The Sassiest Mama Awards 2015
There’s no doubt you’ve already ‘met’ this gorgeous mama via your tv screen and her very high profile job on Dubai One. From the thrill of live television to discovering the city’s ever evolving foodie scene plus managing the daily routine that comes with a toddler and 1 month old, she’s all about saying ‘yes’ and learning on the run.
Who’s The Mama?
Full Name: Katie Fielder
Occupation: News Anchor
Children: Ben, two years and Amelia, one month
How long have you lived in Dubai? Almost seven years
1) Tell us about your business/businesses and why you started them.
I’m a News Anchor for Emirates News on Dubai One, where I’m responsible for writing and researching news stories, booking guests and editing my interviews and reports. An awful lot of research and preparation goes into it – often at very unglamorous times of day! 9am filming in Abu Dhabi? Right, that will be 6am in hair and make-up then… But there’s nothing like the thrill of live television – especially when you’re on location from an event where there’s no autocue prompter, new guests pop up and pre-booked guests are delayed, the director is speaking in your ear in a combination of Arabic and English and everything completely changes, but you kind of relish the chaos as it unfolds around you.
I’ve worked in television for just over 12 years now, originally starting as a production assistant behind the camera on an early morning news programme in Australia. The hours were tough, starting work at 3 or 4am (!) five days a week, but it was a fantastic experience and meant that I learnt the full production process from the ground up. I slowly worked my way up over the years from a production assistant to an assistant producer and then a reporter working at different networks and production houses, and then we moved to Dubai at the start of 2009 where I was offered a job as the Business Anchor and Producer for City 7’s daily business bulletin. I stayed with them for about 18 months and was then head hunted for Dubai One in November 2010 just after getting married. I’ve spent most of my time at Dubai One working for Emirates 24/7 and Emirates News, but I’ve also really enjoyed hosting a number of network specials for them too, from the Dubai Expo Bid Show live from Paris to the Dubai International Film Festival to the World Economic Forum and UAE National Day celebrations, amongst others.
2) What do you feel have been your biggest achievements both in your personal life and career so far?
Work wise, I’ve had some amazing opportunities like co-hosting Dubai One’s coverage of the Dubai Expo bid in a three hour live show from Paris. For the weeks leading up to the show, I filmed a number of interviews with high-profile guests in Dubai about the city’s hopes for the Expo and I was also charged with booking guests in Paris for the live show. My son Ben was only a few months old at the time, so I flew my mother in law and sister in law over from England to help look after him in Paris.
It was a whirlwind trip – we were either filming reports on location in the lead up to the event or sitting in our hotel room trying to book guests and research all about the other candidate cities. And I had the added bonus of running up and down the hotel’s many stairs to use their microwave steriliser to clean baby bottles and a breast pump multiple times a day! That plus a jet-lagged baby who was determined to coo at me all night made it a bit of a crazy week… The actual show was great fun though.
We had some challenges like the Director and the Floor Manager not being able to communicate with each other through the technical equipment for some reason, an autocue prompter that didn’t work, wi-fi that kept dropping out, guests cancelling at the last minute and all of this while filming a live show on the rooftop of a building in 3 degree weather, but we had the most fantastic time. It was amazing to feel the adrenalin build as Dubai managed to succeed through every round of voting and, ultimately, win.
I’ve also really enjoyed the chance to MC and speak at a number of events – from hosting a major ministerial meeting for the UN’s International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi, to travelling all over the region to host major financial conferences with Central Bank Governors and CEOs, as well as celebrity dinners and events. I always feel quite confident when I’m working in television – it’s my world and I feel like I know what’s going on (most of the time), but it’s a completely different story with live events as there are so many other external factors that can go wrong. Especially when you’re the one who needs to smooth things over and help make it a success.
On a personal note, I’m so proud of becoming a mum. It’s difficult going from a job where you can control a lot of what goes on – if you work hard and stick to a schedule, you’ll normally see some progress and can predict what will happen, at least some of the time. And when things go wrong, you put a new plan into place and try and move forward. But children are entirely different!
It wasn’t until I became a mother that I truly appreciated just amazing my own mum is. I remember walking down the street and wanting to high-five other mums – ‘Hey, you went through labour – well done you! You breastfed – good on you! You’re constantly sleep deprived – you’re doing so well!’
I think sometimes society tends to gloss over how tough motherhood can be and just how crazy sleep-deprivation can make you… But it does get easier and it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done. My children make my heart sing.
3) As a child what did you dream of being when you ‘grew up’?
I grew up doing ballet and dreamed of being a ballerina. The older girls in our ballet school always seemed so graceful in their beautiful pale pink tutus and pearly white pointe shoes. I loved watching them dance ‘Swan Lake’ in particular – the contrast between the White Swan and the Black Swan, with their long legs gliding through Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score was always magical to watch.
4) If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?
1 – That all children can grow up happy and safe. The recent refugee crisis has really highlighted how lucky we are to have been born in a country free from war and persecution. However it’s complete chance as to which country we are born into, so I find it difficult to understand why some people think we have the right to deny others a safe roof over their heads.
2 – To have a never-ending round the world airplane ticket.
3 – More sleep.
5) What does being a Sassy Mama mean to you?
I think it’s about being a fun mum who works hard to succeed – whether that’s on the work or home front. It’s about chasing your dreams but having a good time along the way, about being able to laugh at yourself when things go wrong and remembering that we all have those days where the toddler throws his food on your freshly pressed white suit just before you walk out the door, the baby vomits in your hair that’s just been washed for the first time in a week and the car battery dies when you’re on the way to that urgent meeting. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.’
6) What’s a typical day in your life like?
Since having my second baby, I’m now working at Dubai One just two days a week. I usually get to spend the mornings with both children but on work days my hours tend to vary quite a lot – sometimes I will be on the road all day filming interviews or reports and other days I’m anchoring the news in studio. On the days I anchor, I start work at midday and finish in the evening. I enjoy writing for the show, but it can get quite busy trying to write, oversee the editing process and then prepping for studio interviews as well. However, I love that each day provides a variety of new and different challenges.
Before Amelia was born, my evenings were certainly a bit more social, attending or speaking at different events, but I’m a little bit more housebound these days – which isn’t a bad thing. After all, pyjamas are always more comfy than a pair of heels at the end of a long day!
7) What’s your guilty pleasure?
I adore trying new cafes and restaurants and am enjoying watching how Dubai’s relationship with food is really evolving, from having either super casual or expensive restaurants but not much in between, to developing a real foodie culture with great new cafes, pop up restaurants, food vans and more. I’m pretty healthy, but have a sweet tooth and enjoy indulging it as much as possible.
8) What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in your personal life and career?
It’s better to regret doing something, than regret not doing it at all. There’s always going to be a reason to say no: you don’t have the right experience, the right connections or the right outfit. Say yes anyway. Learning on the run can be terrifyingly exhilarating.
9) What do you most enjoy doing as a family in Dubai?
I simply cannot wait until the weather cools down and we can start planning picnics at Ripe Markets in Zabeel Park again. We love long lazy days there with other friends and their little ones – there’s so many great open spaces for the kids to tear around, and the adults can sit back and indulge in the many different types of food on offer or peruse some beautiful home goods at the markets.
10) What is the ‘best-kept’ secret in Dubai, something fellow mamas should know about?
Ras Al Khor’s Wildlife Sanctuary at the top of Dubai Creek is a great place to take the kids to spot hundreds of flamingoes, as well as another 70 or so different species of birds like herons and even eagles. You’d never guess that such a beautiful protected area, teeming with birds and greenery, exists against the backdrop of Dubai’s towering skyscrapers. If you want to watch the birds being fed, make sure you visit first thing in the morning, around 9 – 9.30am. Entrance is free from Sunday to Thursday.
11) Which three words best describe your personality?
Driven, outgoing and caring.
12) What advice would you have for a new mama?
None of us really know what we’re doing, and we all go a little bit nuts thanks to a combination of hormones and sleep deprivation. So don’t be too hard on yourself. My Dubai girlfriends now live all over the world with their children but we have a WhatsApp group and group message each other most days. It’s a great way to stay in touch, ask advice or just have a whinge about our husbands and children.
13) What advice would you give to a mama who wants to go back to work or start her own business but is worried about juggling family and career?
You can’t do it all, so you need to prioritise which tasks are most important to you. Perhaps you can’t be there when your children get home and do their homework, but you’re there at the end of the day to review their homework and have dinner together.
My work on an evening bulletin means that I miss bedtime stories two days a week, which is a special time for our little family. But on the nights I am home, when group story time is finished, I hand Baby Amelia to my husband and spend an extra ten minutes with Ben for some alone time. We hide in his teepee tent, read an extra story or sing some songs. It sounds simple, but one on one time with him – without his sister who he adores, but who obviously takes up a lot of my attention – really helps us connect and is a lovely way to finish the day.
14)If you were on an island and could bring only 3 things (family not included) what would they be?
My iPod, a hammock and a good book.
15) Top 3 books?
Ahh, if only I had the time to read a book! My favourite book is Christina Noble’s ‘Bridge Across My Sorrows’ – an inspiring read about a young woman who grew up in extreme poverty in Ireland, suffered all kinds of abuse and went on to set up an international charity that has now helped more than one million children and their families around the world. I read this book growing up in Australia and am honoured to now be an ambassador for the charity.
I also love Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’. Another sassy mama I know, Heidi Raeside, gave it to me and it’s an inspiring read that has helped me question what’s holding me back in the battle to juggle motherhood and a career and how I can try to turn that around. I think it’s an important book that both men and women should read.
On a much lighter note, I also adore Dawn French’s ‘Dear Fatty’. It’s a hilarious account of her life but also gives you an insight into the more serious parts of her personality and the challenges she’s faced, like fertility issues.
16) If there was a movie produced about your life, who would you choose to play you and why?
I really admire Charlize Theron – she’s a strong, intelligent woman who overcame a difficult background to become one of the most successful women in the world. She’s drop dead gorgeous but isn’t afraid of taking on films like ‘Monster’, and I also like that she’s an animal activist.
17) Tell us something funny that your kids have said or done.
Ben is a delightfully cheeky and happy little boy who always wants to hug other children – which they don’t always enjoy. He will walk up to any child and demand to ‘tuddle’ them, usually around their neck, despite our best efforts to teach him to cuddle around the waist instead. He’s quite obsessed with his ‘baby ista’ Amelia and is forever shouting her name whilst poking her in the cheek and kissing her. We can’t put her on a play mat as he will smother her with hugs or kisses.
He also loves to copy anything that we do, so is often found wandering around the house wearing one of ‘Daddy ooos’ (shoes), with a bra casually strung around his neck and dragging one of my handbags behind him as he talks on ‘Mummy own’ (phone).
Thanks to The Studio for the gorgeous pics! Book your photography experience on (+971) (0)4 347 1745.
Special thanks also to Sassy Mama Dani for coordinating mamas and photographers while juggling 3 little ones too!