Finding the right balance as a working mother
Veronica Martin caught up with Zainab Imichi Alhassan, Co-founder at POP Communications, to discuss juggling parenting with a busy career, time management and mental health support for mothers.
You are the founder of a successful PR agency and you have two children. How do you juggle parenting with a busy and demanding career and what advice would you give to mothers trying to cope with both?
I’ve always been able to multi-task, so when we started growing our family, I thought it would be a walk in the park, but reality quickly hit me. Being able to successfully juggle a career and family is still something I haven’t figured out, but I must admit that having a partner and team both at work and at home makes life easier.
These are some of the things that have helped me cope and I would suggest the same to others who are trying to find that balance and have the capability to do so.
- Find and invest in your village
Raising kids isn’t just for the nuclear family – get all hands-on board. Whether that’s family, friends, hired help, or sending your child to nursery.
We live in an era where both parents need to work, either for financial security or emotional well-being and a life outside of our children. It may be a different experience from our parents’ generation but it does not mean that one is superior to the other – simply a different way as a result of changing times.
Adding on, my husband is my partner in this parenting journey and we are equally supportive of and check in on each other continuously.
- Enlist help and outsource to experts
You can’t do it all (and that’s okay). There is no reward for burnout.
- Build a dependable, professional team
If you run your own business, which many UAE mums do, that enterprise is very much a part of your life and can’t be put on hold, especially when you are also an employer. Investing in a dependable team that is part of your village will help with the personal/professional juggle immensely.
- Prioritize your Well-Being and Happiness
It’s easy to care for everyone else around you but your kids need a healthy, happy mum first and foremost.
As you have had two children, what do you think are the main challenges as a new mother and do you think is easier the second time?
I have two boys, Zayd (21 months) and Hamza (10 months), so my motherhood journeys were very close.
Zayd, my first was born three months premature, so naturally with that comes a set of unique challenges for any mother, even more so for a first-time mom.
Ensuring his development and welfare was and still is a predominant focus. As with the majority of premature babies in addition to extensive medical care, supportive aid such as physical, speech, and occupational therapy are also tremendously helpful.
Managing such appointments and dedicating time can be overwhelming and physically and emotionally draining. I’ve definitely had my moments but I have been able to take a step back, assess and remind myself that I am fortunate and thankful to be able to access and provide the support Zayd needs.
It was definitely easier the second time around, but also different given my first experience. It was fascinating to see Hamza develop in line with his age, but at the same time, I was not prepared for it.
Although Zayd and Hamza are close in age, they have two different bedtimes and sleeping habits. For now, they sleep in different rooms so they don’t wake each other up but this will need to be re-evaluated.
Lastly, managing two different personalities and trying to make sure one doesn’t overwhelm the other, and juggling unique needs at different developmental stages is also difficult at times.
Many women go through a lot of psychological issues that often aren’t spoken during pregnancy and after, how important do you think it is for mothers to get mental health support?
This is extremely crucial and all new mums need support – ignore any mum that says otherwise. There are many aspects of a postpartum journey that can affect a mum’s mental state such as birth trauma, an unsupportive partner, unsolicited advice, and more. Often, new mums are so wrapped up in their newborn’s well-being they don’t even realize their personal psychological state.
So, if you know a new mum, be a friend and check in with her – a simple, yet genuine how are YOU (not baby) doing can be tremendously supportive.
Adding to this, social media’s depiction of new mothers with their clean and tidy homes, flawless make-up, chic style, and more can be damaging to a lot of women during their postpartum stage.
However, on the flip side, equally, there are just as many mums or communities on social media that address post-partum mental health head-on supporting women who are not in a position to obtain personalized support. Seek help, don’t be embarrassed, and champion your needs.
What tips would you give to women who are feeling under pressure from work and family? How can you thrive in your career and have a happy family life too?
- Tune out the noise
It’s easy to give in to all the cumulative unsolicited parenting advice, where you then find yourself performing motherhood for an audience that isn’t attuned to your realities.
So, look inward, which brings me next to my next tip.
- Trust your instincts
No one knows your postpartum experience and baby’s needs better.
What advice would you give to working mothers about time management?
- You can do it all, eventually, but it’s not all going to happen at the same time. And that’s okay.
Take each day as it comes and plan your time according to priority, eventually, life will pan out.
- A place of ‘NO’ – it’s a word and should be used more often.
Prioritize what is important to you – choose how you spend your time wisely.
It is okay to say no to attending a friend’s birthday, a business dinner, or passing on prospective new business. If it will cause stress, it’s not worth it – simply say ‘no’, but be polite so follow up with a ‘thank you’.
About Zainab Imichi Alhassan
Zainab is a mother of two boys and has spent several years managing the reputations of local, regional, and international clients. With her strategic insight, creative ideas, and quick-thinking, she has successfully crafted eye-catching PR and marketing solutions for both homegrown and multinational brands.
Her passion for PR and digital media is evident in her work. She has a particular interest in tech startups and beauty brands, and her skills in strengthening brand reputation and differentiation from competitors are impressive.
Zainab is a confident speaker and is known for empowering others with her hard work, deliberate thinking, and ambitious influence.
With her extensive experience in the field of public relations and marketing, Zainab has become a respected figure in the industry. She continues to lead the team at POP Communications in providing innovative and effective solutions for their clients.