Motherhood Stories : Fatima on raising older boys, self care & work that fulfills us

So excited to share with you the next mama in this Motherhood Series; Fatima is a mom of boys; a tween + a teen. I often get nervous when I’m taking photos of older kids but this was one of those sessions where I left feeling so warm in my heart because of the beautiful bond these kids + their mama share. I’m so excited for you guys to read her words (esp the part about taking care of ourselves as moms & her definition of work.. It’s so good sigh)

Q: Tell us about you and your kids?

A: A: I have 2 boys, Bashu 16 and Hamza 11. I had Bashu when I was pretty young, 20, so we get along like buddies most of the time. Especially as he is getting older. Hamza is my baby forever. Lol. He gets away with things Bashu never could haha. I knew what kind of mom I wanted to be at a pretty early age. I knew I would be a very active mom. I knew that if my kid needs to talk, I will drop what I’m doing and listen. Whether it is about school, a girl, a friend, I don’t care if it was about a rock- anything they wanted to talk about I was going to be listening! Thankfully, I was able to follow through on that. Blessed that they talk to me, about anything under the sun. Obviously, with a teen he won’t share his whole life with me all the time. But he knows that I’m here when it matters and that is the most important thing to me. Especially now that we are applying to colleges and there’s so much going on in his life and in his head. He knows he’s got me in his corner always and I’m happy that he still comes to me to talk.

Q: What has been your favorite thing about being a mom? 

A: This is so cheesy but I love the random hugs, snuggles n kisses. I love our car rides to their activities. Yes, I feel like I’m an uber driver sometimes but honestly, the best conversations happen on our rides. I love our dates. I make it a point to have 1:1 time with each child. Especially if they request it. It’s my most favorite time. I love getting to just have fun with them rather than always being the parent all the time. Getting to just let loose n let them be goofy with me and I with them. I just love hanging out with them, they really are my favorite humans!

Q: What have you struggled with the most? 

A: them growing up! It is so hard to know they are safe. When they go to their friends house, I have to remember I know the kid and he is in good company. Then I think what about the parents? Do you ever really know who is safe? I don’t know. Maybe I just watch too much Criminal Minds. LOL Besides their safety, It is also really difficult to choose your battles as they get older. It’s so tempting to always be advising them but then when do they think for themselves? Being there for them without being intrusive controlling or overbearing. There’s a fine line really. We want them to be happy and healthy without us being helicopter parents. Right?

Q: What excites you about raising boys? 

A: They keep me on my toes ! There’s always something exciting even in the small things. 

Q: What was your upbringing like? 

A: Nothing like how I raise my own kids. Lol. My parents came to NY when I was about 3yrs old. My mom is VERY traditional and very religious. She was super young when she had kids so I can imagine how hard it must’ve been for her with 3 kids before 30! And then moving a country, away from everything she knew. Ammi was very scared of us straying from our traditions, culture and religion. My dad tried to be more modern but he couldn’t help being traditional too (though he was a bit less religious back when we were little. I guess with age he got more religious! Haha).

We were always told to behave a certain way, because “hamaray haan aisa hi hota hai” (urdu for: this is how it happens in our homes). The way my parents raised me was just different. I understand they left Pakistan when they were very young. We rarely went back. So, I guess they didn’t know how much even Pakistani culture had changed. It’s so much more relaxed based on what I have experienced when I went back. I mean, I think we turned out alright despite the helicoptering. They did their best at the time, place, and what advice they received from others.

Q: Is there anything you’re trying to incorporate from your upbringing into your kids’?

A: Kind of. I like to make sure they know their culture and religion. Trying to keep a good balance of our culture with their surroundings of being raised in the states. That can be challenging sometimes!

Q: Tell us about your career and how it’s changed after becoming a mom?

A: I went to school for fashion design actually and ended up with a baking business haha. My passions are all in the creative fields, decorating, party planning, sewing, sketching, painting, name it and I love it.

My career in fashion design never really got a chance to blossom for various reasons ; one reason being that I studied fashion in a place/time that was mainly techy (still is). There were little to NO opportunities. I did have a small business selling children’s clothing for a while, did some personal shopping but it was not fruitful. I also had Hamza in my last trimester of art school, which made it challenging keeping up with the business.

At an early age I had decided that when I am a mom I want to be as present as possible for my kids. So, ever since I had the kids I have always tried working in jobs that won’t compromise my time with them. Whether it was in retail, a paraprofessional at a school, an admin at a tech company or starting my own small business. Whatever I do, it has to fit into my life with these boys. Now that they’re older, I have more flexibility and opportunities to grow.

Q: What keeps you sane through those challenging motherhood moments, especially more so recently through the pandemic? Any tips to for other moms who might be struggling?

A: A few things actually. Mansoor obviously has a big hand in helping keep me sane. Simple things like saying “let’s order in” makes me feel relieved because it is ONE less thing for me to think about.

We have raised our boys to respect my space always. I am very transparent with my kids. If I am really tired or I just need space, I will tell them “Mama needs some alone time”. That can mean absolutely anything from a relaxing bath, writing in my diary/ gratitude journal, a walk or spa day to just going to the store alone! LOL. For me, I usually just want some quiet. I feel like I can only be the best mom to my kids when I am not UTTERLY exhausted. I don’t want to be snappy and frustrated at them when I know I am actually just TIRED. It’s important to do self care. That can mean anything that brings you sanity. Brings you back to feeling like the best you. Retail therapy, gratitude journal/diary, bath, a walk, spa, art, coffee date with yourself(sounds crazy but it is one of my most favorite things to do), workout, do whatever floats your boat.

I advise all mom’s to make sure you take time out for yourself. Make sure the kids know that it is just as important to take care of you. 

Q: I know that you’ve started a bakery recently. Would love to know more about that and how you decided to do that:).

A: For a long time I have been working just to work. Few of the jobs I did brought me joy.

Last year, I worked a job in a corporate environment and it was the job that broke me. I hated it so much that I was literally crying on my way there and on my way back. At the end I thought to myself, why am I doing this? What is wrong with me? Why am I putting myself through this? It is not bringing me ANY joy. It goes against everything I find important for my life and family life too. I was coming home in a bad mood. I was trying not to be in a bad mood but I had so much anxiety, depression, and stress that I just couldn’t be the best me. I could feel that I wasn’t being the best me, which meant I wasn’t being the best mom or partner either. Once that job ended, I decided I needed to take a break from jobs that don’t bring me joy. I knew I needed to stop just working to work. I needed to reassess what I want out of work. It isn’t always about the paycheck. My mental health is important to me, as it should be for everyone.

A few close friends of mine have said to me in the past that I need to start my own business (or a YouTube channel) with the random talents I have. I thought about all of those things. I narrowed down all things they thought I am good at, which of those things I know I am good at, and what I would like to do as work vs hobby. Took me a year! Where I still have a lot that I want to do, baking is what brought me the most joy. The aroma that baking brings creates a positive and joyful environment. The act of baking makes me feel peaceful, happy and relaxed. The best part of it? My MOST favorite part of baking is the joy it spreads to others. The thought of being a small part of their world when they sit down to enjoy a slice of my bread with their loved ones, or maybe for their “me time” brings me joy. Knowing that maybe​ I created a small ounce of positivity in their day brings me joy. 

(Here’s a link to her Instagram for Seattle folks. I’ve heard wonderful things about her baking.)

Thank you so much Fatima. I know so much stayed with me from that conversation & I’m sure it will with everyone that reads this!

Taking Motherhood photos has been one of the most meaningful parts of my job as a photographer & documenting moms with their kids is one of my favorite most things.

Lots of love,