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That Mama: Jacqui Liebenberg

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Ever thought about home-schooling mamas? Well that’s exactly what this mama has done with her 4 daughters since 2009 – as well as  raising a family of creatures including a golden retriever, persian cat, hamsters, budgie, finches and tortoises.
This is Jacquis amazingly inspiring story…

What a privilege it is to share a bit about me with you! We as women sure have our plates full and seem to be expected to be masters at multi-tasking, but we need a little help from our friends.

As a little girl my biggest dream and wish was to get married and have children, it was something I role played many times. I had no desire to follow any career – only to be a mother. Approaching 40 this year I find myself married to my best friend with 4 beautiful daughters, whom I home school.


Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?

My husband and I are both South Africans. We left South Africa in 2002 for Angola with our first daughter, Gabi, who was 6 months old. What an adventure – good times, hard times but times that brought us closer as a couple. Our second daughter, Amber, was born in South Africa while we lived in Angola – I flew out at 32 weeks with my then 2 year old, had a caesarean at 38 weeks and flew back when she was 6 weeks old. After 4 years in Angola, helping hand rear a baby chimpanzee in our home along with many other adventures, we came to settle in Dubai.

It’s not all rosy red, we do have our tough days – a ratty mother or other outside influences which may affect us, but we do have the flexibility to then catch up.

What a shock to the system! It took me a good 6 months to feel at home here. We arrived in June 2006 with our 2 daughters. I started a business here importing sunscreen from South Africa and spent my time settling into the groove of Dubai. Our third daughter, Farrah, was born in October 2007 and Amy in December 2010. After a difficult few months with her, resulting in her having surgery at 3 months and still homeschooling, I decided to sell the business. So as it stands now I am a full time wife and mother – which is my career!

We decided to start homeschooling at the end of 2009 for 6 months as we wanted to move the girls from IB across to the British system. The 6 months has very quickly turned into 5.5 years. It’s given us flexibility, a varied curriculum, a calmer environment and so many other aspects which work well for our family.

To add to our home, we have a small zoo which seems to keep multiplying! We have a beautiful golden retriever, a rescue Persian cat, 1 of 8 hamsters left, a budgie, 2 finches left from various clutches and 2 big rescue tortoises who have just had babies hatch after all the research done stating that they very rarely breed in captivity.

My 2 older daughters love birds – they’ve rescued birds and hand raised chicks from 2 days old successfully. I love having activity around me – animals, kids – our dream for many years has been to live on a farm. We’ll see what happens, for now we just keep on dreaming.


Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?

Before babies I worked in the hotel and restaurant industry for years and au paired, which I loved! I feel very blessed that when Gabi was born I was able to stay at home. It was a big adjustment being at home with very little adult interaction, which I thrived on, but at the same time loved playing mama. I dressed her a few times a day, cuddled her probably too much – she was my real live doll. The only problem was that along with it came sleep deprivation, an extra 18 kilos and limited diet due to breast feeding. I didn’t factor that in when I was 10.


How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?

Balancing home schooling and motherhood can be tricky. I’m a box ticker and very organized so with school being part of our home I can very easily carry on until all the boxes are ticked which can be counter-productive.

We start school at 8 am and usually finish between 2 and 3pm with my older daughters.

The younger 2 are generally done by 1pm. Much of our school work is reading and being together so it does cross over into the mothering role.

I save time by planning, making lists, and rosters. My biggest burdens are meals and grocery shopping. I don’t like shopping or malls so I’ve resorted to doing as much online as possible. I do a weekly meal plan. I do my grocery shop on a Saturday while my daughter dances and my fruit and veg order arrives on a Monday afternoon which my nanny then washes and packs into containers in the fridge ready to use. A few quick stops at the shop during the week to top up. I cook on average once a week where I’ll make a few different dishes and freeze. Most of our dinners consist of a variety of salads.

The girls help with dinner and keeping up with making our nut milks and baking healthy snacks. We enjoy eating healthy fresh food and I like to have treats for the girls but home baked and good, this all takes work – organization and time. The girls all have duties, mainly taking care of the animals which in turn saves me time. Another time saver is our cleaning regime. I’ve replaced all detergents with ENJO cloths, simple, quick and easy to use, this then allows Georgina to help me with the kids and keep on top of other things. A stress and time saver for me for the little ones, is keeping a permanent basket packed with snacks and activities for them to do when we go out – it’s a matter of grabbing the basket and going! So I LOVE my basket!


Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Dubai?

For working Mamas I believe it’s very important keeping a balance between work, husband, children and your own down time. When this is balanced you’ll feel on top of things.


Favourite activity with your kids in Dubai?

One of our favourite activities in Dubai with our children is the beach and camping.

0F7A7286Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Dubai?

Our favourite at the moment is Cheesecake Factory in MOE, however we don’t do this often. We love our home and chilling out at home.

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Favourite family-friendly holiday spot?

We’ve done so many and most have been fantastic. Our top being back home to South Africa, Palawan, Philippines volunteering in an orphanage, Jungle trekking in Borneo, Maldives – a winner, Thailand, and camping in Oman. Probably our most memorable was our 8 day camping trip through Oman.


Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?

My bubbly hubby – well, keeping him bubbly also requires organisation and work. One thing my husband craves is time with me, so I organise the evenings so that the 2 little ones are in bed by no later than 7.15pm and my older 2 girls are in their rooms at 8:30 lights off at 9pm which gives us time alone every evening. Sometimes it’s working side by side, reading or TV. Again, this is a goal which we strive for but don’t always accomplish! We try and do a date night once a week which ends up being about every 10 days. We take little breaks away on our own. Sometimes just camping alone in the mountains. Then one of my favourites which really keeps the spark going which I probably shouldn’t share is racing him in the car… when we are out in separate cars for whatever reason we both get a kick out of racing each other home… I know, it’s crazy! Marriage is hard work and through the ups and downs of life your marriage takes a knock so in turn it takes hard work and different seasons which you go through. After all he is my best friend and I choose to invest in him and honor the vows I took 15 years ago.


Favourite date-night restaurants?

As far as date restaurants go, we’re quite boring. Being so busy and keeping up with life we prefer easy and close so 90% of the time we end up across the road at Cucina.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?

The best piece of advice I’ve received as a parent is very cliché but has become part of my heart. That is “to slow down and enjoy these precious ones”. It’s something that I remember every day and try and implement and wow does it take work. The days zoom by and I really have to work hard to slow down and enjoy them.


Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.

The early days – what got me through those early baby days was getting up every morning and showering – it made me feel good and clean and fresh! Even if baby was in a rocker on the bathroom floor while toddler was in the shower with me. Second was to grab sleep like it were oxygen – back into bed at 9am if that allowed, showered and all. Sleep on the floor while baby sleeps and toddler watches a TV programme in the same room with the door locked to keep them safe. And then of course a little bit of sun, even if it’s only through a window. The vitamin D is like a tonic. These simple steps really helped me.


As a mama I wish I were better at…

As a Mum of 4, I wish I was better at getting on the floor and playing with my girls. I find this very hard! I’ll read to them, play cards, and do the basics, but when it comes to imaginary play or puzzles and just getting down and playing, I battle.


My most humbling mama moment was…

I’ve had a few humbling moments but the most was in Ikea with my third born. She was about 14 months old, just walking and I had the older girls with me. We were in the bedding section, I was browsing and was alerted by my older girls that Farrah had just stepped out of her nappy! I walked over and there she was… a nice big no. 2 nappy on the floor with all the remaining waste dripping from her down the aisle. I picked her up and rushed her to the bathroom with the remains leaving a trail behind us. Once in the bathroom, I also realised her clothes were covered too. So off we went to Hyper Panda bought clothes back to the bathroom to change. I was amazed at the horrified glances that were cast – I must have been the first Mama to have a child drop her no2 nappy – AMAZING!!!


One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…

Healthy eating and disciplining my children. I believe we’ve been given these children to raise up to be healthy, grounded adults who can lead this world and much of it is up to us to guide and train them. For my children to be the best they can I believe they need to be eating correctly and then the rest can follow.


I wake up in the middle of the night thinking…

What more I can be doing for my children, new ideas for teaching them, creative activities. I am a very active person, physically and mentally! My mind really comes alive at night and I’m often woken up with new ideas etc. Sometimes it’s not about my children – it could be about a friend or something I need to do. If I can drag my hand to the pen and paper, I’ll make a note of it.


Even when my children have families of their own, I’ll still…

Be their mama! I hope I will be able to distance myself and let them be. I’m not there yet but often think about when they are grown-up and leave the nest. I’ll need to let go. The one thing I’m super excited about is for hubby and I to have time together again with just the 2 of us!


My favourite moment of the day is…

Probably dinner time. My husband is home so we have dinner together. The kids are bathed and calm and we all winding down from a busy day. Again a goal. Sometimes we all ignore each other at the dinner table – kids fighting, husband and I fighting but hey that’s life and I love it!


I always feel saner after…

A good dose of sun! It refreshes me, rejuvenates me better than any spa treatment can. A few hours at the pool or on the beach does it for me.


I wish I had more time for…

Exercise and doing projects around my house. I love painting and doing little jobs around the house. At the moment I’m repainting all my wood furniture which I thoroughly enjoy!


Bedtime is always smoother when…

I’m organised. When the kids are in their routine of tidying up, bathtime, dinnertime, story time and prayer time with Dad, they go down calm and well. This certainly is not always the case but it’s our goal!


These beautiful photos were shot by the very talented Stephanie Hamilton of Nektar Photography.

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