A freelance model, actor and promoter, Mohammad spends his days caring for his daughter Seraphine as they sing, dance, visit play areas, get groceries and meet mum for lunch. Here Mohammad tells us about the positives of being a stay-at-home dad...
What does your typical week look like?
It really depends if any work has popped up... On a free week it’s all about my daughter, the gym and catching up with my wife.
What happens on your busiest day?
In my line of work, we have a lot of meetings and castings. So on my busiest day it will usually include a casting call down in Dubai. On a day like that, I wake up with Seraphine and spend the morning with her – either taking her to the play room in the community, or I might pop to the gym now that we have a brilliant nanny. Depending on my wife’s schedule, I sometimes meet her for lunch at the mall with Seraphine, or I’ll pop in for a coffee with her en route to the casting. I try to fit my family, my work and my health into a balanced schedule. I have to admit this was hard before having the extra pair of hands at home.
How do you share out the household chores?
My wife is the organiser, so she will do all the tidying, while I am king of the vacuum and mop. I am a very clean person and, especially with a newly crawling baby, it is essential to keep the floors clean. The bonus is that it supplements my cardio work.
How did you come to the decision?
We made the decision way before Seraphine was born. It just seemed as the logical progression. My wife holds a directors level position, so financially it just made sense. Plus I realised I could earn more freelancing than being stuck in a 9-5 job.
As an actor and model, what happens when your work requires you to be on long shoots?
I might have one of my close friends or family come over for a couple of days and help out. Actually two of my brothers live here and they came and helped me out a few times. If anything, they really benefited from the experience themselves and learned more about taking care of a baby. Otherwise, we would have a part-time nanny during the day to lend a hand until Sarah’s back home.
What are the best – and the hardest – things about being a full-time dad?
On quiet weeks work wise, I do have to remind myself I’m not the nanny. I think men are wired to be driven to provide for their family and to be the primary breadwinner. So I can feel like I’m not doing enough – even though looking after a baby is hard work and a job in itself. It’s a mental conflict with how society has programmed us.
The best part though is when I have a job and I come back after a long day, or a long couple of days away from Seraphine. In those moments, I am overwhelmed by my feelings for her – it’s to the point where she gets hugged and squeezed and kissed a million times.
Our bond is so strong, which is one of the great things about being the primary caregiver. So even though sometimes it’s nice to have time away, it does always feel like part of you is missing. I’m not sure a lot of working fathers have this feeling. Or if they do, maybe its not as extreme.
What is your favourite part of the day?
My favourite part of the day is when Seraphine wakes up and we spend the day together, listening to music and dancing. She loves music and loves to move and play around.
Of course it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, when we try to put Seraphine to bed, she can get a little hectic. We were recently in Australia for a holiday... Seraphine has a set schedule here in the UAE... Let’s just say everything went topsy-turvy there and has been since.
We have definitely struggled to adjust her sleeping routine again. It took us a couple of months. But the good news is that she’s back in her routine now, which is especially important for her now as she will start nursery soon.
Do you feel like you’ve missed out being the primary carer?
I won’t lie to you, I did turn down a lot of casting opportunities. But when you have a baby, you put a lot of things aside and your child becomes your main priority. I mean you could have a permanent nanny, a lot of parents do, but those first few months when the baby is sensitive and fragile, you really need to be there for your child and take care of them personally.
How did your family react?
Of course this matter is private and perhaps a little sensitive. But, as it is for most people – your family love you and will support you no matter what. My family were shocked because they never thought I would be the husband-father type, because that’s what I frequently told them.
However, now they see how involved and protective I am of both my girls and can see how being in love has changed me to being a more balanced person. Life has changed dramatically and I love it. My Seraphine is my world.
Does society discriminate against fulltime dads?
I don’t care about what other people think – I love what I do and it’s something I am proud of. I’ve never gotten looks when I take Seraphina to change her nappy in the mall. Fun fact – my wife has probably changed Seraphina’s nappy a handful of times this whole year.
It is not particularly prevalent in Arab society for the man to being the primary caregiver and the idea of men feeding and changing a baby is so far from most people’s minds – even in this day and age. Europe, I believe, is more advanced in this respect. I wouldn’t change the insanely close bond and relationship that being the primary caregiver has given us for all the tea in China.
Do you feel pressure in your role?
No I don’t believe in comparing myself to others and our situation is unique to us. I still feel the pressure to be a good example to her, provide for her and save for her, but the rest is all a learning curve. I know my wife struggles with trying to be it all – boss, employee, mother, wife, holiday planner... But it’s my job to tell her that she is enough and that we are happy.
What would you say to other dads/couples who are thinking of doing this?
I would encourage them to do it. At the end of the day, the baby is 50 percent yours and 50 percent the mother’s. You have equal responsibility of taking care of the child and helping to raise them. You have a right towards being there for that baby and for your wife. In fact you need to be there for them – your wife struggled for nine long months, and she’s done her part and more. Now it’s your turn.”
Photos by Stefan Lindeque
Article was first published in June 2017