The Coffee Chat (#21)

My conversation with Nadia Zaman - a Toronto based Employment Lawyer, an advocate for human rights and mom to a toddler

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Hi there 👋🏽

Last week was our first vacation with a toddler.

We were visiting Montreal, a city we have visited multiple times, but thanks to Baby T we saw an entirely different side of Montreal (so many playgrounds and parks). We also finally saw what Montreal looks like at 7 am on a weekend!

On the drive back home I was exhausted. This vacation did not feel anything close to what what I had expected to feel after a vacation. I asked my husband if he felt the same way.

He smiled and told me he did not have any expectations from this weekend. After all having too many expectations can be suffocating, it limits your capacity to explore.

Sometimes he can be wise beyond his years.

That statement really was the push I needed to reframe the entire experience we just had.

No I did not get to sit in cafes or laze in the sun. But I did see the smile on my daughter’s face as she ran up and down in the cobbled streets of Old Montreal or the delight she experienced as she took the first bite of a Bagel from St-Viateur or her curiosity as she saw her parents eat a big bowl of mush (Poutine).

This vacation was different. It was exhausting. But we did create some wonderful memories with Baby T. In a day that feeling of exhaustion wore out. But those memories, those are what we will keep for a lifetime!

 Now, on to today’s coffee chat…

Meet Nadia Zaman

Nadia is a Toronto based Employment Lawyer who is committed to educating others about their rights and obligations. She has been invited to provide media commentary on TV, radio & print by platforms such as CBC, Global News, CTV News and Radio Canada International, regarding hot button employment law issues.

She is also mom to a toddler!

Below is my conversation with Nadia…

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family 

I am Nadia Zaman - an Employment Lawyer representing both employers and employees in all aspects of the employment relationship. I am an Associate at Rudner Law, a boutique law firm specializing exclusively in Canadian Employment Law. I have been married to Irfan Ali for almost 8 years now - he is a CPA, CMA, MBA and is currently a Commercial Banker at RBC in the Construction and Real Estate Group.

We have a 2.5 year old. He is a fun loving and active toddler! His current favorite things include dinosaurs, Paw Patrol, shapes, drawing and dancing. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been spending a lot more time outdoors. We have also started to teach our toddler how to meditate - mostly simple breathing exercises. You can never start too early!

For you what was the hardest part of becoming a new parent? 

The shift in identity and mindset first came as a wave and I was not 100% sure how the ride would be, but soon after I learned to ride the waves in my own way and love the small and big moments, as well as embrace my new identity.

After becoming a parent did you adopt any new beliefs, behaviors, or habits that have most improved your life? 

Most certainly! My priorities completely shifted. I try to be intentional with my time. I work hard to conserve my energy for things that truly matter in my life. It has actually allowed me to be a better lawyer as well. I am more empathetic. I am also more confident.

You are a practicing lawyer and law is a profession notorious for being very demanding. The biggest challenge that working parents with young kids have is a lack of predictability in their schedule and limited time for themselves. How have you managed this? How do you manage your energy? What choices have you made to enable you to do well professionally while also raising a mini human?

I have not managed this solely on my own and am incredibly grateful for a supportive husband and parents. I am very passionate about what I do and being a lawyer itself can be very demanding, but I try to carve out time for myself without feeling guilty about it. All of this is possible due to the support of my family.

Even before the emergency was declared in March 2020, when we sensed it was heading for worse, we made an organic decision to merge households with my parents since both my husband and I have been working from home. I am so grateful to be able to spend time with my parents and watch our son develop such a special bond with them. I count my blessings every day.

It is also important to set boundaries to avoid burnout. Some steps I have taken include:

  • Carving out personal time

  • Carving out family time

  • Carving out time with my husband

  • Block off time in my calendar from 12-1 pm every weekday

  • No work calls beyond 5 pm unless necessary

  • Guarding my weekends as much as possible

This could look different and change from day to day or week to week. And it's still a work in progress - no two days are the same!

Given that you are an employment lawyer, what are some of the broad challenges you have seen women experience in the workplace after becoming moms?

A lot of women struggle with return to work after maternity/parental leave often in large part due to systemic discrimination. I have spoken to many women lawyers who had taken maternity/parental leave and their comments consistently revealed that they were excluded from opportunities.

As an employment lawyer, I have seen several women struggle due to inequities in their profession in general and in their workplace in particular. I would strongly recommend that at least a few months before your maternity/parental leave begins, you reach out to and connect with other women in your profession who have been through this and can share insights so you can adequately prepare yourself. It can also be helpful to have conversations with the employer directly to make sure you're on the same page. This does not necessarily need to happen once you have returned to work, but can also happen at checkpoints while you are on leave. That way, hopefully you won't have that many surprises upon returning after months or over a year! And of course, if it's legal advice that you need, I would be happy to assist.

What choices have you and your partner made that has helped you become a dual career household with kids?  

My partner is incredibly supportive and has been since day one. In fact, he consciously decided to choose a role with more flexibility as we were going to enter parenthood so that he could be present and actively parent as much as possible, but also put in even more time as I would be returning to work from maternity/parental leave. He was there at every appointment pre and post baby, and did more drop off and pick up duties from daycare when I returned back to work to ease my transition. We operate as a team.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investment you have made after becoming a parent? 

Other than the decision to merge households with my parents, I would say consciously investing time in myself so that I can be better and can in turn serve better has been incredibly helpful.

Since Ramadan (April 2021), I have been waking up around 4 am and aim to use my mornings productively. This means I end up having the time for quiet self reflection and can then get a few hours of solid work in before most people's workday begins, so that time is completely uninterrupted. This has been my most productive and efficient time to date and leaves me with a strong sense of accomplishment to start the day. And in turn, this allows me to have more quality time with family. Win-win!

What advice would you give others who are on the cusp of becoming parents? What advice should they ignore? 

There are many ways to be human and many ways to parent. What works for one parent may not work for another. You will figure out what works best for you and for your partner (if applicable) as you enter parenthood, and it will continue to evolve with time. For example, what worked during the first three months may not be applicable down the line. Take everyone's advice (including mine) with a grain of salt. Don't let people shame you for your choices.

Quick-fire questions:

What’s the best thing you have watched recently?

Schitt's Creek. I know, I know. I was extremely late to the party.

What’s the best thing you have read recently?

Never Split the Difference - Negotiating as if your life depended on it by Chris Voss and Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty

I would love to hear from you, feedback is always welcome!

And if you happen to know an inspiring working parent who should be featured in a future edition (or if you yourself are one) - please do get in touch

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