23 December 2007

Inspiration from a stay-at-home dad

7de Laan's Robert Bester gave up soapie stardom to be part of his children's lives


Today fatherhood is this well-known actor’s biggest role. He talks about his decision to set aside his successful soap career so he can be a full-time dad to daughter Sage (7) and son Thyme (9)
By Betina Louw

LAST year Robert Bester, Zac of the soap 7de Laan, came to a crossroads.

He had been working in Joburg for six years and the time he was away from his family in Cape Town, along with his hectic travelling schedule, was taking its toll. He realised family was more important than fame.

Today his wife, Patricia, works full time while Robert fetches the children from school and attends sport matches. “I’m trying to make up for the time I lost with my children. To tell you the truth I sometimes think they wish their dad would go away for a while,” Robert says with a laugh.

Although he’s not in 7de Laan any more (Zac moved to Iceland), Robert is currently a regular in European and American ads. He ensures he makes good use of the freedom his new career aff ords him.

“I simply didn’t see my kids enough,” he says. “I could come down to Cape Town only every second weekend and missed so much of their lives I realised I had to make some changes.”

The spontaneous relationship between Robert and his children becomes clear during the photo shoot for our front page. He patiently helps Sage pick up pebbles, carrying them for her in his pocket.

The lines on his face are caused by laughter and not frowning, he says. Th is is because of his decision to live positively, to make his life more stress-free and to fi nd balance between work and family.

“I’m so positive, even my blood group is O-positive,” he jokes. “I used to be stressed. Now I make sure I stay calm. I’ve retired, after all!”

Travelling between Europe and South Africa for ad work brings its own stress, however. But he has learnt to deal with it.

“I handle it by asking myself what’s the worst that could happen. Th e bank could take your house and they could take your car but then you could just start all over. Don’t worry about the things you can’t change.

“If you’re tense the people around you will become tense too. You’ll exude negative energy and other people will pick up on it. Th at will lead to even more stress.”

It gives him peace of mind to sit outside in nature, hear the bees buzzing and feel the sand between his fi ngers. “Th e small things in life never cease to amaze me,” he says.

As a model in ads he has the good fortune of being away from his home and family for only short stretches of time.

“Robert is extremely involved when it comes to his children,” Patricia says. “He’s forever driving them somewhere.”

His father was “very strict”, therefore he tries to fi nd a middle way. “I don’t mind if my children make mistakes because you learn from your mistakes. My children’s growth and development fascinate me. Every time I look at their photographs this strikes me yet again.

You have to spend time with them. I would like my children to remember me as a dad who was fair but also their friend. “Loving your wife and children is important,” he says. “It shows in your eyes. I think it’s the most important thing that your child sees it in your eyes.”

The Besters enjoy their family meals at the dining table – something that hasn’t always been possible. At meal times the TV is switched off and each one gets a turn to say grace.

“My children have freedom of choice when it comes to religion and I don’t care which church they go to.

It’s more important that they learn to be grateful for what they have and to discuss those things that cause them happiness or pain.”

Robert's 7 life secrets:

1. I definitely believe in a Higher Power. However each person must take responsibility for his own actions and you have to try to get the fundamental things right, such as not causing another person harm.

I also want to help my children develop their own sense of religion.

2. Cultivate good habits until doing so becomes a way of life. Make it part of your life.

Look in the mirror in the mornings and tell yourself you’re unique – you’re the best you. I’ve been doing it for years. This way you develop a positive mindset.

3. Don’t worry about yesterday and make the best of today.

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, it all comes to an end. You can try to lengthen your life with a heart or liver transplant but in the end you still have to leave this world. Therefore I try to make the best of today.

4. Don’t be afraid to love, listen and feel.

It’s ironic that many people appreciate love only when it’s taken away from them. Don’t be afraid to shed a tear now and again.

When my darling dog Daisy died I cried like I did when my mom passed away.

5. Moderation is the key to balance. To balance the challenges a successful career and fatherhood bring, your whole life should be balanced.

Your enjoyment of food, alcohol, pleasure and work should be in balance.

6. Do things that make you feel attractive and make you feel good.

Spending time on yourself and your appearance is important for your state of mind. We love swimming in the sea or lazing around the pool. Our children can see that Mom and Dad are not ashamed of their bodies and don’t have any hang-ups.

7. Find an exercise routine and diet that work for you but don’t overdo it.

I keep fit by exercising regularly in the gym and the children keep me on the run.

I eat as healthily as possible and make sure I eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables.

Now and again we enjoy a fatty piece of mutton. The children and I go to the deli about once a month where each of us chooses what we want. Then we veg in front of the TV and eat until we feel we’re popping.

But we don’t do this every day or even every weekend. It’s something special!


What upsets you?
I always wonder why people in a lift will be friendly and hold the door open for you but the minute they get into a car the fi ve metres around them turn into holy ground.”

How do you relax?
“I love cooking. I also like making furniture from my own designs.”

Who and what inspire you?
“A lot of people play a role in my life. My father gave me a strong foundation and I will always be grateful for that.”

Favourite holiday destination?
“Arniston in the Western Cape and Tosca in North West Province.”

Life philosophy?
“People can sense what you’re feeling; be aware of your emotions.”

Favourite food?
“Food is an art. You eat well when someone cooks well. Some of my favourites are venison, biltong and mutton.”

This story originally appeared in the first edition of Pulse magazine. Buy the latest copy, on newsstand now, for more fascinating stories in the world of health and wellness.



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