Roller Coaster Ride

To celebrate this Mothers Day, photographer Flavia Catena sat down with our founder, Alli Abdelal to discuss all things motherhood before capturing a few candid moments. 

FC: “A mother is the truest friend we have” said Washington Irving. Do you feel this is true in the relationship you have with your children? 

AA: I like the sentiment, but I feel that being a mother is so much more than that. For me, motherhood is a relationship, a journey, an identity, an experience, a full-time job and a daily rollercoaster ride of emotions all at once. 

FC: Tell us a bit about your children; Maya and Yaseen.

AA: They are a whirlwind and I love them for that because they make life exciting, colourful and fun! Maya is 9 and she's the most compassionate person I know, even at her age. Yaseen is 12 and he is just one of those children that eats up life and will try anything new. 

FC: How do you like to spend time with them?

AA: In nature, chatting and walking together, that's when we have time to really talk, laugh and connect on a deeper level. Those times are like gold dust.

FC: How do you balance motherly duties with those imposed by your work? 

AA: It's really a juggling act. I'm always conscious of trying to do everything and not doing anything well. My husband and I have become really good at back-stopping each other to ensure we have space of our own outside of work and parenting to recharge. 

FC: What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of being a mother?

AA: Seeing Maya and Yaseen develop their own personalities and watching them stay true to their values as they decide who they want to become - I'm so proud of them for that. I have to be honest though, there isn't a day that goes by when I don't feel like I am 'muddling through' as a mother. I'm gradually becoming more comfortable with the idea that I will always be learning on the job, and that's ok. 

FC: Is there something you learned of yourself since you became a mother?

AA: To be a little gentler on myself and trust in the process... the ‘muddle through’ process! 

FC: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about your mother? 

AA: Strength. She is small and mighty. She is a mountaineer so she has a lot of stamina and resilience. As a child I was gently coaxed and cajoled up all manner of mountain routes by my father here in the UK and in the Alps. She was always there to keep me going, no matter how slowly, and we always succeeded in the end.

FC: How was your relationship with your mother when you were a child? 

AA: Very similar to the relationship that I now have with my own children; one of love and nurture and I learned so much from her in that respect. She is a strong advocate for communicating and for never leaving any conflict unresolved. More than anything else, she taught me the value of patience, and of showing up and just doing your best. 

FC: If you had to describe motherhood with a single image, what would that be?

AA: It would be the emoji with the hand over the face, I believe the technical term is 'facepalming', used in a similar context to the acronym SMH (shaking my head), which makes me laugh! That's for all the times that I am late for the school run, for the gentle reminders in my inbox, 'Alli, will you be joining our call today?', or for the times when we lived in California and I was always that Mum who forgot the sunscreen, and for all the last minute scrambles to conjure up costumes so as to magically transform Maya and Yaseen into Mary Poppins and Blackbeard the pirate. I really can't think of an image that is more apt!

FCDo you have any favourite tales you read to your children, or games you play with them?

AA: When I was at secondary school, at the end of every Geography lesson our teacher would challenge us to find a country that he didn't know the capital city for. He would promise that if we could do it, he would dismiss class early. We never did get dismissed early, but this game stayed with me and I play it with our children to spark their curiosity about the world.

FC: What is the moral legacy you want to leave to your children?

AA: I always remind Maya and Yaseen of two things: to tread their own paths and to never give up... oh and to hug often, that's important! This has been the story of my life thus far and even with all the bumps along the way, I hope that it will be the moral of their stories too.