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Spotlight: Mum’s the word!

Updated May 11, 2014
When Mahmood Rehman and Meesha Shafi were expecting their first born
When Mahmood Rehman and Meesha Shafi were expecting their first born

“I was thrilled to discover that I was going to be a mother!” said Meesha Shafi, the multi-talented powerhouse entertainer who has taken the country by storm. She felt ready to take on parenthood with her husband, musician and President of Pak MMA Fighting Alliance, Mahmood Rehman. “Both financially and emotionally, it was the perfect time to welcome a new member into our family. I think it can probably be overwhelming when a marriage is weak or not settled, but we were more than prepared to welcome our daughter. That was three years ago, and we have since welcomed a brand new baby boy into our family as well.”

She opens up about the experience of parenting. “The thought of having two children, both at a highly-dependent age can be daunting, especially for a working mother like me,” she said. “But my brother and I were raised by an exceptionally strong, simple working mother. I give her full credit for what I think is a job well done. I learnt a lot about balancing life and work from my mum. From her, I’ve seen that it’s all very possible. When you learn from the best, it gives you a lot of courage and faith in yourself.” The ‘mum’ in question is, of course, none other than veteran television actor Saba Hameed.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy with her daughter Amelia
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy with her daughter Amelia

The idea of becoming a parent can be a little daunting, even for someone who’s spent a considerable amount of time reporting in conflict zones and winning global awards for being badass and brave. “I was thrilled at the thought of becoming a mother,” said Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Pakistan’s first (and only) Oscar winner, “Having a child is one of the most precious privileges one can be lucky enough to experience. As the news sunk in, there were definitely moments of nervousness and anxiety, predominantly because there was so much to learn. It can be a bit intimidating for a first-time parent. I have realised that each mother has a different way of going about things, and each parent-child relationship is different — it’s all about finding your groove and going with it!”

Not everyone is prepared to welcome motherhood though, especially when it comes unplanned. One of Pakistan’s most well-known faces in the world of fashion, supermodel-turned-designer Nadia Hussain Khan was shocked when she discovered that just three months into her marriage with hubby Atif Khan, she was pregnant. “We had planned to wait for two years!” she said, “So yes, there were plenty of fears and reservations about my life as a mother and how that would affect my freedom, work, body … pretty much everything. No, I was not excited.” Despite the initial scare, motherhood must have won over Nadia in the end because she has three adorable children. While having the last one, she celebrated motherhood by making numerous appearances on the fashion runway, complete with a very large baby bump.

She isn’t the first mother to ‘come out’ with her pregnancy. Back when she was having Janevi, Meesha shot for the cover of a local monthly lifestyle magazine clad in black tights, tank top and high heels, showing off her baby bump. The cover caused quite a bit of a stir in social media circles where some applauded her for being ‘pregnant and proud’ and others considered the display, well, ‘shameless’.

The photo and the resulting controversy took one back to the 1991 cover of Vanity Fair which featured a handbra nude photograph of a seven-month pregnant Demi Moore, which also caused quite a bit of a stir among the public when it first came out. Having said that, what is it about a pregnant woman ‘coming out’ that makes people uncomfortable is a topic for another article.

Meesha is of the opinion that there’s no room for being childish or irresponsible once you are a parent. “The biggest challenge is setting healthy examples in everyday life because your children are always absorbing what is going on around them,” said Meesha on the trials and tribulations of parenthood, “Sometimes when you don’t feel very stable and mature in your own skin and just want to whine and complain over stupid things, the thought of setting an example kicks in. And that really helps keep both my husband and I grounded.” That can certainly be a challenge.

“Saying goodbye to your carefree years forever is the most challenging,” she adds. “Having said that, there is absolutely no other role in life that is so rewarding.”

On the other hand, for Sharmeen, the biggest challenge of parenthood boils down to one tiny word, “The ability to say ‘no’,” she exclaimed. “Even when it is heartbreaking to do so!”

For Nadia, it all comes down to finding the right balance. “It’s to make sure that my kids study well and have a good work-play balance so they grow up with well-rounded personalities,” she said.

“Motherhood is unarguably the toughest and most rewarding job you’ll ever have!” exclaimed model Meera Ansari, whose son Hadi, had an early introduction into the world of modelling. As a toddler, he’s been featured alongside his beautiful mum, and at times grandmother (Bushra Ansari) in several commercial campaigns. “Forgive me for sounding dramatic, but it’s tough while you’re at home and when you’re out, the guilt of leaving your child behind is soul-crushing!” She added that she tries to communicate to her almost five-year-old as much as she can whenever she has to travel for a photo-shoot.

Hadi with his model mum Meera Ansari
Hadi with his model mum Meera Ansari

“That helps me feel secure and also gives him clear expectations of what time of the day I’ll be back,” said Meera, “I’m personally very OCD, so sometimes I’ll make drawings or charts to help them understand.”

Where Hadi is concerned, there are perks to whenever mum Meera has to step out for work. “I think we underestimate the coping abilities of children and feel overwhelmed,” she said, “but if you make a habit of communicating work routines, they get the hang of it. And they look forward to the mountain of gifts upon your return!” Indeed.

The one thing that all of these young women have in common is the support of their spouses and families. All of them have stressed, over and over again, what a huge difference that can make not only to the development of their children, but also in helping them as mothers handle the home-work balance. Nadia is of the opinion that along with all your efforts, it’s okay not to get everything perfectly right all the time. “Motherhood just comes naturally,” she said. “Trying not to go overboard or crazy is one thing you need to make sure of and that is achieved by being stress free. A lot of things happen in life and many things may not go your way. It’s okay to compromise.”

As someone who’s held her ground in the world of fashion along with shouldering her responsibilities as a parent, Nadia wishes that her children live their life with the same conviction she has. “My advice to them would be that they follow their instincts and do what they feel most passionately about!” she said.

“You have to be compassionate,” is the advice Sharmeen would like to give to her children when they grow up, “Everything else can be learned or practised but compassion has to come from your gut.”

“To both my boy and girl I would say, respect your work, happiness and yourself before you try to make others happy,” says tiger mum, Meesha, “But I want to be very strict about teaching respect for women especially now that I’m raising a boy. I am lucky that my husband holds a lot of respect for what I do and who I am because, from their father, both my son and daughter will learn how a woman should be treated.”

“Also, please never ever smoke and always brush your teeth before bed. We love you unconditionally and will always be here watching you learn from your mistakes and plucking you out of trouble.”