Wow! I can’t believe it is the end of May already! We are almost to the middle of the year and I honestly don’t know where did the time go! Well, thats why I take pictures! So that I can look back and actually see what I did and more importantly, what we did as a family :)
Without much ado, let me introduce you to the lady who represents Midlands this month, Shabana Khan. I have known Shabana for almost a decade now. We have lived in the same cities in different times in our lives. We hang out together when we can. However, this conversation with her proved to me - how little we really know about a person, even when we have known them for years!
I approached Shabana because I was looking for someone to throw some light on a stay at home mum’s story. Each of us can relate to some part of it - growing up, working hard towards a career, doing well in the chosen career, meeting the man of our dreams, living the dream life and then come the kids and some realities :). Life changes for both parents when kids come. But you would agree that it changes more for the primary caretaker. Our days look nothing like they used to. We love our kids with an intensity that we didn’t know possible. Yet, sometimes we want to just shut the door while taking a wee - once in a while…just once in a while! We yearn for that too with equal intensity!
I digress. So I approached Shabana to bring it to life for us. And she did that with so much honesty and heart that she blew me away! In this month’s chat, we discuss a topic that a lot of us hold very dear to our hearts - motherhood. Lots of good discussion on being a mum, being a mum to multiple kids, playing the balancing act and knowing what gives one happiness.
Sharing snippets of our afternoon together….enjoy!
Me: Tell us a little about yourself
She: I'm a stay at home mommy of 2 beautiful children, aged 1 and 4. I came to the UK in 2008 to do my masters in clinical research at Cranfield University and met my husband during this time. After I finished my masters I moved to Chicago, US and came back to the UK 9 years ago.
I'm a health and nutrition enthusiast who loves Bikram yoga and kick boxing. I love caring for children, pregnant women and elderly.
I believe in enjoying life in each and every phase and having no regrets. At the moment, I'm enjoying life with my 2 kids and loving each and every bit, from cooking fresh healthy meals for them to playing with them in our garden, in the trampoline, on the swing, painting, pretend plays, taking them to zoos, parks, safari parks, swimming, reading to them, my 4 year old girl’s school activities – the list goes on. I feel immensely blessed and lucky to be able to relive my childhood with them.
I'm happy that I have chosen this life of fun, laughter and beautiful chaos.
Me: Wow. I understand that you worked before having kids. What was your role?
She: My background is in Clinical research. It is the study of the drug in human beings, after all the trials are done. I started in a contract research organisation where initially I was involved in documentation and data which didn’t excite me much. So I moved to ONO Pharma in central London. There I was working with directors and project managers, managing and overseeing clinical trials. I was working in varied therapeutic areas but working in cancer research always excited me. This was the field I aspired to get into.
I wanted a step up in my career and that’s when I joined Roche. I really liked the environment in Roche. Good work life balance. I went there as a contractor where money was nice and there was flexibility so when I got pregnant I took a break right before having my first child and there was no set time that I had to go back after maternity. It worked out for me because I didn’t want the pressure of going back. I was enjoying motherhood so much. You don’t know the feeling until you become a mother. It increases everyday slowly. The bonding is so special. And plus my daughter had cow’s milk protein allergy which was challenging. For the first 13-14 months I was expressing milk. I was 100% just focused on her and didn’t have any mind space to think about anything else.
Me: How was expressing milk for you?
She: Honestly, I enjoyed doing it. (Laughs) . I just felt so special. That I’m doing such an amazing thing with so much milk coming out of me.It was like gold. It was providing so much nutrition to my child and she didn’t get sick at all for the first year. This gave me more courage to do it as I could see she was so happy and healthy. Plus, with the allergy, she didn’t like the taste of the dairy free formula. The first time she tried it, she vomited. So then I didn’t offer it again and it motivated me to give her the best.
You need those happy hormones (oxytocin) to produce milk. It’s very important to feel positive about the whole thing. To be honest, the second time I was doing it with my son, I was so worked up already. Because of my daughter, I had to run after her- she was only three. It was a big challenge for my daughter that there was a new person in the family and she just hated him for the first few months. To make that better I couldn’t just sit and pump as much. First seven months I did however much I could, I would hide from her and pump. I’d pump at night. I would do it more when she would be at nursery. So, not much in front of her. She would want it for her self when she would see me pump(laughs).
Again, it works differently for all the mothers, and we all do what's best for us and our families. The child should be well fed, be it breast milk or formula. Mama knows best!
Me: How has the transition been for you from a full time corporate life to a stay at home mum ?
She: After I had my daughter, I didn’t want to go back to work. I didn’t think about work. There was nothing I was missing in my life. It’s a very fulfilling thing - motherhood. I really enjoy looking after my children, looking after their nutritional needs, emotional needs, developmental needs - everything. I just don’t want to focus on one thing. I want to develop them overall as an individual. I want them to be very confident when they grow up. I’m content and satisfied so the transition has been good for me. There have been challenges for sure - but being there for them is an accomplishment in itself.
Me: What support do you get from your husband in this?
She: He is always supportive of whatever I do. He knows that I’m doing the best for our children. He has seen me giving birth to our children. And then he saw me expressing with such dedication. He is always very supportive of everything. As parents we always try. If there is anything that worries us about our child, then we discuss options. I read Mother.ly on a daily basis. I would talk to my friends who are already mothers. I would talk to my Mum. Basically, I would talk to multiple people and seek advice and then both my husband and I discuss options and decide a way forward. He is letting me do what I want to and that’s a great support in itself.
Me: You are passionate about Health and Nutrition. How did you get interested in the field?
She: It started when I was in class 10. There was a chapter on nutrition in science. That was the only thing that really excited me. When the teacher would explain how a balanced diet was important, I’d come and tell my parents everything. I’d tell them to start eating things that were really good for us. Since that time I’ve been a very aware and conscious person when it comes to nutrition and health. I love cooking healthy balanced meals so I try to ensure that in my kids meals there is enough protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, minerals.
Me: When you talked about health, I loved that you also talked about mental health. How did that awareness come about in you?
She: When I was working at Roche , they used to have a lot of workshops on mental health. That’s how my awareness increased. Even later, when I was pregnant I realised that there were so many hormones and sometimes I would be angry, sometimes emotional. That really got me thinking that how important it is for pregnant women.
And from there to children as well. I used to think about what approach is best to make my daughter do what I want her to do. If she is doing something wrong, if she is screaming or running and if I scream, it’s just more scream and she won’t hear me. I really believe in Time Ins rather than Time Outs. Rather than keeping the child away from you for those five minutes- because they are so little. They don’t know what they’ve done. So you have to make them sit with you.
What I do is I’m very nice to her and what happens is as soon as I ask her what happened baby, what’s going on...she starts crying. Because that stress is coming out. I feel good that she is able to take it out instead of creating that anger in her, keeping her away from me for those minutes. A two year old cannot understand how they are supposed to behave. We have to lead them. We have to be positive around them. We have to be calm. We need to use these tools which make them calmer. They need to feel the love. And that’s how they open up - at least that’s how its been in my experience. I believe when I take care of what’s going on in their minds (as best I can) as well as their physical needs , that’s what will make them stronger. They will be more confident.
Me: You said one of your biggest challenges has been being a mom to two kids. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
She: When I had the baby bump in my second pregnancy, my then two year old daughter would have questions about it. I would tell her that there is a baby inside. It’s your little brother or sister. She would get really excited and be happy. Till the time I gave birth, she was very excited. Every day she would kiss the bump. And that really gave me hope that my daughter is prepared. She will welcome her sibling.
But as soon as my son was born, she didn't know how to express her feelings. We didn’t take her to the hospital with us and she didn’t like that. We used to co-sleep. And the first night she saw me taking care of the baby, feeding the baby, she freaked out. She was just up the whole night. She was anxious. She was shocked. Then the second night, then during the day she saw me feeding. She was going through something bad and I could see that. She wasn’t the same happy laughing Mehr. That actually made me so sad.
After a few days she just refused to sleep with me and wanted to sleep with her Granny. This was hard for me because we had slept together since she had been born. I felt good that my Mum was there to take care of her. But I was sad for myself. For a month I fed my son and then started expressing when my daughter wasn’t around. The little baby doesn’t understand anything yet - but she understood so I had to take care of her mentally and emotionally.
Even later, her way of showing love was very different. So I had to take her hand and show her what gentle touch was. I had to use all the tools for her mental happiness to make her fall in love with her brother. The first year after my son born was difficult. Not physically. That was the easy part. More emotionally and mentally, it was a big challenge keeping Mehr happy and then the baby was also growing so he needed love. It was a lot to cope up with. Now, thankfully she’s a very good big sister. Challenges continue but now the intensity is manageable.
Me: Do you miss the corporate life? Any aspect of it?
She: No (laughs heartily)
Me: Do you ever see yourself going back to it?
She: You never know. Maybe when Faris starts school. Corporate life needs long term commitment. If I want to commit 9-5 for my job then I will be unavailable from 8-6 for my kids. I have to weigh that out. This year is going to be my deciding year. I’ve given myself 6-8 months where I decide what to do. I need to do something. I can’t sit idle - especially when the kids are at school.
I need to decide what will give me happiness and what will work for my family. I don’t want anyone suffering because of my tough decisions. So it needs to work out for all of us. I’ve been thinking of getting back to school to get a degree in health and nutrition. As I said, it is a passion of mine and I’d love to be a consultant in the field. So who knows? I might start something of my own. Fingers crossed!
Me: I always ask for a message for my readers
She: Life is a journey. We adults cope up with difficult situations in our own ways, positive or negative, that really depends on our own life experiences, our parents, childhood, family, relationships. Let's try and create a healthy environment for our children where they are less anxious, less stressed, more happy, more open. Let's try and understand what they might be going through. Children absorb a lot from their surrounding environment. Happy and confident children are made at home.
I would also add that these are the choices I have made for myself and my family and they work for us. But they may not work for everyone and that's okay. Everyone's family dynamics work differently. You do what's best for you, there's no one size fits all. I respect all the mothers, whether they have decided to stay at home and look after their kids, whether they are going to work and looking after their kids, women who do not want to have kids, these are the choices we make for ourselves and there's no right and wrong in this.
Lastly, I would also say, we as a community should support each other, just a nice smile sometimes helps :) let's smile more and judge less, we never know what the other person might be going through!