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Austin Fit Interview: SuperMoms

We all know those women who appear to possess mystical magical powers. They raise perfect children, they have stellar jobs, and they excel at every sport they pursue. How in the world do they do it and where can the rest of us pick up these powers? Ironically, most of these women will also be the first to tell you that they can’t do it alone. Yes, it’s possible to look like a Super Mom, but what’s underneath the cape isn’t a super secret. It’s a highly structured routine, unwavering discipline, and a huge support system that helps them shine. Here are three Austin “SuperMoms” that shine while raising children and doing what they love.

Natasha Van Der Merwe

H​ow exactly does one balance motherhood, a full-time day job, and training as a professional triathlete? “Focus,” says Natasha Van Der Merwe. “When I show up here at work, I try to focus on what I have to do and, as best I can, focus on every single athlete. I do the same when I get home as well. Everything else goes away and I try to give 100 percent of my effort to my daughter, Nadine.”  

Sometimes the superpower of a mom is being able to compartmentalize priorities and still have the discipline for real self-care. This lifelong athlete was a former tennis pro before switching to the sport of triathlon less than 10 years ago. She still trains for triathlons because she loves it, but has realized that raising a 10-month-old, being a wife, and working a full-time job does require self-sacrifice on the training side. “In the past, I would push through when I was exhausted,” she says, “but now I won’t do that. I’ll take a much-needed rest so that I can be the best mom I can be.” While she may not be putting in the quantity of training that she used to, Van Der Merwe has no doubt that the quality of her training has improved, which has also improved the quality of her life. “During my pregnancy, when I had to step away from training, I really missed it and I really missed how good the sport makes you feel,” she recalls. “I had the least amount of energy when I wasn’t training. Now, I just feel like I’ve got a great quality of life. It gives me energy to put that back out to the people I love.”

Putting energy out there is the thing she does best, especially to her team of 120+ athletes that she coaches on a daily basis at Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy. While she used to let this enormous priority bury her, becoming a parent has actually given her a more healthy perspective on her daily full-time job, as well. “Funny enough, it’s made me more relaxed since so much is really out of our control.  Priorities change and you realize how foolish it was to obsess or get upset about small things like not responding to an e-mail right away or not nailing a workout. It’s really no big deal. You just make adaptations when you realize your baby is the most important priority.”  

Sure, she’s definitely made adaptations to her training and work life, but she readily admits that she could not succeed without a routine and the support of family and friends. She often coaches classes at 5:30 a.m. and will train along with the team to maximize her time. While she’s working, her husband, Steve, and her mom (who has been visiting from her native South Africa) are at home with Nadine. When she returns home from her morning workout, she’ll spend time with her daughter until she goes down for a nap. At that point, Van Der Merwe will either catch up on work or take her own quick nap since she usually has to go back to the training center in the afternoon to coach evening classes. Most e-mails and work are done in the evening when Nadine goes to bed. Many friends, too, have graciously provided her meals, babysitting time, rides, toys, clothes, and so many other selfless gifts of love.

“I feel so grateful that this is what I get to do and that I have the opportunity to impact and contribute to the success of a bunch of people,” she says. “It’s extremely rewarding and that makes my work fun and fulfilling.”  

The other time she feels most worthy and fulfilled? “Watching Nadine respond with a smile or laugh,” she says immediately.  “I look at her and think, ‘How did I create that?’ There is such a deep fulfilling love and when I’m fully present and living in the moment with her, nothing makes me happier.”


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