Managing Motherhood In The Open Water World

Managing Motherhood In The Open Water World

What Carina Bruwer does is, in a few words, maternally inspirational and athletically amazing.

She has completed marathon swims across False Bay in South Africa, the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain to Morocco, Swim Around Key West in Florida (USA), International Swimming Marathon of Toroneos Gulf (Greece), English Channel in 12 hours 3 minutes, Around Robben Island, around Bizerte (Tunisia), around Danger Point and Gansbaai (South Africa), around Cape Agulhas (South Africa) and Cape Point (South Africa), from Robben Island to Bloubergstrand (South Africa).

She discusses how she combines everything she does – forge a successful entertainment career in an extremely competitive field with motherhood and extreme endurance sports – at such a high level.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How do you combine an entertainment career with motherhood and high-level athletics?
Bruwer: I’d like to describe it as an “organic juggle”! Yes, I do a lot of different things (all pretty high intensity!) but my love for – and absolute enjoyment of – all that I do completely outweighs the occasional feeling of being overwhelmed.

I need to constantly challenge myself and through my varied activities. I also own a small business that operates in the South African entertainment industry. I’m certainly never bored. Prioritizing is essential, and fortunately it has always been clear to me what my “priorities within my priorities” should be: my kids must come first. They need to be happy, fulfilled and looked after, and although I have to do a lot of delegating when it comes to their care, I refuse to be an absent mother and try to spend as much extra time with them as possible. Another essential is to have the right support team around you, and I’m very fortunate to have wonderful people in my life and business, as well as my music and swimming careers. I don’t have much free time but I don’t feel I’m missing out; I’m highly stimulated and constantly excited by new possibilities.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What kind of weekly schedule do you keep in order to balance all your responsibilities and interests?
Bruwer: Because my schedule as a musician is very unpredictable, there’s really no such thing as a weekly schedule. I have to take every day as it comes to a certain degree, which ironically means that my routine needs to be extra tight, albeit flexible. Certain essential items need to be fitted into each day. When I’m performing in or out of town, some of these items need to be delegated and/or moved around in order for the machine to keep working.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Would you like your children to follow in your footsteps?
Bruwer: I think in these times it is very important to be self-sufficient. In that sense, yes, I would like for them to be able to decide what it is they want and take control to make that happen. I don’t necessarily want for them to be musicians or athletes; but I would love for them to be able to integrate whatever it is that enriches them as individuals, into their daily lives in a similar way I do, as it certainly has been my secret for happiness. But I do understand and feel strongly about the fact that every person is unique and that your kids may be nothing like you. I believe that personality dictates to a large degree how an individual needs to approach life in order to be fulfilled. So I guess I just want them to be true to themselves and be OK.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Does motherhood or swimming influence your music in any way?
Bruwer: My swimming and music is definitely inter-connected. I think motherhood has made me a more sensitive musician. While in the water, I seem to have become much more patient and a bit less competitive since having become a mother. On a physical level, the swimming has definitely helped my lung capacity and I am known to have some of the best lungs in the business.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Does your music or motherhood influence your swimming in any way?
Bruwer: Definitely. This Cape Point swim was very interesting as it was my first open water swim in 6 years. I didn’t know how my body and mind would react to the challenge of swimming in very icy and shark-infected waters. It took a long mental journey to get to the point where I was really amped to be back in that water. When the day finally arrived, I was very calm. I approached the challenge with a very different attitude than before. In the past I would get really angry when conditions became unfavorable or when things went wrong. Although I would always fight until the end, it would usually be with a resistant attitude. This time round, I felt much more in control even though I was swimming in temperatures far below my perceived minimum. I had said that I would swim in nothing under 16ºC (60.8ºF) – and here I was in 12ºC (53.6ºF). In addition to my experience as a mother, I’ve been doing a lot of performing – probably about 700 shows across 10 countries in the last 6 years, a lot of which were high pressure and to large audiences. One has to know how to compose yourself and rise above the challenges you may face on stage especially with a show likes ours where the technical aspect is an integral part of our performance; the show must go on and there’s no space for negative thoughts.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How do you maintain your fitness at such a high level as you raise two small children?
Bruwer: Swimming has been a non-negotiable part of my daily routine – or non-routine – for the past 16 years. My 4 km daily swim is like having breakfast, or dropping my daughter at school. It simply has to happen and I find time for it even if I have to compromise on other business-related things. I have a great infrastructure at home with a nanny who is home from 9 to 5, and a husband who is as involved in the kids’ lives as I am, so again, I’m very lucky. My husband built a lap pool for me in our garden, so even on those days in which I really run out of time, there is usually the opportunity to dive in for a quick 2 or 3 km. I wouldn’t say that my fitness is at the highest level though; I’m certainly not as fit as I was 7 years ago when I swam the English Channel and False Bay (36 km swim). I can definitely never compete against the top swimmers out there, but yeah, I’m fit. But then as we all know, the biggest challenge of solo marathon swimming is probably the mental fitness, which is a separate essay altogether.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What advice would you give a young woman who has similar interests to you?
Bruwer: It is very important to give time to your passions. It is possible. We really do live in a great era, in which you are – if you allow yourself – free to express, enjoy and create yourself. Do not dwell on fear, it will waste time and bring you nowhere. Just go out there and do, do, do. Allow yourself to make mistakes and acknowledge it with grace, and you will grow stronger each time. Nobody else is going to make it happen for you, it is your responsibility to feed your soul.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What is next on your schedule, either swimming-wise or music-wise?
Bruwer: Swimming-wise, I was retired until a few days ago. Now I really don’t know. I don’t think I want to be retired any more. So we will see, we will see.

Music-wise, Sterling EQ is booked for 12 shows across Southern Africa in May. Then the band takes a break in June, during which time I will go on holiday with my family. I can’t wait. After this, we hope to start strategizing our fifth release. We have released 3 CDs and a Live DVD thus far, and will inevitable be doing more touring.

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Steven Munatones