Oh Mama!

Celebrating Mother’s Day with some wonderful women, talking about the joys and travails of that rollercoaster ride they call motherhood

By Karen Ann Monsy (Senior Sub Editor)

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Published: Tue 17 Mar 2015, 3:35 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Jun 2015, 12:33 AM


LABOUR OF LOVE: Rakhee Changani (left) with her father.  —Her father no longer recognizes his wife or daughter

LABOUR OF LOVE: Rakhee Changani (left) with her father. Her father no longer recognizes his wife or daughter.- Photo by Rahul Gajjar

Last year, greeting card company American Greetings came up with a brilliant ad for the ‘World’s Toughest Job’. A fake opening for ‘Director of Operations’ was created and applicants were told they would need to be willing to dedicate their very lives to the job, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; they would need to (preferably) hold professional degrees in medicine and the culinary arts; be able to function standing constantly; all travel plans, holidays and festival celebrations would need to be put on hold; lunch and naps could be had once the ‘associate’ had had theirs (…maybe) — and all of it would need to be done for free. Outraged candidates were soon seen either laughing or choking up in the video, after they were told billions of people the world over currently held this position — mothers.

We speak to some of Dubai’s own, to find out how a tiny tot managed to turn their whole worlds upside down.

MELON PEREZ

It was love at first sight when Filipino expat Melon Perez, 35, first set eyes on her newborn baby eight years ago. The delivery was “very painful” but she forgot it all when she held baby Khloe for the first time. “It’s an indescribable moment,” she confesses.

The Dubai-based photographer has since found out that motherhood is “really difficult”. And now that she’s just had her son, Kurt, you could say the hardship has doubled. “It’s a juggling act,” says Melon. “I take the first one to the nursery, get home, work on a project; the second kid starts to cry; there are deadlines to meet… And the house! Keeping it clean is a huge hassle because my daughter runs through it like a tornado. You can clean up, but in just five minutes, it’ll be a mess again.”

Things changed on the personal front too. “My husband and I used to go out to eat a lot,” she says. “Now, we have to think twice about whether the restaurant in question would mind a noisy child or accommodate a stroller. We don’t go out or stay up as often as we’d like anymore.”

Her biggest scare was when her daughter went missing at a mall a few years ago. “When Khloe was younger, she used to run around a lot. I was shopping for groceries once and put her down for just two seconds — suddenly, she wasn’t there. I screamed for her like a crazy woman, but soon spotted her in the distance. In those few moments, though, I almost died.”

Yet, despite all the ‘complaints’ about relaxing baths and naps going out of the window a long time ago, the 35-year-old says she wouldn’t change a thing. “My biggest hope for them is to grow up to be good citizens with the fear of God. I don’t care if they don’t ‘succeed’ in life [as per the world’s definition]. For me, success is growing up to be good, and caring of other people.”

The irony, she notes, lies not in how much <more> she appreciates her own mother now — but that the same mum, who once enforced a “very strict upbringing” when Melon was growing up, refuses to let her scold her grandchildren now!

TANJA PERRONO

As a child, New Zealand-born Tanja Perrono’s idea of a mother was “someone who spent the whole day baking, and waiting for you to come home” — because that’s what her own mum did for her sister and her, all those years ago. But the 38-year-old entrepreneur went on to have her own kids — Lucas, 8, and Chloe, 5 — and soon discovered there was a lot more to the story.

“I’ve realised that being a mother is more about being a really good multi-tasker,” says the founder of Dubai-based children’s footwear brand, Allegro Child. “You have your duties as a mother, but also this other part of you that has a husband, a job, friends…” And yet, she says it’s the “biggest, most amazing, exhausting, rewarding thing that could happen to you”.

For the mum-of-two, the biggest change was not having the freedom to move around as quickly as before. “Previously, if I had to go to the store, I’d just grab a handbag and go. Now, I’d have to change the baby, feed the baby, dress the baby, get him or her into the pram, into the car — and then, into the store. That was such a major change for me that I opted not to go out sometimes because of it — it was too much to think about, at times.”

Having her first child was difficult, says Tanja — but somehow, having the second was harder. “I had to figure out how to divide my time between them both,” she recalls. “I remember once, when he was three and Chloe was a newborn, she was screaming and crying, and he asked me: ‘Do you <like> that baby?’ He couldn’t understand why I wanted to hold this howling baby instead of playing with him. It got a lot easier once they grew a little older and he began to enjoy being ‘big brother’.”

She’s dreading the terrible teens though. “I’m really nervous about that. A friend’s daughter just turned 16 and has become so difficult, even though she was an angel till last year… I have to really appreciate my mom for how patient and kind she used to be when I was a teen. She was very supportive throughout the day, even if it was just because we put on our shoes without being told or for tying up our hair nicely… Constant positive reinforcement… I’m trying to be like that too.”

That said, Tanja is a firm believer in tough love. “It’s all about discipline, boundaries and rewards,” she asserts. “We had to be pretty strict with the kids but they’re beautifully behaved now, so it worked. I don’t have to say ‘no’ twice. They know what’s acceptable and what’s not — and that what I say, goes!”

SIMA BARAZI HAROUN

It’s a good thing women are blessed with the ability to forget what the first three months after having a newborn are like, jokes Syrian expat Sima Barazi Haroun. “If we didn’t forget, I don’t think anyone would have any more children after the first!”

It’s an “extremely difficult” time — those first 40 to 90 days. “You have to remember that your life is on hold for a short period of time,” says the mum to Karam (12), Ramzi (9) and Leela (4). “You don’t sleep that well, which means you can’t get up and function well the next day. You’ll be quite hormonal and your moods will swing up and down — but it passes!” As owner of high-end jewellery and accessories boutique Boom & Mellow, Sima eventually had to take her baby to work on occasion, and says: “I swear I don’t know how we did it… but we did.”

They say you can prepare as much as you like — but you can never be fully prepared. The 41-year-old wholeheartedly concurs, because how much <can> you prepare, she asks. “You can’t sleep for a whole month before the birth, in preparation for all the nights of sleep you’ll be losing,” she points out. “You can’t prepare for the day they fall ill and you’re panicking because their fever won’t come down. You can’t prepare for what other kids will say or do to your kids as they grow older…”

Motherhood can really test your strength, says Sima, because you realise it’s not all about having “well-behaved, nicely dressed” kids. “That part is not as big a deal as the constant worrying. Your mind will never be at ease because you’re always thinking about them; are you doing the right thing, can you do something more, something different… the guilt of not spending enough time with them at times…”

It’s all about making sure they’re “happy, healthy and confident”, she says. That’s when she’ll know they’re going to be okay.

karen@khaleejtimes.com

BOX OUT/ MUM’S THE WORD

Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.

— Stevie Wonder


The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the centre of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.

— Jessica Lange


Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.

— Barbara Kingsolver


The software program for motherhood is impossible to fully download into the male brain. You give them two tasks and they’re like, “I have to change the baby <and> get the dry cleaning?”

— Allison Pearson


God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.

— Rudyard Kipling

 

 



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