We’re all about celebrating mamapreneurs here at Sassy Mama and this week we’re talking to the fantastic Jumana about her life running the educational activity box company The Happy Box, her previous career at the amazing philanthropic organisation Dubai Cares and raising her beautiful little girl Ayla. Not only are both Jumana and Ayla ridiculously photogenic (honestly ladies, what’s your secret?), but they also clearly have the most wonderful mama/daughter bond. Find out more below!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?
I have been blessed with a wonderful career working in philanthropy and in the non-profit sector and then I up and went and launched myself a brand new career with my gloved start-up! So there’s really plenty to share: I’m a 33-year-old Jordanian who lived all over the world because my father is a UN diplomat who was stationed in different countries every few years, and I credit that for my appreciation and awareness of the world and its various cultures.
After graduating from the University of Oxford with my Masters in Evidence-Based Social Intervention, I spent 10 years working in the public and nonprofit sectors as a philanthropist, strategist and fundraiser. My last role was as the Head of Corporate Planning and Development at Dubai Cares. I have been living in Dubai for almost 10 years now and this city has ingrained itself into my heart! Then, just over a year ago, I realised I was ready to take the necessary steps to make my dreams come true, and I launched The Happy Box together with my sister-in-law, Linda, who lives in New York. It’s an educational activity box for kids age 2 to 11 and choosing to embark on this adventure and this entirely new career was the best decision I ever made!
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
Well, the truth is, the real difference for me is in my career pre- and post-The Happy Box, because for a few years after I had my baby, I continued and grew in the same career. I have always been a workaholic, committed to the job at hand and I immerse myself in my work completely because I believe in it so wholeheartedly. That never changed after having my baby daughter, Ayla. I am one of the lucky few who worked for an entity as incredible, inspiring and understanding as Dubai Cares – they gave me six months of maternity leave, something unheard of in the UAE and imperative for new mothers everywhere – I really wish this was the law, so I will never forget how lucky I was and will remain indebted to their support.
But soon after maternity leave was over, I jumped right back into work and I was able to do that because I had a wonderful helper at home and a support system through family, so there was always someone wonderful caring for my daughter. But that someone wasn’t me, and I soon felt like I was missing out on some of her best moments. I woke up and realised I had everything I thought I wanted, but I wasn’t truly happy, so I decided to change that. When Ayla was around two years old, it was time for a significant career change. And now, post all that, I’m still a workaholic, but I’m happy and content. Having my child made me realise what was important in my life.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
I honestly think there’s no such thing as balance! There’s always the attempt to achieve balance, and I’m luckier than most in that I can include my daughter in my work. She loves to help me package The Happy Box, she attends weekend fairs and public events with me and gets to play in the outdoors while I tell people about the beauty of The Happy Box, she test drives our projects and activities and she takes her job so seriously as a Happy Box employee! It’s a great balance of work, fun and spending a lot of quality time with each other.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
My biggest trick is to involve Ayla as much as I can, it’s best for the both of us if she feels truly involved. I also like to be 10 steps ahead – it makes me feel really organized and prepared. And one trick I’ve been employing lately is coffee! Caffeine really helps me get on top of my to-do list!
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Dubai?
To NEVER give up, if a good idea strikes, RUN WITH IT. Make dreams realities – it’s possible and always dream BIG. Relationships are also very key – we never imagined we would have been presented with so many opportunities just from solidifying great relationships. Also, stay humble and continue to innovate yourself.
A day spent on the beach in the sunshine, and when the weather doesn’t permit that, then a day cuddled together on the couch watching a fun, family movie together, eating popcorn and reading some of her favourite books. And for Ayla and I in particular, we LOVE to bake together! I know these aren’t activities that are particular to Dubai, but these are things we can do as a family anywhere we are – as long as there’s a beach nearby!
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Dubai?
When we go out to eat, we honestly don’t pick our location just because it’s family-friendly or Ayla-friendly. Since the day she was born, we’ve taken her everywhere with us and exposed her to everything.We feel that she should learn how to behave properly regardless of the restaurant setting and treat every outing as a chance to learn and to experience. Plus Dubai is the most family-friendly city in the world! There’s no restaurant here that I can’t take her to.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot?
I have travelled absolutely everywhere with Ayla since she was 2 weeks old. Travel is sacred to us; I’ve taken her to over 40 destinations in 3 years! I honestly believe EVERYWHERE can be family-friendly if you just remind yourself to be flexible. Having said that, I have to admit, DISNEY!!! We are Disney regulars – we just came back from a trip to Hong Kong and had to make a stop at Disney on the way!
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
My husband and I were childhood sweethearts, so for two people who have been together as long as we have, working on keeping the romance alive is crucial. We try to make sure we have time alone together regularly so we can connect over a good meal or a night out on the town – it keeps us feeling fresh and young and glamorous and we love it…
Favourite date-night restaurants?
In Dubai, it would have to be Roberto’s Lounge in DIFC, I know one of the managing partners very well so I always feel at home every time I’m there, and we’re so well taken care of.My husband and I can just sit back and focus on each other and on enjoying our night, knowing the food and atmosphere is just perfect.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
To always create beautiful memories with the family. I take pictures wherever we go and I love to look back at our wonderful life together. And also, NOT TO COMPARE! Everyone is doing what is right for them and what works for them, and every single child is different. Comparison is useless.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Go easy on yourself. Stop giving yourself a hard time and never give in to guilt – you are doing the best you can and only YOU know what’s the best for your family. And most of all, don’t forget about yourself and who you are. Having a baby doesn’t mean having to give yourself up completely for the baby. You still exist! Ever since Ayla was born, I’ve made it a POINT to escape on my own for an hour every week to get a manicure. I call it my maintenance session, and it’s my gift to myself.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Sticking to a clear bedtime! The whole bedtime routine is a mystery in our house, mostly because we love having Ayla with us all the time and at the end of a long day, I simply don’t have the energy to convince her to settle down and go to sleep. Figuring that out is at the top of my to-do list lately!
My most humbling mama moment was…
The moment my daughter was born. I had had such a difficult pregnancy, and was confined to bed rest for months towards the end of it. When she was born, and I finally got to meet her after all those months feeling so scared and uncomfortable, the first thing she did was to touch my chin, with her tiny soft fingers. At that moment, the realisation that I’m now a mum, with a connection to this tiny human who belongs to me, who I share a love with and a bond that can move mountains, was so incredibly humbling.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
Quality family time for sure and red lipstick. You can have bags under your eyes from not sleeping for days and still look glamorous with red lippy. It instantly makes me feel beautiful, bold and confident.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
The Happy Box – it’s a constant thing!
Even when my children have families of their own, I’ll still…
I will always continue to buy myself a small bouquet of champagne-coloured roses every week. My husband loves to surprise me with flowers, but regardless, I always make it a point to buy exactly 8 roses in that beautiful colour – 8 because it’s my lucky number – and I won’t ever stop doing that for myself and my home.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Well, it’s a tie between TWO moments! One is when I drop off my daughter at school, because it means I finally get a break from being a mom and can focus on getting as much work done as possible. But my OTHER favourite moment of the day is when I pick her up from school! By then, I miss her so much, and the feeling of her running towards me and throwing her arms around me, as happy to see me as I am to see her, is wonderful. Then we get to chat all about her day on the way home from school – it’s a magical time of day for me.
I always feel saner after…
A good heart-to-heart chat with a good, trustworthy friend. It’s so IMPORTANT to have people you trust around you, who you can sound off with and just talk to them when there’s a lot on your mind. Suddenly, everything becomes clearer, or a solution to a problem presents itself easily after you’ve been able to talk out loud to someone who is a good listener .My therapy sessions are getting to speak to the people I trust and love!
I wish I had more time for…
SLEEP! What sleep? I am lucky if I get in 3 to 4 hours a night! I would also love to go on a personal retreat, I have been saying this for two years now and I promised myself I would do it this year, a solo wellness holiday is a must!
Bedtime is always smoother when…
We skip a nap! That’s the trick – don’t let your kid nap so that by the time bedtime rolls around, she’s too exhausted to fight it and is ready to just drift off. And a bath beforehand is imperative.