Our co-founder Samar and husband Shane recently welcomed Kiyan, the newest addition to their family. Samar's "maternity leave" has been a "maternity break" given how relentlesssly busy it is at Baby Hero (we are not complaining!). With Kiyan just completing 12 weeks, we thought it a good time to catch up with Samar, and talk to her about the changing dynamics of her growing brood.
1. Let's just get this question out of the way first. We know 'large' is a relative term; but did you and Shane always know you wanted a large family?
Yes! If the Irish and the Pakistani intersect anywhere, it is in their heavy emphasis on the importance of family and comfort with child-induced tumult. We like our home loud and filled with laughter. I grew up in a house with an open door - friends and family in and out for dinners or parties and people camping out in every room over summer vacation. When we thought about what we wanted our own family to look like, having it happily bursting at the seams seemed natural. Fortunately we also turned out to love raising kids. Shane is absolutely an equal partner in parenting with me which has made it all easier and more fun for all of us. He is not-so-subtly lobbying for another child although he has a lot more work to do before he has me on board!
2. You were raised as an only child. How has that influenced your parenting style.
Primarily, it made it important for me to provide siblings for my own children. I had a very happy childhood with amazing, conscientious parents, but a sibling to share that upbringing and my adult life with would have been even better. As a result, I very much appreciate the bond and time my children will share and nurturing that connection is important to me. A lot of it is unfamiliar territory, of course - I’m fascinated by the ferocity of the girls’ fights which is only outdone by the intensity of their friendship. They’ve recently started sharing a room and hearing their sweet conversations as they drift to sleep or first thing in the morning is the perfect reminder of how special their relationship is.
3. Your oldest two are girls. How different is to have a boy?
My girls are quite dissimilar, so I assumed it would feel different again but I have been very surprised at exactly how different having a boy feels. I instinctively know the general trajectory of a girl’s life - the stages to watch for, the behavior that might portend an issue or an aptitude, the lens through which my daughters will be seen by the world - but with my son, I am keenly aware that there is going to be a part of his experience that will be completely alien to me, a place where any wisdom I have to offer will likely not be adequate. As a mother, I am finding this realization somewhat unnerving!
4. Did you expect a lot of changes in family dynamics when Kiyan arrived? And has that been the case or not?
We fully expected our 2 year old, Isha, to react strongly to his arrival, but she hasn’t. She adores him - can’t stop fussing over him, kissing him, just like her older sister Anaia is doing. They have completely accepted that he is with me, in my bed, on my breast all the time and we have seen no jealousy towards him which was definitely a surprise. It wasn’t this easy the last time. Anaia loved her baby sister, but about once a week would give her a little smack, just a little payback for dividing her parents attention. I am so excited for these three to grow up together - there is less than 4 years amongst them and they already seem like they are going to make much mischief together.
5. Any funny anecdotes from the first 12 weeks. Anything that your girls have done that has surprised you?
We can’t keep them away from the baby! When Isha knows we’re distracted, she seizes the opportunity to sneak into his room and climb into his crib with him. This has happened three times. We just find her lying right next to him in the cradle. Two other times she just started screaming “wake up Baby Kiyan! wake up Baby Kiyan!” in his ear. Anaia sleep-walked into our room one night and climbed into our bed next to her brother, curled herself around him cuddling him while they slept. The girls are also fascinated by a certain body part - but I’m sure they won’t want those stories told. We’ll save them for his wedding.
6. Super-mom is such a cliche. But tell us, what has been working for you as far as running Baby Hero and being a mom to 3.
Lots of help and lots of luck! Kiyan is a relatively easy baby and we were able to get him on a rough schedule fairly easily. I usually work during his naptimes as well as when he is contentedly playing by himself on a playmat. Amazingly, all three kids were going to bed at the same time within our first month which has given me much more flexibility earlier on than I imagined. It does take me much longer to get anything done right now and usually I’m only able to attend to pressing matters rather than the longer-term vision/strategy part of running a business but fortunately Allie and the Baby Hero team have done a brilliant job of working together to fill the gaps the last few months. It is very hard for a small team to have a member out for a long time which is why Allie and I end up working so hard through our maternity “breaks”. We believe deeply in the work we are doing and there is no better motivation to keep at it than seeing our own children thriving and wishing that be a reality for as many families as possible.
7. As a mom what's your biggest struggle right now?
Without a doubt, the extreme lack of sleep. With an almost 4 year old who just needs a hug at 3am every night and a 2 year old who thinks 5:30am is an appropriate time to scream awake the house every day and a newborn whose job it is to wake his meal ticket at 2am and 5am, there is actually no sleep being had in our home. Fortunately we were mentally prepared for this (which really is half the battle) and there is no doubt that the arrival of our son has increased the laughter and joy in our home much more than he has reduced its shut- eye. I still can’t string two coherent sentences together or remember my ATM pin, however!
8. Describe your children in 1 line each.
Anaia - an emotionally in-tune imaginative performer, fascinated by people and delighted by make-believe, fantasy and music
Isha - a fierce, independent charmer with a delicious sense of humor and a love for mechanics, puzzles and above all, babies
Kiyan - calm yet constantly in motion, he is sweet like ice cream drizzled with honey topped with sugar, and a chatterbox to boot!
9. Are there any particular parenting philosophies you follow? Tell us about what works for you and your family.
One of the first things most of us learn is that there are almost no hard truths in parenting - every family operates best in its own way. For us, I’ve found a lot of wisdom in the work of Magda Gerber who founded Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE). In particular there are two quotes I come back to over and over. “Do less; observe more; enjoy most” and “let the child be the scriptwriter, the director and the actor in his own play”. They are both reminders to give my children space to grow, to remember they are unique and complete, not just products of their parents wishes, but people with their own desires and preferences. In reality, it is not easy to stay patient when the preference is for one orange spoon over another orange spoon and the subsequent tantrum results in peanut butter all over your hair! (that was this morning’s adventure).