Greteli de Swardt is a South African actress, photographer, and artist, known for her roles in the kykNET series Alles Malan and the Netflix series Blood & Water. Here she talks about her journey as a new mother.
You kick-started your career at a young age and have established yourself as a household name. Are you surprised at your success?
Definitely surprised, but thankful for the opportunities that came my way at a young age. When I was 17 years old, I got an opportunity to play in an Afrikaans series and I realised this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I started working really hard to get into the industry.
The impact that Blood & Water (on Netflix) had on my career was incredible, not only from an acting perspective, but it also opened doors to grow my social media presence.
For now, I am taking a bit of a break to be a mother. I can’t really work on set because it of the really intense hours – usually 12 hours a day and six days a week, and my baby is very young. I want to be here with her and watch her grow. For now, I am doing a lot of social media work.
Tell us a bit about the work you do on social media.
I didn’t realise how much people like and appreciate real stuff on Instagram. During my pregnancy I started sharing some very real and unfiltered moments, mostly quite funny moments. The amount of people that could relate was incredible.
I think since I became pregnant my audience doubled on Instagram! It started because of all the raw moments I began to share. It was so beautiful for me to see how people appreciate the honest moments. I hope to continue sharing the true journey of motherhood, including the beautiful and challenging parts to help encourage parents and young mothers.
In terms of working with brands on social media, I would never ever promote something I don’t believe in. I absolutely hate it when influencers make you believe in a product that does not work or make you spend money or something that is actually a lie.
When it comes to skincare products, I always ask for the product to test it out myself before collaborating with the brand. I first chat to the people behind the brand and hear what their values are and what they would like to achieve from it, and I love to add value to a brand.
I would advise aspirant influencers to be as real as possible. That is what attracts people the most and if you keep on being real, people will start believing you and the product you are promoting.
According to your bio, you are described as “a risk-taking young woman who married at the age of 21 and recently gave birth to her firstborn.” Tell us a bit more about this.
I never thought I’d marry this young… never mind having a child this young. I always thought I’d live my life, do my thing and then settle down and commit. It is so sad I had that mindset, which a lot of people have, that the moment you marry or have children your life is over, and you can’t live for yourself anymore, or do stuff for yourself. This is such a lie. I feel like my life is only beginning now. I am embracing it every single day.
Things that I thought were important in my teenage years are just nothing compared to what I have now. I would do it over and over again – marriage is a beautiful thing. It is hard, but so beautiful.
I definitely think there are pros and cons of being a young mother. The pro side is that it is physically easier on your body.
I can’t always relate to people my age who are studying and vice versa as we are in different phases of life. I think it is quite hard to make friends as young mother because you feel like you don’t fit in anywhere; your friends don’t understand the life and task of motherhood and I don’t understand my friend’s study lives. I don’t feel like I lack anything as I have my husband, my baby and my small circle of friends who are all amazing…but it could be a down side for a lot of people.
How do you manage to balance being a wife and mother with the demands of a thriving career?
It is hard work, but doable if you have an amazing husband like mine. The acting industry is quite a wild one as it is uncertain, and you don’t know when you are going to work again.
For example, you will have a job for three to four months and then it can be quiet for nine months or even a year without being booked for anything.
I am lucky to be married to another freelancer, so we kind of wiggle and giggle around each other. I have seasons where I work, and then my husband has seasons when he works. When he works I am a full-time mother and housewife. When I am working, he takes over all the household tasks and tries to run the family. My husband does a lot to help me stay balanced.
Tell us a bit about your journey of pregnancy.
My pregnancy was such a beautiful journey. It was relatively easy, and I was not really nauseous, nor did I have too many bad symptoms. We chose to not know the baby’s sex while I was pregnant, so it was extra exciting when she was born.
What is the highlight of motherhood for you?
I can’t pin it down. There are just too many – I feel like everything is a highlight. Even the sleepless nights are a highlight because you know it is only for a short period of time. It is a love that I never knew existed and discovering that love is really such a big highlight for me.
What do you find challenging about motherhood?
I think everything goes by at such a fast pace. You think you have one thing figured out and then the next phase comes. At the moment it is getting your baby to grow physically and making sure you give your baby the right nutrition to help them grow well.
What has been the biggest change for you since becoming a mother?
There are so many changes. The first thing I realised was I never knew my heart could love this much. Loving your husband is a different type of love. Your friends and family share a different type of love, but loving a baby and the innocence of a child makes it so incredible. I wasn’t fond of children that much but loving your own is life changing.
What are your key values that were passed onto you that you want to pass on to your daughter?
I think in today’s world it is so hard to raise a child in terms of morals and values. I am scared to allow my baby to step into this world without being by her side at all times and being there to help her make good decisions. I think the parenting and teaching part will have to kick in sooner rather than later.
I am so grateful that I come from a home where my parents raised me intentionally in terms of moral and values. I would love to pass on everything I have learned from them, especially my faith. We are lovers of God, and I would love to teach our daughter that faith is an important part of life.
What would you say is key to a successful marriage?
I don’t think there is a one key or tip that would make a marriage successful. What helps us is to always check in on each other and to make sure on what page the other one is on.
Whenever my husband comes home or vice versa, I usually ask him, or we would ask each other “on what level are you? Are you a 5/10 or a 2/10?” If he says he is a 2/10 and I am a 6/10 then I know I must take the lead that night. I run the house and sort out the food. I help wherever I can to make his life easier. I don’t believe marriage is 50/50. I believe the one helps the other one up to a 10. This method works for us.
What does the future hold for the de Swart family?
I have absolutely no idea! Our life is changing so fast, but we are taking it day by day and always grab opportunities when they appear. We would love to start exploring and go overseas quite early with our baby girl and show her the world and work hard as a family.
Juan de Swart, Greteli’s husband chats about the male perspective
What was the most exciting part of pregnancy from a male perspective?
During the pregnancy it was an incredible journey with my wife. I was a bit scared in the beginning because I grew up in a house full of men, went to a boys school, lived in a boys residence, and worked in an environment dominated by men, so I knew nothing about pregnancy.
There are so many opportunities for a husband to be there for his pregnant wife, like when she gets uncomfortable or emotional, especially with hormones being all over the place. You have that moment to calm her down and help her out.
Pregnancy brought us close, and it did our marriage a lot of good because it is a team exercise and I really enjoyed being part of it.
I gained a lot of respect for my wife, seeing what her body went through. She is very insecure about the way her body changed, but I liked the changes and if it wasn’t for these changes, we wouldn’t have this beautiful daughter.
Since the birth of your daughter, do you think you have changed as an individual and husband?
Yes, of course! To sum it up in a way most people would understand: Academics took away a lot of my passion and drive for life and it felt like everything that academics stole out of my life, the baby gave back to me. I feel I am unstoppable, and I wake up in the morning with drive for my family and I can’t help to be inspired and man-up for the role.
What is the most exciting part of being a father?
We play for probably a total of two hours a day, not because it is prescribed but just because I want to. In a nutshell, seeing her smiles and joy when I play with her makes me feel like a fun dad and I love that part.
Snap shot with Greteli de Swardt
Favourite movie: JoJo Rabbit
Favourite series: Grey’s Anatomy
Favourite food: pizza
Favourite place: Tergniet
Guilty pleasure: Ricoffy