The effects of motherhood on my mental health as a serial entrepreneur.
The importance we place on our mental health especially as mothers usually sits quite low on the ever-growing ‘to-do list’ – that is if it even makes the list, now add being a multiple business owner.
My name is Safia, mother to 3 young children. I am also the Commercial Director of ViewMedia, a global media broadcasting company which I have run with my husband for over 12 years, and most recently founder of The Mum Hub.
Being a C-Suite Executive taught me to always be on my A–game and to always show up. When I became a mother almost 8 years ago, I thought I could have it all. I mean don’t get me wrong, you can, but at what cost? For me, it was at the cost of my mental health. I did not understand how important my mental health and well-being were as a mother.
My first daughter was born in 2014 and I was torn between leaving my child with our nanny at 3 months old and having to fulfil my duties as a board member and director. While in meetings with the rhythmic sound of my pumping machine, I would also frantically send messages to our nanny 13 times an hour with the onset of panic if there was no response within a few minutes.
Even with the happy smiles and cuddles that welcomed me as I got home in time for dinner, I worried about the 43 unanswered emails had to respond to.
I wondered what people would think and that’s when it started – the mental pain I was desperately trying to vanquish.
I had this beautiful baby but worried about deadlines, multiple time zones, strategy planning and long days in the office. I became fixated on performing at my absolute best. I replied to every single email I received within a few minutes and was working unsociable hours whilst feeding through the night.
I didn’t think things could get any worse, but they did. My daughter developed reflux and was screaming for hours on end, every single, night. I believe they call this the ‘witching hour.’
I had to be on a strict diet of no dairy, gluten or soya in order to continue breastfeeding. This made day-to-day life quite tricky. I was used to eating anything to fit around my schedule but now I had to think about what I ate because I was so worried about making my daughter uncomfortable. The guilt of being away from her whilst someone else gave her medication was unbearable for me.
Then came the preschool years. I could only make meetings after drop-offs and I had to leave at pickup times which meant more pressure of working after-hours and on weekends. The thoughts in my head were exacerbated because meetings were time-bound due to my schedule.
I punished myself for having to leave earlier to collect my child and the thought of what people said about me haunted me.
You may think, “well you had a nanny so why were you doing pick-ups and drop-offs.”
Well, the simple reason was, I wanted to eat my cake and have it. I wanted to be able to perform my demanding duties and responsibilities and still be a part of my daughter’s life. I didn’t want to miss out on seeing her have fun or achieve her milestones.
I would often reflect on fond memories of my mother who always dropped me off and picked me up with the warmest hugs.
Whilst I was conflicted in my business duties, I was then thrown into the world of playdates, birthday parties and coffee mornings. I worried about how to talk to mums who were waiting in line to pick up their children. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
My daughter didn’t have a playdate until she was 4 because I wasn’t confident enough to introduce myself.
As time went on, I decided to get back in touch with my therapist. I needed help. I could feel myself drowning in my own thoughts. My mental health was suffering and I was running myself to the ground.
I wasn’t eating, I was constantly tired, I was short with everyone, struggled with constant migraines and my milk flow was suffering.
The family and work-life balance didn’t exist for me and I didn’t know what to do.
It wasn’t until I had my second child – my son in 2018, that I realised I couldn’t go through all of that again – the mental and physical anguish. I decided that this time, things would be different. I decided that I would relinquish some of that control in my own time – I would allow our nanny once my son and I were comfortable to take him to classes and most importantly, I came to terms with the fact I couldn’t be in the office doing the same hours I was previously.
When it came to what I thought others were thinking, well, I left it as just that – they were what I thought and not necessarily what people were thinking. I found my confidence to talk to other mums and arrange playdates and I even went for a coffee with some of them! I am now a class rep!
My third child – my daughter was born during the lockdown. Armed with my newfound confidence, I decided to take the plunge and start another business. The Mum Hub was born in September 2021.
The Mum Hub (TMH) was set up with the sole purpose of creating a safe, all-inclusive environment for all mums to express their views, share their knowledge and be open-minded enough to learn new things. At each brunch, a guest speaker is invited to share their expertise in a range of areas of interest to our mums. These include topics such as identity and how it changes after becoming a parent, how to support your mental health and well-being, and how to harness your hormones to support your overall health.
We run these events around the Surrey area and invite all mums from all walks of life to join us for some delicious brunch, in a welcoming child-friendly setting whilst learning something that supports them.
At the end of the day, we may differ in our approaches, but what unites us is being mothers and forever postpartum.
Safia Rana-Jaswal founded The Mum Hub (TMH) after struggling to find her own identity when becoming a mum. She faced significant struggles with the constant feeling of not doing enough, feeling judged and burning herself out. TMH hosts brunches with a twist – specifically tailored to mums and to support their mental health. What makes TMH unique is that each event has a guest speaker discussing a topic that affects mums every day, even where they carry a social stigma or are difficult to discuss. Safia hopes to give mums confidence when facing testing times, by equipping them with knowledge, knowing that there are always choices available for them and most importantly, realising that they are not alone.