In celebration of Mother's Day this year, White Story's Creative Director, Fiona Myer asked Rabia Siddique some questions about motherhood. Mother's Day this year will be distant and unlike no other. Whether apart or together, we celebrate their love.
What influence has your mother had on you?
My Mum was one of my earliest heroines. A woman who went against convention when she fell in love with my Dad, a dark skinned Muslim Indian. They married in 1970, much to the disapproval of their families and a conservative society at that time. But they proved that love is the most powerful force of all. This was probably the first and most important lesson that my mother taught me - that love conquers all and is the force that enables us to do the most extraordinary things and overcome the most overwhelming challenges.
You balance a highly successful work life with parenting? Activist, lawyer, public speaker and mother. Did you always envision being a working mother?
I have always had a strong calling to serve others from a young age, and that calling to help give a voice to the voiceless grew even stronger after I became a mother. Increasingly I saw it as my duty and a privilege, as well as a responsibility to myself and my children to live my best life, to live a life aligned with my values, and to live beyond myself.
What shaped your decision to become a criminal defence lawyer?
My early sense of social justice and a passion to serve others came from seeing the discrimination and prejudice my father encountered as a dark skinned, Muslim migrant in Australia in the mid 1970’s, as well the personal injustice I suffered from when I became the victim of child sexual abuse at the age of 10. I made an early choice in life that I would not be a victim, or defined by that which I had endured, but rather that I would choose to channel my experiences into a positive legacy, where I could serve others and help them to address the injustices suffered by those who were voiceless and invisible in our society.
What about your mothering style was influenced by your mother?
Very much so - I always felt loved by my mother - by my parents. Affection was in infinite supply growing up. Food was the ultimate expression of love (as it is in many cultures) and education was seen as the most important gift my parents could give to me in life. I have followed those examples and embraced those values in my life and as a mother to my 11 year old triplet boys. If you ask my boys they will tell you I love to shower them with affection every day, sometimes too much in their opinion I’m sure! I’m obsessed with feeding them well, I have worked hard along with their Dad to provide them with the best education and opportunities I can, and I raise them with routine, structure and a clear sense of values that I try every day to model as best as I can. Just as my mother and father did for me to the best of their ability.
What traditions have you created with your family for Mother’s Day? How will you be celebrating this year?
Mother’s Day has traditionally been my day off. I have never asked for or wanted expensive gifts, but I love the cards my boys write for me - the hand made ones are the most special - and I love the quality family time spent together, usually involving breakfast in bed and a slap up afternoon tea (the one where you are so full you don’t need dinner afterwards). These have been my favourite traditions that we have created over the years as a family. This year I expect we shall celebrate at home together, with some afternoon tea treats and a walk along the beach or river. One tradition I will make sure we stick to - I won’t be cooking! That might mean a special lunch or dinner cooked by my husband or even take away - either way I’ll be very happy.
What has this time at home allowed you to reflect on?
As with us all this global pandemic and the restrictions we have all had to comply with has led to quite a rollercoaster of a journey. For me the biggest personal challenge has been re-defining myself beyond the professional and public profile, and really understanding that my duty to serve others at this time has had to focus on supporting and holding space for my children and my husband, who, as an emergency medicine doctor, has lived with the horrors of this pandemic every day.
What is inspiring you at the moment?
As women in our Western society, usually the parts of us that are celebrated the most are our professional achievements and accomplishments. We have been conditioned to measure our ’success’ in narrow, masculine terms - the money we earn, the profile we enjoy and the influence we yield. In this new COVID impacted world we are living in our perceptions and narratives are being challenged in so many ways. We have been forced to embrace our humanity, our vulnerability and to find power and strength in that. As parents, and as women in particular, I believe we are once again reclaiming the importance of the nurturer, the carer and reclaiming our feminine power, and finally seeing this as our greatest strength and not the ’soft’ skill we try to deny or hide. Community, kindness, compassion are the values that will get us through these difficult times - individually and as a society. And women are leading the way here.
What books are you currently reading? Or are you taking this time to do something different at home?
I always have a huge pile of books on my desk that I plan to ‘get around’ to reading. I’ve enjoyed having some clear space and time to start working my way through this pile, which has included incredible autobiographies (some of these authors I’m lucky enough to call my friends), books on great leadership in times of crisis, and inspirational books written by inspiring, spiritual and wise people. I’m also enjoying spending more time doing the simple things. Walks, runs and picnics in the fresh air with my husband and children, baking (having believed I could never bake), playing board games as a family and keeping in touch with loved ones through Zoom, FaceTime etc. This time has reminded me that kids thrive being surrounded by family and doing simple things, and so do we as adults. I’m committing to remembering that when the COVID restrictions are lifted.
What discussions are you currently having with your children that are different from what you normally discuss?
My boys have had a lot of questions around the Coronavirus - how it started, why some people are dying from it and others not, the reason for the restrictions and lockdowns and how long they will last. They have been pretty outspoken about the decisions being made by some world leaders compared to others, and the questions they have been asking as well as their unfiltered observations about the way humans are behaving and responding to this crisis have been inspiring and humbling. They do say our children are our greatest teachers! We’ve also been having discussions about what it means to be resilient, the importance of kindness and gratitude, especially in the tough times.