Inspiring Joanne Hanson is mama to gorgeous baby George and has recently set up Small and Mighty Babies (read the Sassy Mama write-up here), a new support group for ‘Dubai babies born a little too soon’, after experiencing life with a premature baby when George was born 10 weeks early. Coming from the hectic private banking industry, she shares with us how she finally feels like she is doing something she was meant to.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?
A Mrs. and a mummy to our baby son, gorgeous George who has just turned one (both full time jobs!) I am now a stay at home mother and have swapped the mean streets of the DIFC for the pram friendly pavements, parks and play centres of Dubai. I have recently set up a website, www.smallandmightybabies.com, which offers support and information to the families of premature babies born a little too soon.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
My career started in the private banking industry and having worked in London and the top three northern cities (Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester!!) I made the move to Dubai after meeting my husband-to-be whilst here on a girls’ weekend. We were married and blessed with a baby who was born in May 2013, two months early. His early arrival and fight to be here has been totally life-changing for me in both a personal and professional capacity. I did not feel comfortable returning to work and was fortunate my husband supported me to become a full time mother. I did however still want to do something and before I knew it I had this calling to set up the Small and Mighty Babies website and for the first time in my life I feel I am doing something I was meant to.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
Having only one baby means I am not juggling like my friends with three and four children but trying to create a website with a newborn wasn’t easy. I time my work around George’s sleeps and when he was less active he came to all my meetings with me though now he is almost walking and refuses to sit still he gets to stay at home more!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
I love cooking so can usually make something from nothing but I try to plan my meals for the week and then spend one evening making marinades and stacking Tupperware with different meats and their marinades in the fridge so on the night I only have salad or vegetables to prepare. I am also learning to not leave things to the last minute… if I think I have 5 minutes spare, I start doing something else, I need to stop this and just get on with the task in hand.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Dubai?
Dubai really is the land of opportunity and I always tell people to follow their dreams and not just sit waiting for something to come along to you. I will use one of Maya Angelou’s famous quotes, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass”
Favourite activity with your kids in Dubai?
Still learning about all these things but my favourite so far (when it was much cooler!) is the Splash Park at JBR The Beach… I shall be there most days come October. I love Appleseeds, Petit Palais and Favourite Things. Being a farmers daughter I love surrounding myself with “countryside” so its got to be Safa Park… the nearest thing to it!! I also love taking George to Sinbads in Al Qasr, fully shaded, safe, immaculate and I can manage to swing the odd arm and leg into the sun to get some form of a tan!!
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Dubai?
Apart from my own dining table, Armani Caffe (my husband and I are regulars at all three UAE locations), Tom and Serg where George seems to always get special attention from the staff and The Reform Grill in the Lakes.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot?
For now, I promote the “staycation”… I want nourishment not punishment and flying with my luggage is stressful never mind plus baby!! I think we often take for granted what we have on our doorsteps. When George is older I hope he is as well traveled as his father but for now, the UAE suits me fine.
you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Yikes…can Sassy Mama help me with this?!? For me, I suppose it’s making time for each other. Before I knew it, I was a mother and I love it but I do sometimes miss just being a wife. Living in that bubble of just the two of you doing whatever you want, whenever you want.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
Dubai is full of fabulous restaurants but Robertos, Gary Rhodes 2010 and I want to start a petition to bring back Mezzanine!! Daphne’s and Scalini’s when in London and for when we go home, the Inn at Whitewell.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Don’t google it… ask a professional! I think the internet is a wonderful tool but I think you could easily get sucked into a forum of women from across the world discussing what is wrong with your child and before you know it, you believe them. The other great thing was when I was told to put yourself in your baby’s shoes. They are human… just like us and sometimes we make it all a bit too complicated.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Make it your own way, you made this baby and you know, in your heart, what this baby needs. Swamping our minds with all the well publicized routines, methods, myths and magic can stress any new mama out. As long as your child is loved, happy and healthy it doesn’t matter what you do, just do what works for you.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Being more patient and not crying as much, I am far too emotional
My most humbling mama moment…
Was when George was ten days old and I was able to hold him for the first time. That was the moment when it really felt like we had a child.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama…
Is my wardrobe.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about…
I don’t! My husband jokes I go into a coma at night time, I am a deep sleeper and have often woke to a kick with the accompanying words, “honey, George is screaming”!!
Even when my children have families of their own…
I’ll still insist on an annual family holiday and a weekly Sunday roast with everyone around the table.
My favourite moment of the day…
Is walking into the nursery in the morning and seeing a huge, happy smiley face on George. My Net-a Porter deliveries are also up there!
I always feel saner after…
A good talk with my husband, a giggle with my close friends or a spa treatment
I wish I had more time for…
My husband and my friends. I have so many friends who I just never get to see as often as I would want though when speaking to my best friend in Manchester this week she said “Joanne, I haven’t seen you for months but with true friends the time apart means nothing, you see each other and pick up like it was just yesterday you saw them” and I thought yep, she’s right.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
George is ready for bed – hence no protesting!
These gorgeous photos of Joanne and George are courtesy of the hugely talented and very lovely Claire Barlow of Claire Barlow Photography.