda about parenting, wellness, and the joys of casting light on the world through the power of technology.

Transcription of Ruda Talks Change with Nokukhanya Khanyile

Ruda: Hello, and a warm welcome to another conversation. Ruda Talks Change, is what we call it, and it’s all about those, those Change Moments in life. When either you make a decision or life makes a decision for you and takes your life in, into a different direction. And today my guest, Nokukhanya Khanyile. Such a beautiful name, Khanya. Nokukhanya means light, right? 

Dr Nokukhanya: Correct, it means ‘mother of light’

Ruda: Oh, okay. You’re a paediatrician and you’re also a social media influencer. Guys, she has 196 000 followers on Instagram. Um, and uh, in 2019 you were ranked seventh among the hundred, most influential South Africans. I can quite believe that with that number of followers. Thank you so much for making time. Mother of a two-month-old little girl, then you don’t have much time to yourself. 

Dr Nokukhanya: No, we don’t. Um, so I’m actually not fully qualified as a paediatrician yet. I’m still a paediatrics registrar. Um, so I’m a few years away from that, but yes, it’s been incredibly busy, um, from day one. 

Ruda: Tell me about, about growing up, um, um, your parents, your, what were you like as a little girl? What did you, what did you dream about? What did you want to do? 

Dr Nokukhanya: Sure. That’s a very, very long time ago. Um, for me growing up, I was born in Johannesburg, um, at the hospital that I’m actually working at, which is quite interesting, which is Jo’burg Gen, now called Charlotte Maxeke. Okay. Um, I was born there and lived with my parents in Johannesburg. We, um, then moved to the south of Jo’burg. So, I grew up in the early years in Alberton. Um, my parents then got divorced and I moved to Florida with my mom. Um, but I was really very busy. I was always involved in sports. Um, did really well at school. Um, and so, I was, um, very busy doing things. Choir, um, academic things, but I stayed fit. Um, I then went into high school. I went back to stay with my father. Um, and I started really, I think finding my voice when it came to, um, seeing and helping of the community, um, trying to, um, you know, find what it is that I was good at because I just wanted to do as much as I could possibly do. And I’m lucky that my parents were able to help me do that because they really allowed me to just be. The only rule was that you have to be good at it because you can’t do anything half, with a half heart. You must go the, and like stick your guns to it. Um, so I got some really incredible experiences. I got to do a lot of sports tours and also really, um… A lot of people don’t know this, I was a presenter on K-T.V. So, um, that was a lot of fun as well. Yeah. 

Ruda: And what did that, what did that give you? Did, did it help with, um, confidence and, uh, presentation? To talk in front of people, et cetera [inaudible]? 

Dr Nokukhanya: Um, so anybody, anybody who knows me knows I have no problem talking in front of people, but, um, it was really great that I was able to meet a lot of other people who were my age, who [were] just as confident as I felt. Um, it really helped me, um, find new experiences, um, channel the energy that I had because, you know, I always felt like I wanted to do something more than just school. Mind you, I was already, I had sports colours, I had cultural, I had academic colours, I had leadership colours, but I just felt like there was so much more that I still wanted to give. Um, presenting was great because I had experiences like travelling the country, um, meeting people and hearing stories that I would’ve never gotten to if I had stayed in, you know, school or just stayed at home. So, I was able to have those experiences and, um, just grow my mind to the possibilities and the things that are out there and meet incredible people. 

Ruda: Why medicine?

Dr Nokukhanya: So, funny enough, it wasn’t always medicine. I wanted to do something that could help people. Um, but I also wanted to teach people because I’ve felt that like when people had information, it made you empowered, you were able to then take that information and use it in a way that could help other people as well, not just yourself. So, a couple of the things that popped up were actually accounting. Um, teaching was another one. Pharmacy was the other one, but I ended up in medicine, um, which was actually almost didn’t happen. So, they sent my letters to the wrong address. So, my mom being the steadfast, strong woman she is, was like, no, we’re going to go find that letter. And we actually went to the, um, faculty and they told us, “Oh, sorry, we had gotten the wrong address”. So, um, I ended up in medicine, thank God. And yeah, that’s how we are here. I’m getting to teach people every day. I’m getting to empower people from the comfort of my home, into their homes, which is a really great privilege, that I don’t think a lot of people understand how amazing it is. 

Ruda: What was it like when you really started practising medicine? When you, when you started working with the patients, did it, did it fit with the idea that you had of what it is like?

Dr Nokukhanya: So, one thing, one thing I appreciate about the medical training we get in this country, is that we get to encourage, um, patients and work with patients long before we even qualify because it is very daunting to have to understand that you are responsible for managing and dealing with human lives. So, that already started when we’re in about third year, fourth year. Um, so, our degree is six years long and it was difficult before because you couldn’t really see the patient behind the information you were studying. And once that came into practice, then medicine really clicked for me. Um, it was so nice to understand a clinical sign, see it in different kinds of patients, see how it would manifest, but also see the impact of what our management or our investigation would have on those patients, how they felt about it, how they responded to it, how different people related to it. Um, and also just seeing different dynamics in the power structures within medicine, um, and how that would affect a patient’s care. Um, I really appreciated the fact that once I qualified, um, because of this, the people that I had around me, because of the mentors that, um, I found along the way, I was really able to, you know, hone in and focus on my patient care from a mental health point of view. It, it, wasn’t just about the information that I knew in my head, it was about how I could affect that and make patients feel that they were a part of that plan. So, that made me feel, um, also that I was commun… Like I was giving back to the community and making them feel that they could take care of themselves at home. 

Ruda: So, your interest in mental health started because you focused on how your patient, your sick, your physically sick patients, responded emotionally and in their… Well, not only in their bodies, is that right?

Dr Nokukhanya:
Exactly, exactly. But also, um, I did my internship at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, and anybody in the world knows that’s one of the most gruelling internships you can do, just because of the amount of work you’re inundated with. And also, because of the kind of trauma that you see, not just from, uh, an emergency department kind of, um, you know, place, but also the dynamics, the power plays that you have to deal with, the hours. Um, it’s incredibly understaffed and under-resourced, so we, as junior doctors, were pushed to our limits and we still are. And what I found was that a lot of people were breaking down, burning out, deciding to leave medicine, and going through significant mental health challenges. But I felt that even though it was tough, it was okay for me. I was handling it, you know. I mean, I had my moments every now and then, but I would be able to bounce back and I really wanted to understand what was it about my, my life, um, that could help me build that resilience. And then how could I help my colleagues and my patients, um, build that resilience in themselves as well. 

And what, what answer did you, could, did you come to? 

Dr Nokukhanya: It was really about the stigma around mental health. I really find now that because people feel a lot less shame, a lot less guilt when it comes to having to deal with their mental health issues and their mental health challenges, we find that colleagues are willing to help and ask for help a lot earlier. Um, I find that, you know, I mean, I still find it a bit difficult to say, “I need a mental health day”. And so, I didn’t want to wait until the point where I couldn’t do it anymore to say I need help. It is about teaching our junior doctors, teaching each other, giving each other the allowance to find those small little moments in the day where you realise that I’m not okay, and taking that two or three-minute break, um, taking that five-minute break then, before it has to come to a point where you actually need the whole week, or you need an admission because it’s so dysfunctional to your life. Those are the things that, um, I really try to advocate for in my workplace. Um, and that’s very important it’s to me. 

Ruda: So, Khanya it’s, it’s really name it, face it, say, I, “I am now pushed to the limit”, um, because otherwise you, you, you keep just pretending you keep saying, “I’m okay, I’m okay”. But the, the, the veneer gets thinner and thinner.

Dr Nokukhanya: Exactly. 

Ruda: So, you find that, that today it’s now what, six years, when did you start 2016? Did you start practicing?

Dr Nokukhanya: 2016, correct? Yeah. 

Ruda: And it’s, it has already shifted slightly, in that time, that people are more able and willing to say, “Help”. 

Dr Nokukhanya: Yes. I think it’s amazing to see, even if you look at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group statistics when they spoke about how, um, their, their, their call logs for either people calling into their suicide line or their depression line have just increased, not necessarily because there’s more mental health issues, just that the awareness is there. So, people are realising, “Actually, I need help”. And so, once people know, and they can acknowledge that these are the small things that are contributing to the bigger problem of depression, anxiety, suicidality, then we can find avenues and we can show people that this is where we need to get the help. Resources can get allocated to that, and we can make society and community better. And you’ll find actually that all the money we’ve been putting to, you know, health from a physical point of view can be solved because of the mental health aspect. Substance use goes down, um, self-harm and suicidal attempts go down and people can actually, we can, you know, redirect those resources away from, um, all of the mental health. I mean, all of the physical health towards mental health, um, projects. 

Ruda: Hmm, hmm. But given that interest, um, why babies?

Dr Nokukhanya: Because babies are incredibly resilient, um, there’s something about… And, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s something I can’t explain, you just have to be there when we do anything when it comes to resuscitation. Um, when I did that as an intern, as a junior doctor, um, when we would do them on adults, 90% of our resuscitations would fail because you had so much life experience, your body’s been worn down. Um, you know, you’ve got all these medical conditions. So, by the time I’m resuscitating, you it’s a very bleak prognosis, but with children, because they’re still fresh or because they still have like a, um, uh, plasticity in their bodies, 90% of our resusces actually work. And then I’ve seen babies come in in conditions where we were not sure if they’re gonna make the night to actually walking out. Babies forget, and they forgive very easily. Um, and they’re also just inherently happy, their nature is happiness. And so, because of that, that kind of the same way that I strive to get them to be healthy and happy again, is the same way, you know, psychologically and subconsciously that I strive to get myself to be happy and healthy again and to use the principles that they kind of help me with, um, just to kind of be happier every day. Also, when I was doing my internship and I did paediatrics, I had a great time and I left paediatrics to go to anaesthetics. And then I had to put a drip into a, a person who was almost twice my size and they nearly threw me across the room. And then I was like, “Okay, that’s it’s, nope, I need to go and help babies”, because they, at least I can negotiate with. I can’t negotiate with someone who’s twice my size. 

Ruda: You, you’ll, you’ll go pick on the little ones. 

Dr Nokukhanya: Yes. No, I mean the, the little ones, they are also very feisty, you’ll be surprised. They have a lot of, um, autonomy and they know exactly what they can and can’t, uh, what can, and can’t be done to them. Um, but I think the second big reason that I really love paediatrics, is because of the moms. You don’t treat the patient, you treat their parents at the same time. And so, I find that in the society we have in South Africa, which is, um, quite broad, we have different, um, families. We have moms raising, not just her child, but the community. So, if I empower her to be able to recognise danger signs and just not just her child, but other children, I empower her with information that’s safe of how she can treat that child. I then take away the job of, you know, multiple doctors in a different hospital. She’s able to, you know, help those, those babies in those communities and give safe advice to the people that she’s around. 

Ruda: It’s a wonderful mission to set yourself. Um, tell me about the organisation Mental Matters and how did come about and how did, how did you become involved?

Dr Nokukhanya: Mental Matters is an organisation that was started by, like my best friend, Gugu Masondo. Gugu, um, was living with mental or she is living with mental health, um, with a mental health disorder. And she had just been diagnosed for the second, uh, time with a mental health disorder. She was then, um, discharged from an institution and she had a lot of questions from her family and friends as to, “What’s happening? What’s going on? Are you taking your medications? Are you okay? Will you be able to work?”.And she decided to put together an event, where she would be able to host people who are living with mental health issues, affected by mental health issues, or treat mental health, uh, disorders, so that we could all share experiences. And that’s the [inaudible] that I was pulled into. She asked me to speak about a major depressive disorder or depression, which is more commonly known. Um, and… Just from that day, the feedback we got was incredible. I mean, we only had a small group of people, but from social media and seeing how people responded to that, there was a need for more, um, and her and I got talking and I said, “Can I be a part of this thing? Can we make it formal?”.And we’ve had seminars, we’ve had Instagram lives, we’ve had, um, events where people can come and share their experiences and share their stories and really just find a sense of community, but also a portal for help. 

Ruda: Hmm. And, as you said in the beginning, the stigma thing, um, if you can break down the stigma, you, you can, you can start actually moving the needle. So, how did you, um, start using social media to such an extent? 

Dr Nokukhanya: So, I didn’t realise how impactful my social media presence was, um, because my good mornings, every morning, I would jump onto social media on Instagram. And I would say good morning to everybody. And I think the one weekend, I just didn’t and a friend of mine had sent me a video with, uh, someone she was sitting with and they then said, “Good morning, everybody”. And they said, “Where’s our good morning?”. And then I realised, oh, okay, this is a thing. So, I started saying it more and more, and more people started following me, but the good morning became more because people started realising the, um, I’ve got, you know, all these funny things I do in the day. I would share my journey through what happens when I’m on a call. And it made me realise that people think doctors are a different breed of human being, or they, like, put us on a pedestal. But through my social media account, they could see the daily struggles, um, just during a, a day where I’m up for 24 hours, uh, uh, plus, um, how I feel when I’m going through counselling a family or losing a patient, how I feel trying to write exams while working at the same time, um, how I feel having friendships and missing out on opportunities that I can’t do because I have to work. So, it really, it really was amazing to me to see that people just want to know more about me. Um, but I’m just living my life day to day. And that caught me off guard, but I’m, I’m finding a community in it. I’m getting to share. And even now becoming a new mom, uh, finding how people have such incredible advice to give that I would’ve never met, or I would’ve never known if I had not been on social media. 

Ruda: I watched one of your posts. Um, last year in July, uh, during the second wave, do you remember that? 11 minutes of just Khanya with no makeup? No, nothing. Just sitting there and saying, “Guys, us, as… We, as doctors are driven to the edge”. What made you do that? It’s, it’s a very, you made yourself very vulnerable. Yeah.

Dr Nokukhanya: Um, I think the thing that led me to posting that video was I was seeing a lot of irresponsible behaviour on social media. And that was hurting me because, you know, as a doctor, so many people would jump onto posts or send me direct messages, um, saying how inspirational I, I was, how much of a hero I am, but then they would go and perpetuate the behaviours that would get me into positions of high risk, because, you know, people were, the numbers were going up, people were dying. We didn’t understand what was going on. Um, you know, healthcare workers, we were losing healthcare workers. 

Ruda: Sorry. And what do you mean if you say behaviour that you saw on social media, people hanging about in a, in a packed, um, drinking place, for example, and posting pictures or what? 

Dr Nokukhanya: Yes. So, you know, people always saying be safe, be safe, but then they’re at the same parties, you know, in huge numbers. You know, I remember early on when the lockdown started opening up and people got excited to go back out again. And then that’s when we got the second wave numbers picking up again. Um, it really frustrated me because here I am a medical professional. I miss my family, I miss my friends just as much as you, but because of the risk of me being exposed to someone with COVID every single day if I can’t go to work, I lose the ability to help someone. I lose the ability to save someone’s life. But also, that’s another staff member that’s off the roster and someone has to cover for me. So, it was annoying because people are saying to me, “You’re a hero, we love you, thank you”, but they were perpetuating the same behaviours that are getting me into trouble, you know? So, for me, posting that video was about saying to people, “I understand the frustration. I understand why you are. Um, you don’t, you can’t see what’s happening on our side. And we hope that you never have to. We hope that we never have to find you in a hospital, but please know that we are not okay. And seeing all of this behaviour is breaking our hearts, because we know we can’t stop it, but this is our advocacy”. To say, please understand what’s going on, on the side so that you never have to be in that place where we are. 

Ruda: You also are, you’re very conscious of keeping yourself healthy and fit and, and constantly looking after yourself. Has that always been a focus? Well, you’re saying that you were a
sportsperson at school. 

Dr Nokukhanya: Yes. But the sports, I used to play because I had nothing else to do after school and I hated going home, ‘cause then what am I gonna do is sit and do homework and be bored at home all day. So, um, I really enjoyed playing sports because I enjoyed playing sports, not because of the fitness thing, you know. Um, really being purposeful and making mental and physical and spiritual health a priority, really came to me in varsity. Um, because I started seeing that I was working and burning myself out with studies and I couldn’t get my mind back into the frame of saying, “Okay, I need to give myself a break”, and so, I would use the gym as a break. So, I had a gym up the road and anybody who follows me knows my trainer, Watson. I’ve been training with Watson since 2013. Um, and we’ve known each other for that long and he pushes me, you know, but it’s also, you know, about maintaining my spiritual health as well. And I find that by, by maintaining all of those things, I’m able to check myself. So, when I start feeling my mental health deteriorate, it’s when I don’t wanna go to the gym. It’s when I don’t want to read my Bible. It’s when I don’t feel like doing those things. And then I know, okay, no, I have to check myself before I let this become a rollercoaster ride that leads me into burnout and depression. 

Ruda: Hmm. But if one can recognise it in oneself, uh, that also equips you to help other people, huh? 

Dr Nokukhanya: Definitely. I found that… 

Ruda: It opens your radar to mix a metaphor. 

Dr Nokukhanya:
Yes, it does. Because I find that, you know, when you understand your triggers and when you understand what the steps are that are leading you to a negative, uh, road or a bad road, when other people do it, you then understand that they need help – not to reprimand them or to say that they’re lazy. To say that they are making excuses. You understand why they’re doing it, and then you can help them and get them onto the right path. So, it’s definitely about sharpening the radar and getting, finding the problem a lot sooner. 

Ruda: And on a more personal note, uh, tell me about the first time you met Letlotlo, and what made you think this might be, just be the one? 

Dr Nokukhanya: So, um, Letlotlo, who’s my husband now, um, we’ve known each other for years, I think over five or six years because we went to varsity together and we had, uh, mutual friends. Um, but we always kind of were around each other. We never really hung out together. And, um, I had recently become single and, um, we kind of started talking and one thing led to another and, and we just really had the same values we were aligned in terms of, um, our goals and our vision for the future. And I think the most important thing for me because I was, uh, in, in, uh, slang terms, they say ‘running the streets’, I was tired of running the streets. So, um, I really wanted to settle down. My career was becoming a lot more serious. I was needing to focus on, um, studying and getting out of research and doing a lot of things that involved me staying at home. Um, and so that was important, but the big thing was, um, as a man, sometimes I feel like I intimidate my partner and I can see that by the way that they treat me or they treat my friends and he’s never made me feel that way, not one time. And he’s always allowed me to flourish and to grow. And it’s strange that in a country where there’s so much gender-based violence and there’s so, um, emotional and physical abuse, that here is someone who, you know, really goes above and beyond just the bare minimum. Um, so, that really, it, it blew my mind. And so, we, we just started dating and we’ve been inseparable since. 

Ruda: And if you say you share the same vision for your lives, uh, can you put that, put words to that? What is that vision? 

Dr Nokukhanya: So, the vision, so I, I live by my motto. By the fact that I’m a real girl in a big world, tasked by an awesome God to save little people. And that is basically, like, the synopsis of everything I do. Um, and so, when I look at each individual aspect of it, I’m a real girl. What does that mean? We sit together and we are willing to do the work to make ourselves real, have a real authentic relationship. Um, we have this big world, so we wanna tackle it. What are our visions and our goals in terms of our careers? Um, he’s willing to help me get there. I’m willing to help him get there. Um, we were tasked by an awesome God, you know, so, um, our religion and our spirituality is very, very important to us. So, we pray together. We sit down together, we talk about, um, what are our challenges with our spirituality. And, um, I want to save little people, but what is it that he wants to do? You know, um, from a passion point of view, not just a career and vocation. So, because of all of those things, um, those were the visions and the goals that we shared together. And that was pretty much a conversation we had. We went away together, and we said, we’re gonna make a vision board. And I’ve never done that with a partner before. And he was like, “Okay, let’s do that!” and I was, was like, “This is fantastic!”. Um, and that was, that was the thing that sealed the deal. 

Ruda: Would you recommend that? To other young people getting into a relationship. I mean, [inaudible]

Dr Nokukhanya: Definitely 

Ruda: How does one know?

Dr Nokukhanya: Um, I think, you know, the problem with today’s society is… A couple of things. So, we have women who are driven, they’re focused, they’re highly successful. And so, I saw a tweet the other day that said, “Women nowadays don’t need a man, but we want them around because we want a partner that compliments us”.We don’t need you to have a bank account. We don’t need you to buy a house anymore. And so, you actually have to be a decent human being. You can’t just have money. Um, so we’re challenging men. And I think that’s challenging society to actually raise people who are willing to have conversations with each other. And so, vision board, I find gives you a practical tool and something you can both see and remind each other about every day to say, “What are our core principles? What are our deal breakers?”. Um, then we get it out from the beginning. We, we avoid the “What are we?” conversation? Because if you already, at that point in your con… In your, in your relationship, then you already know, maybe this person is not too serious, and you can manage the the relationship in a different way. Um, you don’t always have to marry every person that you get into a relationship with, but it would be nice to know from day one that you are not sure about marriage, or you’re not sure about marriage with me, you know? Um, I think it’s very important for us to have those conversations. Um, and it will clear up a lot of, um, miscommunication and also save us a lot of time because I spent years in relationships that I could have just known the answer to in the first month, you know.

Ruda: And now recently you’ve, uh, acquired a third member of the family. 

Dr Nokukhanya: Yes. 

Ruda: Can you remember the moment you first, the first time you held her? 

Dr Nokukhanya:
Oh, it was a mess. I was in tears. So, I always thought that I would be very composed, and I would be strong, and I would be, you know, the epitome of like, beauty. It was the opposite. Um, it was tears, it was emotional, but it was the most, it was the most, um, the most proud I’ve felt, not just of myself and grateful to God and Letlotlo for getting me to that point, but also just in awe of the power of this small person, you know. She’s grown from a seed into this human. And here she comes out through the stressful process on the other side – healthy, crying. Um, it was incredible to watch. And then to… ‘cause we could never see her face on the scans, actually didn’t see her face and be like, “Here you are”. Um, I’m getting a little bit emotional thinking about it now, but it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever, ever, ever experienced in my life. 

Ruda: And you know, what struck me when you were telling this story about your, your childhood year, years? So many South African children do not have a relationship with their father, and you had that. What did that, what did that mean for you? What do you want to say to your fears? Um, who… I, I was in an Uber the other day and I asked the the guy, um, “So, where did you grow up?”Blah, blah. And uh, he said, “No, my father was a hit and run.” 

Dr Nokukhanya: Oh goodness. 

Ruda: So, what is your message to South African men and South African fathers? 

Dr Nokukhanya: Um, it’s very interesting because my mom and my dad, um, we’re kind of similar, but they were very different, and my mom was very nurturing and very positive. She’s the morning person, that’s where I get it from, but my dad was the calm. And so, I needed both and I understand why I needed both and I don’t know the person I would be if I didn’t have my dad around and anyone who knows me knows I’m a daddy’s girl. Um, but I say to my peers that having that relationship with your father is incredibly important because you have somebody who you can turn to when you need comfort. Um, yes, moms can hold you and cuddle you, but just knowing my dad was always, there was incredible because he would just melt. He would become a different person.  He’s very strict and he’s very stern, but it was such a nice thing to know that I need my dad right now. I want my dad to protect me. Um, these people are fighting with me. Can I just go to my dad and he’ll sort it out? Um, it also provides you with, um, a lot of play. So, my dad and I used to mess around a lot, um, that, that I think, especially when you have single moms, they aren’t able to open themselves up and they aren’t able to play with their kids as much as they do because they’re so stressed. And they’re so worried about all the things they have to do. So, when you have both parents…

Ruda: [Inaudible]

Dr Nokukhanya:  It is, it really is. And even now with me going through just a pregnancy journey, I see why having a bad day is so important. And I see Letlotlo with Liepollo, it’s beautiful to see how he plays with her and how he becomes so soft. So, I would say to my peers, as a man, who’s going to be involved in your child’s life. You are giving them the best gift because they’re able to have both the nurture and the nature, but they’re also able to have, um, just a, a best friend, somebody who’s gonna always have their backs and someone who’s going to protect them at all costs. That was, like, my dad, um, everyone who knows me, knows it. Like, I’m a daddy’s girl. Like, you can’t tell me anything about my dad. 

Ruda: It’s it is such a gift. It really is such a gift.  And, tell me about the physical space that you want to create for your new family. What, what makes you choose it? What attracts you to a space? What did you do to it, to turn it into a home? 

Dr Nokukhanya: So, um, we just moved into our home a couple of months ago. And so, the one thing I really enjoy about, um, and it’s because of the way I was raised, was people were always at our house. So, we never went out and we never went to restaurants. People were always in the house, buying, swimming, cooking, Sunday lunch, something, there was always something happening at home. And I wanted to create that kind of environment where people could feel safe to come over here. Um, so that was the one thing, a nice yard, big entertainment area, big kitchen so that we can cook and have everybody in the home. But also, even when people are not here, the rooms themselves I wanted to be big enough so that, you know, the whole family could sit in one room, whether it’s the bedroom, the other bedroom, the lounge, et cetera. Um, that’s the feeling of just closeness to know that you don’t have to go out, we don’t have to spend money, we can just be together. Um, those are the important things for me. And that’s what makes me choose a home or choose a space. 

Ruda: And you still have two more months of, of, um, uh, I’m thinking in Afrikaans…

Dr Nokukhanya: Maternity leave. 

Ruda: Maternity leave.

Ruda: Um, and then how do you see your professional and motherly life coming together? 

Dr Nokukhanya: Um, one thing I, I will say is Liepollo going to make me a better doctor, um, because just seeing how she has changed and trusting my instinct a lot makes me understand why I’ll need to listen to mothers a lot more. Um, I think I was doing it before, but now that I am a mom, I realise that I actually wasn’t doing it enough. Um, so it’s going to make me be a lot more aware of what they’re saying and their input. Um, I think that’s, I’m incredibly terrified because the calls are gonna be so exhausting and so long. Um, but I’m grateful for one, the fact that she’s still young, so she’s not really gonna be angry at me if I can’t be there. Um, in her, mind’s gonna be like, oh, mommy’s at work. She’s gonna get used to that. But she still knows that I’m going to be there. 

Dr Nokukhanya: Um, I’m going to have a lot of mom guilt already. Now I can feel it because even when I have to leave her to go to like the gym or something, I’m just like, “I don’t wanna go”, how am I gonna do a 24-plus-hour call? With that? Um, but I’m grateful I have a lot of help. So, hubby works from home. Um, my mom lives 10 minutes away. We have someone who comes in, um, and stays with us to help, um, take care of her. So, I think for new moms, it’s just about accepting the help and especially new moms going back to work is, lean into that help because, um, I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle that going back on my own. 

Ruda: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I can only say enjoy every moment. I still remember… My son is now 34. He’s older than you, but I still remember that first time holding him and the, the, I always say your insides melt and they never, they never become normal again. You, you’re just different. 

Dr Nokukhanya: Definitely. You’re never the same person. You are never gonna be, not a mom. Um, so it’s, it’s really, it’s really interesting because it’s weird that this person is mine for like ever, they, everyone knows she’s mine, which is an amazing cause you know, Letlotlo is not mine at some point and now he is mine. And so no, but with her she’s mine. That’s how it’s, it’s incredible. 

Ruda: Enjoy every moment. And um, I really hope that it works out that you use your network as, as wisely as you, as you are planning to. So, that you can keep your own sanity going, for the sake of your daughter. 

Dr Nokukhanya:
Thank you so much. I, I intend to. 

Ruda: Yeah. 

Dr Nokukhanya: Yes! No, I intend. Everyone asked me to give them a, my mom and my sister were like, “We want a baby”. I was like, “Yes”, the baby, babysitting is going to be mandatory. So, I will definitely use those services. 

Ruda: All of the very best and thank you for making time. 

Dr Nokukhanya: Thank you. And such an honour to speak to you. I’ve loved watching you for years and years and years. So, I’m incredibly honoured that you would speak to me and just give me the time of your day. 

Ruda: Thank you very much. And to all of you out there, thank you for watching, for listening. All of the very best. Enjoy life, until the next time.

Ruda Landman

Ruda Landman

Ruda Landman is known to many South Africans as one of the original co-anchors of Carte Blanche on M-Net, a role she fulfilled for 19 years and for which the University of Stellenbosch awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2011.

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