Interviewing Parents: Part 2

blue watercolour silhouette of parents reading to baby - blog by Tasneem Dairywala, children's book author-illustrator

Hi there! In this post, I will be sharing an interview with Zahra Halfal, a psychotherapist and mama of a one-year-old. As mentioned in my previous post, I will continue interviewing parents in the next few weeks to learn more about them. I find these interviews valuable not just as a children’s author but also as a mother. Raising kids is really damn hard. But it’s also unbelievingly rewarding. And hearing other parents and caregivers share their stories helps me feel a little less crazy. Like I’m not alone in this. And if you’re reading this while a little kid is clambering all over you, you’re not alone either.

Zahra has a one-year-old daughter, Nooriya, who she raised through a pandemic. So many mothers had the same experience that for those of us who didn’t, it doesn’t feel unique or special. But having the courage and optimism to bring a baby into a world gripped by a virus is special. So here’s Zahra’s story, a very special woman who chooses to bring light to those around her – through her career, her daughter and her words.

Interviewing Zahra

What inspired you to become a parent, and what are your favourite things about being a parent?

I think I always knew I wanted to be a mother – even from a young age. Maybe it’s my motherly caretaking personality or the fact that I grew up taking care of 7 nieces and nephews. But I always loved little children. So naturally, when I got married and started seeing friends our age have kids, as well as living in a pandemic world, my husband, Adnan, and I thought, let’s take advantage of this time and have a child. The original plan was to travel the world (lol), but you know, COVID. Although Adnan and I had a fair share of married life fun with just the two of us, so we didn’t feel like we were stepping into parenthood too soon.

Being a mother has been challenging. It’s been a mixture of emotions on this journey. My daughter, Nooriya, is only 15 months old. But I feel like I have years of experience and wisdom. Witnessing her firsts in this world – like realizing she has fingers, or tasting yummy chocolate, or watching bubbles being blown – has been one of my favourite things. She is pure joy and innocence, wears her heart on her sleeve, doesn’t hide her emotions, says everything on her mind (in her own babble), loves me unconditionally and gives THE best hugs and kisses. 

How has your life changed since becoming a parent, and what challenges have you faced along the way?

Much of the spontaneity, being relaxed with my time, and putting myself first, have taken a back seat since becoming a parent. This shifts as your child gets older, but for the most part, raising Nooriya is still an incredible responsibility that takes a lot of planning and putting her needs before everyone else’s, including mine and my husband’s. My marriage has also been through its share of tough times because, of course, our attention from each other is now divided. My identity outside of being a mother is something I have also struggled with and questioned a great deal. Though I have to say that since becoming a mom, I am way more confident, assertive, and sure of things in my life. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve developed a no-nonsense attitude, but I do love this part of me. 

What advice do you have for other parents who want to encourage a love of reading in their children?

Nooriya has always been more fixated on the back and front covers of books rather than the content inside. My husband and I make it a habit to read at least one bedtime book to her every night. I think the biggest piece of advice I’d give is that if your child doesn’t seem that interested in the story itself, make an effort to point out the different images, colours, characters, animals, etc. Let them flip through the book and try to read in the most amusing way possible so that the experience of reading becomes a happy, fun memory. 

blue watercolour silhouette of a little girl reading - blog post by Tasneem Dairywala, children's author-illustrator

What are some of the most important values or lessons you hope to teach your children, and how do books help you do that?

There are so many values I want Nooriya to learn from her mama and papa – self-respect, assertiveness, kindness, authenticity, risk-taking, friendship, forgiveness, and more. I so appreciate that there are already stories someone else has put time and creativity into creating so that, as parents, we can have an alternative (sometimes easier) route to teaching our kids all these wonderful things. 

What advice do you have for other parents who may be struggling with the challenges of raising children, and how do you stay positive and motivated through difficult times?

Ask for support, whether that means just talking to someone for 10 minutes about how hard being a parent is or asking them to watch your child while you nap or go out for a coffee/tea. Prioritize yourself at least one day a week, and do something that gives you joy without thinking about anyone else in your family! Know that things come in waves of great and not-so-great, so if you’re going through a not-so-great phase, know that it won’t last and hang on. If you’re going through a great phase, laugh, feel the lightness, and enjoy that moment as much as you can. Also, if your kids generally adore you, you’re clearly doing a great enough job at being a parent, even if you may feel inadequate or like you’re messing up.

What’s Your Story?

I’m learning so much from these conversations. There are so many beautiful teachings that can be incorporated into children’s books and ingrained in our daily lives. All parents are storytellers, and the stories we tell directly impact the way our children see the world growing up. I know this is why I have developed a passion for writing!

If you want your story featured in an interview, leave a comment or send me an email at!

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