On Mother’s Day Doha News speaks to two mothers about the daily challenges they face working full-time in high-powered roles and raising children in Doha.
The Business Executive
Jess DuPlessis is the head of a division at a non-profit organisation and has two young boys under the age of four. She had her first son, Charlie, in 2018 and her second son, Emerson, late last year.
Jess has always wanted to be a mum and was aware of the implication it might have on her career, and so planned her pregnancy with her husband, Colin.
Before arriving in Doha she was based in Senegal, travelling extensively with her partner for work. They decided to move to Doha so they could raise a family together.
“It was the perfect shift, personally and professionally. I decided to do an Executive MBA at HEC Paris.” She graduated in 2020, and went from working on the ground field at the UN in Disasters, Emergency and Conflict to taking a path in business strategy in Qatar.
Jess began her MBA when her first son was four months old. She also began consulting work back at the UN, whilst working on a long-term goal to understand the private sector after spending twelve years in the public sector.
More challenging than working for the UN
The mother-of-two said she felt that she had done her homework before becoming one and read. A lot.
“I have read hundreds of books and read thousands of pages, but no amount of reading prepares you for motherhood. It is far more challenging than Disasters Response work. It’s a testament to what all parents deal with. Parenting is really hard work. You don’t get a break. Each child has their own personality. Thankfully my husband is a hands-on father and helps me as much as he can with the boys.”
Jess also said she wouldn’t have been able to do this if she wasn’t in Doha.
“In Doha it is incredibly safe. All the concerns we have in other countries, we don’t have that here. We also have excellent healthcare here. Sidra is an amazing hospital. Being here, I knew I had access to the best health care.”
As well as having access to the best healthcare Jess said she wanted to bring her children up in a friendly environment.
“We were at a chic five-star restaurant and they didn’t bat an eyelash. The staff were so helpful and attentive. No other restaurant does that. It’s the same for malls. You can find baby changing rooms. It’s wonderful to be somewhere where you don’t feel like a burden. People open doors and engage with the baby.”
Going back to work full-time
Jess landed her current role two days after her youngest baby was born despite being nervous applying for the role whilst she was pregnant. “It was really reassuring to accept a job where the CEO is also a mother and working full time.”
The now-business-executive says she’s extremely grateful for the community in Doha.
“I have an incredible nanny who is so smart and flexible. As an expat we don’t have family here, but I have wonderful friends. We have friends who are also parents and those who aren’t. We can celebrate successes and failures. And we are so grateful.”
The mother-of-two says despite the challenges of working full time and having young children she would not change it for the world.
“There are times I miss my old life, I miss travelling with a few bags, sleeping in and seeing my friends. But there is nothing that can match having your child smile at you and tell you they love you.”
The Television Journalist
Ophelia Johnson is an African-American Television Journalist at Al Jazeera English. She has three children, Noor 15, Zein 10 and Ziad who is 9 years-old. She is a single mother and has been raising her children and holding down a full time high-pressured job simultaneously.
Ophelia said she had never planned to be a mother or get married, her dream was to be travel writer for Conde Nast. She says being a full time mother is hard. “You feel guilty all the time, you feel guilty not being around, not being there at the weekends. I have to remind myself I am doing all of this for them.”
But Ophelia says the rewards of motherhood outweigh the sacrifices.
“Being a mother was more than I could imagine. This is the purest form of love. You can never get it anywhere else. It is such an amazing feeling. You see this person who needs you for everything, and you watch them grow. It’s an incredible journey to watch them go through.”
Ophelia says for her, raising the boys was the biggest challenge.
“They were 15-months apart. That was the hard part. They all needed to feel the love the way they needed it. Not all children need love the same way. That’s the hard part of being a parent. Each one has their own soul, you need to give each soul their own purpose. That’s hard to determine sometimes.”
Single parenting without family
The television journalist says the hardest part of single parenting is not having extended family to help.
“Being away from my family is the hardest part. You don’t have a support system. It’s like trying to find your way in the dark. I don’t have a back up. I can’t put my kids in sports, because I can’t take them to practices, because I am working full-time. They don’t have uncles, aunties, they don’t have anyone they can spend time with. They are getting all of this from me. It’s hard, it’s really hard. That’s the most challenging thing about living here.”
Living in a “safe country”
Though she doesn’t have the support system she needs, Ophelia says she keeps her children busy by being creative.
“The upside is they are doing other things. We do in-house projects. We read lots. We do things together as a family.”
The mother-of-three also says she has peace of mind bringing her children up in Doha.
“There is something about being in Doha that makes it good for my children. I know my kids are safe. I know I don’t have to worry where they are. There is a system in place that keeps my children safe. I live in one of the safest countries in the world, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
How to make it work
As well as her full-time job, Ophelia started classes in mental health counselling. This, she says, has helped her deal with her children in a more direct way, and helps her understand their needs.
“I communicate with them on a more emotional level. My daughter has anxiety, my eldest son had anger management issues. This has helped me deal with them, and understand what they need from me.”
On giving other single mothers advice, Ophelia says, “I would say don’t be so hard on yourself. Relax and enjoy the journey. You don’t have to get worked up about the small things, also recognise that all children are different. Not each child is the same. Have honest conversations with your children. You’re human. And so are they.”
Advice to single mothers
Working for a 24-hour news channel means working shifts, which is problematic, as Ophelia says busy mothers also need to take time out for themselves.
“Take time for self care. If you’re not okay, then they’re not okay. If I feel good, then I can give that to them. You have to.”
Despite the daily challenges of working and raising three children on her own, Ophelia says she feels extremely fortunate.
“I feel like I am blessed. I wouldn’t want to raise them anywhere else. I have no regrets. It is a huge a sacrifice but it is totally worth it.”