Barnwell's blended family. Image: Abhi Indrarajan

Originally, from a little Swartland town called Malmesbury in the Western Cape, Jo-Ann Barnwell moved to Durban three years ago. “I’m a chef, a national ballroom dancer and a mommy, wife and everything else that comes with it,” she said.
Barnwell is mother to a very busy two year old, step mother to two teenagers and wife to a man she says makes it all worth it. “Steven and I are raising a blended family and it’s one of the greatest adventures but also one of the most difficult tasks with challenges and difficulties that are rarely recognised, understood or appreciated.”

The Tammy Taylor Mrs SA semi finalist said she feels honoured to count herself among a sisterhood of powerful strong woman. “I want to soak up the moments and take all I learn during the pageant and use it to uplift others. I would like to share my passion for life...With belief in yourself you can conquer anything,” she said. "How amazing would it be to to give hope to every girl and woman. To show that by being true to you and by staying focused, anything is possible.” 

For Barnwell, pageant crowns are made of: discipline, determination, consistency and courage. Motherhood has similarly taught Barnwell many lessons. “Giving time is more valuable than any toy or treat, laugh out loud at the things you can’t change, let a child be a child, stay in the moment as it passes by so quickly, and be kind to yourself. It's by far the most difficult job in the world but the most rewarding seeing those little faces light up.”

One of the greatest challenges Barnwell faces as a mother is questioning whether she's doing it “right”. To counter those insecurities, she reminds herself that she is “worthy and enough”.  “I know it’s hard and the time is not always there, but try and take time out for you. 

"We can’t be the best version of ourselves if we don’t take care of us. It’s tough and it’s okay to say it is, because no one expects you to know it all. Appreciate all the good times as it makes the bad times easier. Be thankful and grateful in all aspects,” said Branwell. With everything that being a mother and wife encompasses, as well as building herself as a brand, striking a balance between the two seems daunting. However, the key to Barnwell’s success is that she embraces the rush of a busy life. “Somehow I manage to do it all,” she said.

Barnwell’s tips for balancing it all:

Meal preparation

Feeding a family is a duty mother’s have to plan for daily. “For dinner, I try and prep in the morning before the school drop off rush,  but it’s not always possible. Otherwise I cook after pick ups. I make quick easy meals so don’t complicate it for myself unless I have a dinner party, then I’m in the kitchen all day. For the school lunches I will prep the night before,” she said.


Barnwell tries to separate her work life from family time. “I mostly plan my social media posts and time the beginning of the week, so it doesn’t interfere with family time. Most of my posts will be during the day unless I’m at an event that needs live postings. It’s easy to get carried away, I’m not saying I get it right all the time but I do try”

Hubby time 

After everything else is done for the day, Barnwell ensures that she and her husband spend quality time together. “Spending time with my hubby happens when our toddler is down, which is not always early. So we try to do our ‘nights alone’ whether it’s a early movie or a quick lunch in between the busy schedules. We love traveling, locally and internationally. Sometimes we do as family or just the two of us. A ‘staycay’ is also one of our favorites,” she said. 


Barnwell’s number one rule for parenting is to be lenient, with the rules and with yourself. “Rules can be broken and it’s okay. Capture and be present in each moment. You can’t always get it right, and it’s fine because no one is perfect. Love yourself first,” she said. 

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, Barnwell shared her tips for planning the perfect day. “Keep your plans easy and adjustable. If you make a mess in kitchen we will end up cleaning it. Order breakfast in if you have to. Don’t ask mom where she wants to go or what she wants to do. A surprise is really so special. Don’t go overboard, less is more. And it’s truly the little things that count. Just give Mom the day off… it’s really that simple,” she said.