The Coffee Chat (#28)
My conversation with Abha Malpani-Naismith - Head, Interactive team, Dubai Chamber of Commerce, published author and mum to 2 toddlers!
Welcome to the new subscribers who have joined us since the last post. Today this email is going out to 812 amazing individuals!
If you’re reading this but haven’t subscribed, you may want to consider doing that. This will ensure future posts land straight in your inbox (and it is free!!)
Hi there 👋🏽
Just 14 more days to 2022!
Since 2020 I feel like we have been in a time wrap. Some weeks felt like decades and then months went by in days.
Just when it looked like the world was opening up again, a new variant decided to show up and we all slipped back in time.
Baby T is almost going to be 2 and has not yet met most of her extended family. Hopefully that changes in 2022. It is that hope and optimism that things will get better that keeps me going.
Hopefully you too can find something that gives you hope and optimism to deal with a few more months (*fingers crossed*) of the pandemic.
Here is me wishing you and your loved ones a happy, safe and healthy holiday season.
See you in 2022
☕ Now, on to today’s coffee chat…
The beauty of writing on the internet is that you open yourself up to serendipity.
That is how I got to know Abha Malpani-Naismith, a communication professional based out of Dubai and mum to 2 toddlers.
Abha is the author of the weekly newsletter - The Working Mums Club and we found each other due to our mutual interest in trying to create better careers while trying to be better mums.
Through her writing, I have really enjoyed getting to know Abha and hopefully you feel the same way.
Below is my conversation with Abha…
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family
I’m a mum of two toddlers, a communications professional, writer, author, salsa and tango dancer, and yoga enthusiast. I grew up between the UK and India, moved to Dubai when I was 18, and then went to University of Wollongong in Australia. After graduating, I worked in a public relations firm, and now I work in the communications department of Dubai Chamber as the head of the interactive team. I also have a masters in international relations from University of SOAS in London.
When I was 26, I took a break from my corporate job and moved to Spain to learn Spanish (fueled by my love of Spanish language salsa songs!) and to be a travel writer. I had never been to Spain before, nor did I know anyone. The plan was for 6 months, I stayed for 3-years. They were the amongst the best years of my life and most transformational. I published a personal blog when I was living in Spain and recently turned it into a book, Diaries of an Indian Girl in Spain, which you can find here if you are interested.
Now I live in Dubai with my Scottish husband and 2 children.
For you what was the hardest part of becoming a new parent?
Once I had my first child, for the first time in my life I felt like an adult. Like now I had real responsibility. I was responsible for raising a human that was made in my belly. To give her values. To teach her everything I knew. To keep her alive! Never have I felt like I was needed so much, that a life depended on me 100%. The magnitude of this responsibility hit me once I went home from the hospital, until when it was still quite surreal.
Never having had such a feeling of sheer responsibility, I did, and still do, worry about it. Am I doing everything I can to make my children the best versions of themselves? To give them everything they need and deserve to develop into the best people they can be? Am I equipping them enough with whatever they may need to thrive in a world that although wonderful, can also be harsh? What is it that they really need? How do I know I’m doing the right thing?
I don’t think I’ve every worried about anything as much as I do about my children. And worrying all the time is hard and can be depleting, which is the last thing you want to be when you are a mother! So, I worked out for myself, that all I need to do is love my children unconditionally; and follow my gut. Everything else will fall in place. This helps me calm down my inner demons.
After becoming a parent did you adopt any new beliefs, behaviors, or habits that have most improved your life?
I’ve always been active and health conscious. However, after becoming a parent, and being an older parent, I feel like I need to protect my well-being to a different level because I want to be healthy and fit to see my children grow up and be able to continue to do stuff with them. For example, I want to be able to surf with them when I am 70, if that is something they do!
Having two kids almost back to back took a toll on my body. Since I had my second child, I’ve taken it really seriously to get my strength and fitness levels back, clean up my nutrition and ensure I’m taking the supplements I need to for supposed longevity.
I have also learned to be more patient, and to choose my battles. Full time work, 2 toddlers, and sleep deprivation is an easy recipe for disaster. Surrendering to the chaos and letting go of what is not important has been a game changer for my mental well-being.
Also, I have realized more than ever, the importance of finding time for yourself, even when you don’t think you can. Your cup needs to be filled before you fill that of others. If you are content, everyone around you will be content!
Did you take any form of maternity leave? If yes, how was the transition back to work?
Yes, I was fortunate to get 3 months of maternity leave with both my kids. The transition back to work was quite welcome actually. Having worked all my life, the 3 months of leave I got felt good enough to settle in with my newborn in a way that made me feel okay to go back to work. And honestly, I think my brain needed to go back to work. Although it’s necessary to be home when you have a newborn, not being used to being at home all the time and not working, also takes its toll. Luckily, my work allowed me to work half day for another 4 months after I went back in, so the transition was pretty smooth.
The biggest challenge that working parents with young kids have is limited time for themselves. How have you managed this? What are you doing to manage your energy?
Ahh yes! I don’t think I valued the preciousness of time until I had children. I am still trying to manage this.
I do this by a lot of saying, no. A lot of prioritizing. Like choosing between going for a run or catching up with a friend. Choosing sleep over a movie after dinner. If you want to be present for your children, you need to make some choices between the other activities you do, or you will never see your children.
Also, taking the time to connect with yourself and your partner, is key. If you are content within yourself and maintain a strong bond with your partner amongst the chaos, that foundation will get you through everything.
Also, accepting that there will be chaos and surrendering to it; that there is never a good time for anything, and just getting on with it has really helped me.
What choices have you and your partner made that have helped you become a dual career household with a child?
I think by default we both prioritize time with our children. And then I think we are superb team players when we need to time for ourselves, something we coordinate quite seamlessly as we fully support each other’s hobbies and social commitments. We also try to prioritize couple time whenever we can, even if it’s watching a movie together on the couch. I think I’m super lucky to have married someone who is always on the same page as me.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investment you have made after becoming a parent?
Sending our kids to nursery at a young age and getting full-time help at home. Not cheap, but easily accessible in Dubai and makes a world of difference. I wrote a piece on why sending our kids to nursery was the best decision we made, you can read it here if interested.
What advice would you give others who are on the cusp of becoming parents? What advice should they ignore?
Hmmm. I would say there is no manual that can teach you to be a parent. Nor is there any person who knows better than you what is best for your child. So, the best thing you can do is follow your gut, do what feels right to you in your parenting journey and keep learning from your experiences.
Having said that, the one “tool” that really helped us while our children were small was The Wonder Weeks (book and app). It really helped us decipher the times we didn’t understand why our kids were crying when they were younger (0-20 months). By giving us a window into what kids go through when they are that small (they go through puberty like phases 10 times in their first 10 months!), it relieved a lot of stress and was very insightful.
What’s the best thing you have watched recently?
The Foundation on Apple TV. We are still half way through it but it is blowing my mind. The storyline, imagination and cinematography is incredible.
What’s the best thing you have read recently?
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. This is non-fiction that reads like a thriller. Highly recommend.
What’s the best thing you have listened to recently?
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius on audible. A lot of nuggets of wisdom to ponder.
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
P.S. If this email landed in your Promotions tab in Gmail, please take a second and drag it to your Primary tab. It makes a big difference to the Google inbox gods, plus you’ll never miss a post!