Life on set: Dina Butti on all things media and motherhood
Dina Butti takes us through life on set and discusses why Dubai is the best city to raise children.
Egyptian/Canadian Dina Butti has German roots, was born in Greece and has since, lived all over the world. Married to an Emirati-American, the first thing she’s quick to point out is how confused her kids are. “Honestly, my husband and I are both still confused about our own traditions and culture too, so we’re a bit of a ‘celebrate it all’ kind of family.” Dina moved every couple of years as a child but as much as she learned from roaming the world, she’d love a chance for her own kids to grow up a bit more settled. “Living in Dubai is already so multicultural, so hopefully they’ll gain similar experiences to my own just by being here. We take it for granted that we can just let them mingle with strangers and roam around places we go without being worried – that is invaluable and a big reason as to why we may never leave Dubai,” she says.
Dina’s parents moved to the UAE – while she was still in university in Montreal – just as her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Dina spent her breaks in Dubai, to help take care of her and interned at INTV and CNN Arabia. “Those internships were massive opportunities for me and gave me lots of firsts. My first on-air reports, first red-carpet coverage and first celebrity interview! Once I graduated, it was an easy decision to move to the UAE where I landed my first job at MTV Arabia,” she tells me, while her two boys play in the background.
A quick look at Dina’s social media pages, and you will spot the mummy hilariously entertaining her children with dance videos, doing chores with them – with superhero masks on – and creating content that reveals her media skills. “Most of my career life was spent presenting for Dubai One TV (where I also met my husband), but I transitioned into the freelance life during my pregnancy. I still present and produce tons of videos alongside my boys for social media, do voiceovers and occasionally emcee events like award ceremonies,” says Dina.
Finding that career and home life balance took ages for Dina, but luckily, she has carved a successful career that allows her to bring her boys into work. “Depending on their moods that is, it’s either my biggest accomplishment or my biggest mistake. Like most mamas, I’ve discovered the idea of achieving the perfect balance is a fantasy and that no matter what I do, I somehow feel guilty (working on that),” she says. Dina gets to manage her hours, a position she feels quite lucky to be in, but she also finds herself up at night editing videos and finishing up work.
Most days she gets woken up around 6am, by loud yelling, and the parents find themselves in a mad rush to get everyone ready for the day. “We drop off Mush (the older child) to school, while Smush (little one) usually hangs out with our awesome nanny Norma so that he can take his nap at home. I try to do any voiceovers or editing during this time and reserve any family filming for the afternoon or weekends when the hubby is there to help,” she tells me. The family love hanging out at the park, followed by messy bath time for the kids, a debrief of each of their days during dinner, a couple of tantrums about not wanting to go to bed and then finally sleep. Once the boys are tucked in, Dina and her husband zone out in front of a solid session of Netflix while munching.
While she hasn’t scored any good shortcuts for motherhood as yet, she has learned overtime that becoming super comfortable and asking for help has been her saviour. “All pride has been tossed out the window since this journey started,” she admits. “I figured that when I became a grown-up, I wouldn’t rely on my parents so much, but I feel like I need them now more than ever. There is no way I could do even half as much as I do if they weren’t there helping me run errands, picking up the kids and filling in as production assistants whenever we’re filming. Also, the emotional support.” She reveals an account of her last weekend, where she burst into tears in the middle of Dubai Mall and the only thing that calmed her down was her mother. “Just because I’m in my 30s doesn’t mean I don’t need some mama cuddles too, right?” a statement most mums would agree with.
Overtime she has also realised that kids often think of their parents as perfect and it sets unreasonable expectations. “Even though my eldest is only four, lately I’ve been letting him see me cry more, I share my flaws and I put myself on timeout when I need it. I’ve noticed it’s developed his compassion and I hope it’ll eventually teach him to be more forgiving with himself, as well as with me when I make mistakes,” she tells me.
As cliché as it sounds, she says everything happens for a reason. “Whenever times are tough, I try to remind myself that there are lessons I am meant to gain from these experiences that will ultimately benefit me.” Dina is quite a spiritual person and believes that if you are compassionate and offer kindness to others, that the universe will reward you. These beliefs give her faith that even if it may not be what she envisioned for herself, she is carving out the perfect journey.