The up-and-coming designer
Joanne Fenlon, 32, is mum to Indigo, 22 months, and lives in Jumeirah Village Circle in Dubai. She is preparing to launch an illustration and pattern design business, Beige Rainbow Designs.
“As soon as my daughter Indigo goes down for her nap, the clock starts ticking and I begin my design work for the day, be it in my ‘studio’ (the sofa or at the dining room table) or on my lap in the car while she sleeps peacefully in the back. Indeed, Indigo often falls asleep while I’m driving, so I always have my kit ready, which includes a fully charged laptop, a stash of fresh paper and a cardboard box to lean on while I do my drawings.
“My style is whimsical and quirky. I play on contrasts, such as cupcakes teamed with ghosts. I want to put something out there that doesn’t already exist and although I do try to rein it in and be as commercial as possible, my personality still shines through.
“I completed an online course in surface pattern design in September 2014, which really kick-started my business idea. According to the ‘rules’, good designs should feature a maximum of six shades, but mine have around 300 and that will never change!
“I am inspired by colour, as you can tell from my daughter’s name. She influences everything I do and I design with her in mind. I can see the patterns I am creating as her future bed linen, for instance. Over time, I’ve learnt to find clever ways to utilise her nap times for my design work as I have to make the most of every minute she is asleep.
“Often she’ll have a two-hour nap, but some days she can snooze for just 15 minutes. If I can sense she’s going to have a shorter nap, I simply become more focused.
“I’m a trained nurse but the shift pattern meant it was difficult for me to pick that career back up after Indigo was born, so being able to pursue my passion for design suits me perfectly.
“Nap time is my only window, as I simply can’t work when she’s awake. The rest of the day is filled with play dates, and in the evenings I like to relax with my husband, John.
“My overriding goal is to achieve a happy work-life balance and provide for my family while not missing out on precious time together during these early years. I think that’s a common goal that many mums strive for and it’s a pleasure to be able to combine the two passions.”
To find out more about Jo’s designs, follow her on Instagram @beigerainbowdesigns or visit www.beigerainbowdesigns.com.
The fitness inspiration
Zoe Cresswell, 33, is mum to Wilbert, two, and, lives in The Springs, Dubai. Despite leading an active lifestyle as a sought-after personal trainer – among other occupations – she uses her son’s downtime to tend to her own fitness needs.
“Exercising at home with a toddler is a little like lying on the floor with a dozen hyperactive puppies. I get crawled on, bounced on, sat on and dragged away to do whatever he wants to do. I try to sneak in a few exercises while we mess around and he doesn’t notice. For example, a sit-up becomes a game of peekaboo and a side plank becomes a bridge for him to crawl under.
“When Wilbert goes down for his nap, however, it’s my golden opportunity to squeeze in some core and strength training, which I can do at home using minimal equipment. While, as a personal fitness trainer, it may appear as if I’m active enough already, I’ve benefited both physically and emotionally since I started making time for my own fitness.
“My husband and I are triathletes and when we had Wilbert we didn’t want to stop exercising. My clients keep me very busy – I mostly see women who are pre- or postnatal and I’m also a qualified midwife. Due to work, I am only around for Wilbert’s nap time three days a week and on two of these days I don’t have childcare, so it really is the only time I have to focus on my own fitness goals.
“Knowing I have that time to myself when I can do what I need to do is such a comfort. I’m not a very nice person if I can’t get my training in – it’s a bit like needing coffee to get through the day, but for me it’s exercise. Sometimes, I only get half an hour, which can be frustrating but I just let it go.
“When Wilbert was younger it was an even bigger challenge. We didn’t have any help and he used to sleep from 8pm to 2am so I used to go to bed early, set my alarm for 11pm, go and train and be back in time for when he woke up. We’d be awake until around 3am when he would fall back to sleep and so would I. He used to nap on me during the daytime, which was lovely, but frustrating as it meant I couldn’t move!
“Now he sleeps regularly from around 1:30pm for two hours.
“As the clients I train often have babies, I am trying to use my own experience to help them as I know how hard it is to fit in exercise as a new mum. It’s fine and totally normal for it to sometimes feel like an impossible task… It’s commendable to even get in your workout gear and make it out of the door and, as I now know, it does get easier over time.”
To find out more about Zoe’s PT business, visit www.lahafitness.com.
The baby photographer
Fiona Webster, 30, is mum to Lewis, 10 months, and lives in Remraam, Dubai. She runs photography business Make Believe Baby.
“Being on maternity leave with a newborn baby can be monotonous at times. Six weeks in, aside from entertaining my son Lewis, my days suddenly seemed to revolve around changing nappies and doing household chores while he slept. As he would regularly take two two-and-a-half-hour-long naps each day, I quickly got a bit bored.
“I was on a break from my teaching role and decided I wanted to pursue photography as a hobby. Inspired by pictures I had seen online of babies lying on top of creative scenes and photographed from above, I decided to try to create something similar. I began by gathering props from around the house such as bed linen, towels, scraps of material and other household items and used them to mock-up backgrounds on the floor like the beach or a magical forest. I’d start as soon as Lewis went down for his nap, although sometimes it would take up to two nap times to get it right.
“As soon as he woke, I’d lay him down while he was still a bit drowsy and get my snap. At first I was balancing on a dining room chair using my iPhone, but then I switched to using an SLR, before ultimately buying a top-of-the-range camera. I am inspired by my favourite childhood stories and fairy tales but I have also created some Dubai-inspired scenes, such as the one of Lewis dressed as a superhero flying over the city.
“It was only when I went home to Scotland for a holiday that I realised how popular my photos were. It was all my friends wanted to talk to me about and my mum suggested I start it as a business. My husband was really supportive, so I decided to go for it. I approached Little Majlis and was accepting my first clients in October 2015.
“I’ve recently gone back to work part time, but I will continue Make Believe Baby as a sideline as it makes every day that bit more fun. Lewis has now starred in over 80 pictures and I am delighted to have created such amazing memories with him. Over time, his naps have shortened to around 90 minutes, so
I have to work much more quickly.
“I think of ideas for new scenes all the time but people also come to me with their own concepts. Lewis is now 10 months old and it’s becoming almost impossible to place him in the middle of scenes as he just crawls off, but I will continue to do photo shoots for other mums and hopefully Lewis can be in another few pictures before he decides he’s too big.
“When Lewis is older, he will either find all of this amazing or completely embarrassing, but I hope he likes them. The experience has shown me that I can run my own business – something I never thought I’d be capable of before, and certainly something I never expected to grow from having some spare time while my baby napped.”
Follow Fiona on Facebook at /makebelievebaby, on Instagram @makebelieve babydubai or visit www.littlemajlis.com/shop/makebelievebaby.
The studious wellness expert
Kay Bodanza, 38, is mum to Aurora, 20 months, and lives in Victory Heights in Dubai. She is studying to further her career as a colon hydrotherapist and nutritional and naturopathic wellness therapist.
“My daughter’s nap times are currently my saving grace as I use them to crack on with my studying without being disturbed. Aurora has a two-hour nap each day, which gives me a good amount of time to get at least one paper completed each week. It’s actually amazing how much you can get done in a relatively short space of time!
“I specialise in digestive health and nutrition for adults and children and have a keen interest in finding out the root cause of digestive imbalance, which usually results in other side effects and symptoms in a person. This requires me to keep abreast of industry developments and I constantly need to research and read articles and medical studies. It’s also vital for keeping up my accreditation in the UK and also for when I renew my medical licence in Dubai each year.
“Admittedly, for the first three months after I had Aurora it was impossible to fit in any study time and I had to put everything on hold. When she reached the four-month mark, however, we fell into a routine I could rely on, which is when I decided to devote her nap time to studying.
“For me, it’s undisturbed quiet time when I can really focus. I work part time and it’s impossible to hit the books when my daughter is awake, and in the evenings I’m too exhausted to even think about it.
“There are days when I feel like I just need to switch off, so occasionally I do join her in her nap. Most of the time, however, I simply work from my laptop. I have certain areas of the house I gravitate towards, but a favourite is the dining room table. I put opera on in the background, grab some snacks, turn my phone off and focus.
“I do have days when I know it’s simply not going to happen, but if things don’t go the way I hope, I simply let it go and try again tomorrow. If you allow yourself to get stressed when you have a certain task you want to tick off your list but can’t, I believe it transfers to your child. This was difficult for me to manage initially, but I find a way to move on without getting frustrated and I think that’s why Aurora’s such a chilled baby.
“The best advice I can offer mums in a similar situation is to be super-organised. My husband and I work as a team by planning Aurora’s meals for the week and keeping on top of everyday chores. If you’re not organised, life with a baby can quickly become overwhelming. I know there is a time and a place for everything and I feel my life is simpler and more productive as a result.”
To find out more about Kay’s business, Wellness with Kay, email firstname.lastname@example.org.