Noma Gigaba admits that she “definitely has no balance” when it comes to juggling work, her studies, travelling and planning her family’s lives. Gigaba, who is married to Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, with whom she has two sons, Nkanyezi (6) and Mvelo (4), says she does her best to make her family her priority, but this requires daily trade-offs.
Although she has help – “many people” who assist her with raising her sons – sometimes it is difficult to get it all done. But she does it out of love for her family, and also for reasons of “self-fulfilment and self-growth”.
The Waltzer study on women’s mental load and recent coverage of the phenomenon resonates with Gigaba, who says it is the “invisible load we carry as women”.
“But to carry it alone – it’s unacceptable and unhealthy. I don’t think it’s fair for one person to do everything,” she says.
Gigaba says women often have to think “two or three steps in advance about our family’s needs”.
She is reluctant to complain too much about it, though, adding that her husband has a demanding job as finance minister, which means that he travels a lot and, in between, he has to make time for his family.
But she insists that, when he is around, he does help with the children.
It is important for him to speak to his children twice a day wherever he is – once before they leave for school in the morning and again to wish them goodnight before they go to bed.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that the kids don’t connect with him while he travels,” she says, adding that when their father is at home, they take turns to drop the children at school and help them with their homework.
“So I do what I can. I get help when I need it and when he’s around, he takes over,” she says.
Her take on men who don’t share the responsibilities of parenting and household chores is that we live in a time where we have to work together as partners.
However, she acknowledges that many men still need to get used to the idea that they also need to assume some responsibility for what needs to be done.
“Sometimes you might need to clarify what you need your husband to help out with. Husbands must participate; get the kids involved too,” she says. “There are suitable chores for kids that can teach them responsibility from a young age.”