We’re kicking off the year with a truly dynamic ‘That Mama’, Nura J!
Ever dreamed of a career change, mama? What stopped you? This month’s ‘That Mama’, Nura J, is living proof that doing what makes you happiest is the route to success — no matter how busy it makes you! A former teacher and MediaCorp artiste, she now runs a successful hair salon and tutoring business and sells real estate on the side (to say nothing of her wildly popular Instagram account). So how does this mama of two – 10-year-old Nyla and 8-month-old Oumar – make it work? Read on for her downright inspiring tips!
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
I’ve done a lot of different things! I used to teach in a primary school; I acted/hosted in Mediacorp Suria, I’ve published two children’s books I co-wrote with my firstborn, Nyla; I sell togas/ponchos/shawls online lovingly sewn by my ‘sew terrific’ mom; and I manage a home-based tuition business!
Currently I am actively blogging. I’ve also been a real estate agent since 2012; I love transforming someone’s ‘realty dream into a reality’!
I also own Pearlista, a females-only hair salon in Eunos on the East Coast that will be opening another branch in Western Singapore (Clementi) soon!
In short I am an active mompreneur who always, always, always at the end of the day looks forward to cuddles and kisses with my family.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
Pre-children, I was a primary school teacher. Very hectic working hours. I would leave home before sunrise and reach home at sunset. Nyla was very young then and demanded a lot of attention. But I was always so tired and most times brought unfinished work home! The only time I spent time with her was when we were sleeping. How depressing!
That was when I decided to take a leap of faith and made the decision to teach from home. All I can say is that post-baby, I just became more creative in pursuing my interests around my primary obligation to Nyla. I’ve gotta thank Nyla for giving me the courage to do the things I love and at the same time have a fulfilling family life.
Nyla and Oumar have a huge age gap (10 years! Back to the sleepless nights! BAAAAHHHHH!). But I was already getting the hang of work. Busy, yes, but I’m just so thankful that my working hours are flexible.
Pre-Oumar, I slowed down a little with regards to work because I’d previously suffered a miscarriage and hence, I was more careful and tried my best to not do unnecessary ‘legwork’. Major shoutout to my property teammates and Pearl girls for holding the fort for me.
How did you get back into the swing of things after having kids?
Got to give it to my amazing support system: My family and a reliable helper who assist me a great deal when I have to be out there working! My mom is amazing. On days I cannot bring Oumar to work, she will handle him so well. She will make sure he gets ample tummy time, reading time etc. And she supports me in my breastfeeding journey. Whenever I’m not home yet she will message me and ask, ”Are you reaching home soon? If not, I’ll take 1 milk bag out of the fridge.”
Because I am fully breastfeeding, milk is really liquid gold and she knows that! That’s why I try to bring Oumar with me for him to direct latch! I’d like to save the frozen milk for times when I want to date my husband or go out with my girlfriends!
Of course, when Oumar follows me to work, my helper will tag along. She’s my personal assistant!
How do you maintain an identity separate from your child?
Hmmm… what if I don’t want to maintain a separate identity from my children? I hope to be known first as Nyla and Oumar’s mama! My children are a central part of my life. They are my confidence boosters. I am who I am today because of my children.
How has having a child changed the way you define work?
The thing with us mothers…I think we tend to use our children as an ‘excuse’ for underperforming at work. And we blame work for the lack of quality time spent with children. Raising children and building careers are really difficult. I personally feel that ‘doing it all’ does not have to mean all at once.
For my case, motherhood gave me the push I needed to do the things I have always wanted to do. My children made me become more ambitious and creative. And I’ve become more resilient.
I deal with many rejections in my line of work. But my children are the reasons why I must stay determined and never give up, making work very meaningful.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
Hahaha! Yeah am sure some mamas are more strategic with limited time. For me I make sure I do a ‘to-do’ list every morning and when I wake up I will try my level best to be as productive as possible, bearing in mind Oumar’s feeding and naptime and Nyla’s after school hours.
Seeing my to-do list filled with ticks at the end of the day feels super good.
I wish I had more time for…..
Myself. Everything is a mad rush now. I cannot remember going for a nice, 2-hour undisturbed massage by myself. (Confinement massage does not count!). My time away from baby Oumar either means I’m working, catching up with Nyla or my husband.
You have no idea how I have fantasized time alone by myself …with myself reading a book lying down on a sofa. I crave that moment!
I always feel saner after…
Catch-up sessions with my mama girlfriends. The same kind. Who juggle work and family. It’s nice to know we are not alone!
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
Western! We just moved out of Pandan Gardens and are now residing at Hillview. Nice quiet place. I have always been a Westsider…and always will be! I love everything about the West Side! Have you checked out Jurong East? We have malls…a huge library…the Science Centre…How family friendly!
Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?
Library hopping for my family. The libraries in Singapore in the heartland areas are amazing.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
We have been to a couple….Tanjong Pinang, Bandung, Penang, Kuala Lumpur…..
My favourite holiday would be Hong Kong because my family finds beach holidays boring. Yes, beach holidays are relaxing no doubt but we like to be on the go. Take the train and explore interesting place. Most importantly we love to shop so Hong Kong was really very memorable to us. Plus: authentic halal Chinese food…Disneyland….Shopping at Mongkok! Would love to bring Oumar to Hong Kong!
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
I guess it’s about showing your love in small ways. My heart will always swell with love when my husband takes Oumar for a short while and says “I take over. You go take your shower.” The fact that he accompanies me for my real estate viewings during the weekends when he should be resting after a stressful week at work..that’s sweet. My husband is my pillar of strength. He’s good at handling me. He knows when to encourage me during my challenging days and give me a good scolding when he feels I’m slacking.
Favourite date night restaurants?
It has been so long since we last had a meal together , just the 2 of us. We actually should relive our “Supper at JB” moments. Used to do that a lot last time after midnight when our parents come over to babysit Nyla.
We’d take our passports and drive across the causeway for nice porridge and Naan at Pandan City.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
Believe in yourself! Henry Ford said,”Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”. So whatever you do, you must believe that you can succeed and when faced with obstacles you have to find a way through them. Never ever settle for excuses.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
“Do what works for you and baby.”
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Read as much as you can about motherhood and newborns because the first few weeks post-baby are tough.
Forget about all the baby fashion…maternity fashion….cots…the trendy diaper bags…..
Read about real issues like breastfeeding…nipple confusion….mastitis….colicky baby….managing time with newborns… because really, it can be very overwhelming. So start reading that now! Join Facebook groups for support! They are very helpful!
As a mama I wish I were better at…cooking!
What’s your favourite family ritual?
We are now into golf! For the first time ever, we look forward to Sunday mornings and go hit some balls!
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
“Should I go for that 40-minute foot reflexology after work?”
And that never happens. Ha!
My favourite moment of the day is…
When my children are asleep. That’s when I can catch up on Facebook and Instagram, blog or just chit chat with my husband over a cup of hot honey lemon tea.