Meet Mathahle Stofile

Tell us about the day your son was born. 

I had what my doctor kept calling “the perfect pregnancy”. When one of my close girlfriends said to me “honestly, what does it feel like?” meaning being pregnant, I surprised myself with this response: “Like the opposite of loneliness. Even when I’m having a really shitty day, it feels less shitty than it really is.” I was surprised because I’d never said any of this out loud before but it was exactly how I felt.

My son was an active kicker in my belly. It usually felt like he was stomping with one leg under water – that’s the closest I can come to describing the actual sensation. So I was surprised to learn on that last month that he was still sitting in a breech position, barely moving and had become too big to flip himself in the upside down position that’s crucial in natural birth. He never turned, which meant a c-section for me. On the day of his birth, I was excited and more than ready to just get to the hospital so I could meet my child. I remember sitting on a hospital bed while the nurses prepared me for the operation when suddenly, out of the blue, panic struck. I’m talking pure fear mixed with adrenalin and I suppose the drugs kicking in. I was genuinely frightened and I wasn’t sure of what, exactly. By the time I was wheeled into the freezing theatre, I was looking up at my kid’s father with a quivering lip and tears in my eyes desperately whispering to him “I’m not ready. Please tell them I’m not ready. Maybe we can wait a while…?” Yep. I was freaking out. While pregnant, I never found out the sex of my baby. I didn’t want to know until I met him – that’s just who I am. So during those first few seconds of his life, when the doctor held him and I heard that piercing wail, I was still waiting for someone to tell me whether it was a girl or boy. With Jamiroquai playing in the background (yes, the team of doctors were chatting about cricket and listening to Jamiroquai while they operated on me. It put me at ease, actually.) I couldn’t make out what they were saying behind the masks covering their mouths. Finally, he was handed over to me and our eyes locked. I immediately felt very vulnerable and fiercely protective over him. As I held him, the feeling felt strangely familiar but not. I don’t know how else to
describe it. For about 3 days straight, I swear I didn’t look at anything else. I didn’t know I could look at one thing for that long and not get bored, ever. I was just staring at my son. Adoring. He has a big personality, our son Zim. He reminds me a lot of my late brother, Sikhulule, who was a great charmer, a shit stirrer with a quick sense of humour. Every morning after Zim wakes up, he comes into our bed for a snuggle. He’s happiest in the morning when he wakes up - definitely a morning person, which he must take after his dad because I’m anything but.

His personality ... 

He’s a friendly kid, hugely expressive and affectionate. He loves people (he’ll let any friendly looking person pick him up and give him a squeeze) and he adores being outdoors - it always calms him down, even as a baby. He’s also a bright child with a sharp memory and a tender heart. He’s quick to cry but
he’s also quick to laugh. Zim’s rather athletic especially for a toddler. Ever since he could sit, we
would joke about his perfect posture. When he started walking we noticed he’s actually built like a little rugby player! Which is hilarious. He’s mostly independent and is quite happy to be left amongst things with wheels (be it cars, trains, bikes), balls and anything colourful. He likes to watch me cook. His favourite thing is to have me pick him up so he can stir one of the pots on the stove with a wooden spoon. I love cooking for people I love. I hope Zim one day develops a love for it too so he can cook for me.

His name ...

His full name is Zimele Mokgatla Mpye. His father named him. Because I didn’t find out the sex (his father did, and he was brilliant at keeping it a secret from me) we had a long list of unisex names we liked. On the day he was born, his father suddenly said to me as we were getting dressed for the
hospital “How about ‘Zimele’?” I told him to add it to the list and we’ll decide when we meet the baby. The name means “stand up for yourself.” It’s an ambiguous word in isiXhosa, actually (is it still ambiguous if it has more than two meanings?). It’s always interesting to see which literal meaning of the name people take it to mean: “stand alone”; “one who’s hiding”; “stand up for yourself.” Our context was “stand up for yourself”, obviously. He arrived at a time when so many South Africans, seemed to believe to have no power of their own, they were looking to external factors to solve their problems, to stand up for them and speak out for them. When this didn’t happen, people felt betrayed, a betrayal that was turning into anger very quickly. We felt it was fitting to teach our son about the importance of not depending on others to stand up for his rights, he needs to do it himself and do it always. Mokgatla is his middle name. Like my first name, he is named after his clan.

What is your work life balance? 

I gave up on that work/balance thing, it doesn’t exist in my world. So now I am striving for work/life integration. I think that’s more me. Besides, I don’t want to have to be those people who live for Fridays just so I can live my life. I am a beauty editor for a glossy international title. I’ve always been obsessed with grooming. Yes, amongst my favourite things in the world are perfume and great skincare. My job is great because I get to do a lot of things that I love like reading, writing, styling, travel, meeting and interviewing some very interesting people around the world, dressing up, playing with beauty goodies but most importantly, I get to share information with other women. I am however at a point where I would like to own my time and put a little more value and meaning to what I do so that’s what I’m currently working towards. I want my career to be a part of my life, not something I do from Monday to Friday before I get to live my life on Saturday and Sunday. Time is very important to me especially as my son gets older. I want to choose what I do with my time. Currently, I don’t have that luxury to the extent I’d like it. But I will.

Adjusting to motherhood has been … 

It has taught me a lot about myself. I didn’t realise I was this sensitive, firstly. It can be a rather lonely job this motherhood thing, especially if your girlfriends are at completely different stages of their lives. It’s easy to feel isolated, in a way. Secondly, I cry a lot easier. I take world problems a little more personally. I keep having to check myself on that. I’ve become cheesier too, just in general. Thirdly, I admire my body a lot more than I ever have. I just find that a lot has been put into perspective for me. My son has shown me so much about myself and I’ll forever be grateful to him for that.

Whats been the most surprising aspect of motherhood? 

This is going to sound weird but the most difficult thing for me (which has also turned out to be one of the most surprising) is the repetition of everything. Nobody tells you how you have to do/say things over and over and over again. It’s nuts. I’m an Arian, the typical kind. I can’t stand routine and
repetition. I thrive on the unexpected. I’m spontaneous by nature. Well, all that goes out the window when you’re a mom. You plan EVERYTHING. You repeat absolutely everything. That’s been the biggest shocker for me. Another surprise was how I can look at this one person and immediately my day gets better. To know deep down in me that he can do absolutely anything in this world and I will still love him this deeply. Oh, and the fact that it turns out I don’t need that much sleep after all!

How would you describe your home? 
Our home is very inviting. The first time I stepped into it (when we came to view it) I immediately got that same comforting feeling I used to get when I come home from the playground as a child. It just felt “right”. That aura hasn’t gone because every time we have friends over, they mention it, “I love your
house.” With a sense of wonder, because I suppose our house is hardly spectacular. It feels like a home and I think you sense a lot of love as soon as you walk in. It’s a small Victorian place with wooden floors and high pressed ceilings. We have a little garden in the back with a lemon tree, a veggie patch and a huge mulberry tree that drives us nuts when they are in season. We live in Orange Grove, a neighbourhood in Joburg that stole our hearts over 7 years ago. We feel we’ve outgrown the house though – a bigger version of the same house in the same hood would be excellent.

What is your parenting philosophy? 
Listen to your gut.

What do you want most for your son? 
I would love for him to travel and learn as many languages as possible. I wish for him to find something to do with his life that will be meaningful to him. Something that will bring him happiness and pride. I hope he falls in love at least once. Oh! And I also hope he sleeps well at night throughout his life.
I can’t imagine anything worse than being those people who can’t sleep at night, for whatever reason. It sounds torturous to me.

Parenting advice.
There’s no such thing as a perfect mother. Children want happy parents. Take care of yourself and do what makes you happy so that you are a fit and happy mother to present to your child. Oh and I gave this piece of advice to myself when I was pregnant: The kid doesn’t have a world yet. He’s coming into yours. Don’t start living in his world, introduce him to yours. In other words, don’t be those moms who lose themselves in their kids.


  1. Great read. I just adore Mat - she's one of the kindest, nicest and stylish women I know. As for little Zimele, what a cutie!

  2. Nice article. I've known Mathahle since we were kids and I'm so proud of her. Listening to her talking about motherhood is just beautiful and I pray that she'll grow more wiser and wiser and her son will one day transition to manhood.

  3. Oooh im so broody now,loved this piece

  4. Christmas has come and New Year is coming. One of the things I will do next year is to follow your new posts. It's because they provide what I need. Your articles are informative and great. Stay healthy and write more posts. Thanks
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