Not every woman wants to have children. There are so many reasons why people would
choose not to be parents, and I understand them one hundred percent. Upon deciding to grow their family, parents literally give everything they are and own to raise a
healthy and thriving family. While we acknowledge the dads, it is hardly disputed that the mother’s sacrifice is a very personal and physical one, for which she has physical scars as faithful and ever present witnesses. She bears the babies, births them, nurtures them while being a wife in many cases. But that’s not all. She goes through emotional and mental stress and works her magic in making sure that the finances can now stretch to accommodate the new growth and this is no easy feat. Every mother should be crowned an all-round warrior. Some mothers, however, deserve a special crown because their equation includes a health condition which they or a child is suffering from. This is the aspect that makes today’s coffee chat special.
was very humbled to interview Zona, who lives in the UK, for today’s coffee
chat. She is not only a mother and wife who is working alongside her husband to
support their family, she juggles work + family while living with a long term
health condition. In our catch up, she shares about her challenges and fears but
her determination and daily victorious attitude will inspire you to believe
that all things are possible. If she can do it, we can do it.
Public Health Specialist
A bit more please?
I am a working mum of two beautiful boys. My job is in public health, commissioning public health services
(e.g healthy weight management, 0-19 year old services etc)
for a population of about 161,000. I also assess the needs of this population before commissioning these services. I love the gratification my job brings as I see people use the services I have either re-designed or commissioned to live a healthy life. I love being a mum too, the gift of being a mum is beyond understanding and the grace to keep cheerful even in your most vulnerable moment just for them is
– although I must say I did not anticipate the effort and time it requires to do things for little ones. That said, I will not give motherhood up for anything. I love to cook, travel, read good books I can relate too e.g. Americanah by Chimamada Adichie, going on long walks in nice serene areas. I love nature – water, sand and green.
1. What is the hardest decision you have had to make as a mother?
This, I would say, is making a choice between being a full-time mum or going back to work after maternity leave. I have had sleepless nights, long conversations with hubby and deliberation of what is best and it was still a very hard choice to make. Although my family has been, is and will forever be my first priority, we eventually decided it was best I returned to work to help with the finances. This decision took the whole of my mat leave and we do not have any regret as it’s for the family.
2. What has posed a big challenge for you and how did you overcome this?
My biggest life challenge has been to live with a long term health condition, which I have not opened up about before now. I am humbled to share this as I feel it’s also a testimony that all things is possible with God (which is the meaning of my second son’s name) and I hope it would bring solace to those other mums striving to be a wife and mother while suffering from a long term condition.
Sickle Cell is a severe hereditary form of anaemia in which there is a change in the shape of the red blood cells into a crescent shape at low oxygen levels. This change causes severe pain and other complications which can be life threatening. It is incurable but can be managed. Growing up, I was a very sick child and I didn’t understand very much about sickle cell anaemia. My mum would explain to the best of her ability the cause and what it was but I just didn’t understand how a human should be in such pain. All I knew was that I was in very excruciating pain that I felt no child should ever experience, however, my mum was a great support and carer and many times I could see the pain in her eyes too. When I was much older, I researched a lot about my condition and I was determined to empower myself to live well using the best available ways of managing my health in the midst of my circumstances. These included drinking lots of water, avoiding stress and extreme weather conditions, keeping safe from infections and taking my routine meds. When it came to finding a partner, it was of paramount importance that I married someone who was not a carrier to make sure I prevented my kids from this condition. I’m pleased to say that my heart desire was granted and I now have two sons who are healthy and who do not have this Sickle Cell anaemia. Now I need to keep up with them so I make sure I stay healthy to enjoy the most important thing to me – my family.
Pregnancy was a brilliant time in my health as fetal hemoglobin gave me a lot of protection from crisis – as episodes of the condition is called. This protection lasted up to a year after birth in my first pregnancy. So for me, that was a big benefit in childbirth considering the fact that I was very scared and uncertain about how my body would react to the pregnancy and childbirth process.
Coping with motherhood is challenging because when I have a crisis, I spend about 5 days at a time in hospital and I miss my kids a lot during these periods. Some hospitals in the UK do not allow children visit so often to avoid being exposed to infection. What helps me cope with motherhood is having a very supportive and understanding husband any woman could ask for. Although I wouldn’t usually hire a live-in nanny, we have had to recruit one because we both work and I need that extra help for when I have to be away to receive medical care. By reducing my stress levels, this additional assistance from my nanny is making it possible for me to stay healthy and live well with this condition. I currently returned to work part-time and I spend my time off with my kids, which is a blessing I cherish.
3. Take us through your typical workday and weekend.
My kids are my alarm for the day and once they wake the day begins which is usually 6am. We say a quick prayer – literally 2mins of “thank you Lord”, and since I have a nanny she takes them to get ready for the day while I do my meditation. I get ready for work, then a quick breakfast if it’s not a nursery day drop off or no breakfast if it is a nursery drop off and then I’m off to work. I finish work at 5pm commute back, nursery pick up and back home roughly at 6.15. I try to catch up with my older one in the car on our way back from nursery so it’s easy to catch up with the little one when we get home while he has a shower. We all have a chat while I make dinner, feed the kids and try to start winding them down for the day and bedtime routine. I put them to bed around 8pm and then have dinner and catch up with hubby for about an hour and a little. Then we both do our different things – he runs a business while I gather evidence for my professional registration, research on a project am currently working on, clothes shopping for the kids etc. Afterwards, I retreat to my meditation for half an hour and get ready for the next day – prepare kids clothes for nursery, pack nursery bag, pack lunch, read letters or newsletters from the nursery or I could fit in a little chore during this time.
I must say some days are better and other days are just a nightmare right from the start but what keeps me going is the encouragement and support from family and friends.
4. How do you fit housework into your schedule?
Housework uhmmm…I do the much I can and give my nanny a schedule of what to do as well. So let’s say I practice division of labour. Everyone in the house has a task no matter how little. Hubby puts the bin out and does the laundry, 3 year old helps to load the washing machine and washes up with mum sometimes. I do a lot of the cooking and getting the house organised, calm, cheerful and tidy and my nanny does a lot of the ironing and cleaning.
5. How do you go about meal planning ? What is your easiest fallback recipe when you run out of ideas?
I still find this difficult. A friend had taught me how to meal plan weekly, write out the weekly menu and do a shopping list from that. Hubby usually likes going food shopping at a particular time as he gets deals at that time. I try to get vegetables from the market and household things, in bulk, from a budget household store.
I try to follow a menu most of the time but other times we all fancy something totally not on the menu for the week. Our easiest fall back menu is white rice and veggies as I constantly have beef or fish stew and soups in the freezer.
6. What are your thoughts on choosing Childcare?
Choosing childcare is one of the hardest and most difficult decisions a working parent would make. Childcare involves putting your whole world in the trust of someone who you barely know b
ut have just got to know through an interview or a recommendation. Striking the balance between good childcare, affordability and what works around everyone is challenging but the way I approached it is looking at where the kids would be safe, happy and also develop well. I would also say above all to trust ones instinct as mothers always have that and kids display a certain attitude toward people they are not comfortable with. I also pray a lot before making a choice.
7. Would you hire a nanny and if yes, how close would you want them to be to your children?
I actually have a nanny and she lives in Monday to Friday. I love how my kids warm up to her and the way she smiles just seeing them. I do not mind my nanny getting close to the kids in a way they would learn good behavior and how to interact with other adults however I would worry if that closeness drifts to something inappropriate. My husband and I are thinking of creative ways to check this.
8. How do you get your kids involved in housework?
Like I said earlier I practice division of labour and my son would want to help mummy or dad do stuff. It is part of his routine and he also asks for help when he gets stuck. I use characters that he likes to remind him of things to do, for example, I would say, ‘lets go get fireman Sam’s fire engine ready for the next emergency call’ – then we would go clean the toys. I find that incorporating things he likes, helps to motivate him to get involved.
9. What do you love about what you do?
Being a mum – I love that I can teach my kids and watch them grow. The little daily changes are heartwarming i.e. learning to say a new word, walking or a new set of teeth.
I love my job too – I commission health services for the 0 – 5 year olds for a population of 161,000 and its also delightful to see residents and their families use the services I have modelled and decided to commission to improve their health and well-being.
10. What is on your wish list?
a. Start up a property development portfolio – (I like interior design although I haven’t done any for my house yet hehe);
b. Find more time to read more books for leisure;
c. Go on a ‘hubby and me’ holiday to an Island (Australia, Bora Bora or the Seychelles); and
d. Get a brand new Mercedez Benz jeep (I need a change of car)!