In a world where juggling responsibilities can feel like a never-ending tightrope walk, Isabel, the dedicated founder of Migrant x Me, brings a fresh perspective on motherhood and social entrepreneurship. In this exclusive interview with Aunty SG, Isabel shares her heartwarming journey through motherhood, the challenges she’s overcome as a social entrepreneur, and how her family values drive her mission to make a positive change.
“Hi, I’m Isabel, a mum of a cute and active 10.5 month-old baby girl. Am still learning about motherhood and transitioning to this new season!”
Cherishing Precious Moments
Isabel reminisces about the early days of motherhood, recalling, “My favourite experience is all the skin-to-skin at the start when she was born. That release of oxytocin is true!” She also shares the joy of her little one lying on her chest during nap time, a poignant reminder that these fleeting moments are to be cherished.
One of Isabel’s defining moments was when she and her husband took their 3-month-old on an adventurous trip to Penang. “We headed to Penang and we just had to adapt as we went along such as washing her along a longkang (drain) because of a poonami! Haha!”
Another unforgettable experience took her to Bogor, Indonesia, where her child finally got to meet their long-time Afghan-Hazara refugee friends who had been anticipating meeting her for the first time. “Bringing a 7-month-old baby was quite a feat… but for her to enjoy their company (and have her first Afghan qabali chicken!) It was a beautiful experience that we will remember!” Isabel tells us.
How Has Motherhood Changed Her?
Becoming a mother has unlocked new dimensions within. “It has made me realise I could break my previous limits,” she acknowledges. This journey has revealed her strength, both physically and emotionally. At the same time, motherhood has not only expanded her capabilities but also shaped her priorities and boundaries in this new season of life.
Empathy has also deepened significantly for Isabel since becoming a parent herself. Her role as a registered foster parent with MSF brings a heightened awareness of the struggles faced by fellow parents and children.
She reflects, “Previously when we were alerted about cases, it was more of the head knowing that this is terrible and us wanting to do our part. Now, after becoming a parent myself, I do feel there’s a stronger emotional connection and empathy when I read about parents abusing children, babies left in public hospitals because they are unwanted, and single mothers who are kicked out of their homes when they are 36 weeks pregnant. That has driven me to continue to look beyond my comfort and family and whenever possible and within our capacity to be part of the response.”
Balancing Roles with Grace
Balancing her role as a mother and the demands of Migrant x Me has been a challenge. Isabel acknowledges this struggle and admits, “It has been hard to manage both and I do feel like I’m short-changing either side when I’m focused on the other. This is because both are like my babies and I feel responsible for each of them!”
Despite these challenges, she credits her devoted team for allowing her to maintain equilibrium, ensuring both her family and her organisation receive the attention they deserve. “I’m super thankful for my staff who held the fort when I gave birth and even now during times that I can’t be present. That has allowed me to let go and be at ease.”
Overcoming Entrepreneurial Challenges:
Isabel’s journey as an entrepreneur has been marked by challenges, especially as a pioneer in uncharted territory. “At the start especially, I met people who shot my ideas down and it was discouraging! I remember crying many tears in the first year when we started out.” she recalls.
Doubt and uncertainty were constant companions, yet Isabel remained resolute in her vision. She emphasises, “What has kept me going is being clear on the vision, being in touch with the impact that we are making, and just making the choice to be resilient and strong to keep going on!”
COVID-19 presented unprecedented challenges, forcing Isabel and her team to pivot their approach. “We went for months without any revenue because of all the restrictions as we work mainly with schools and our programmes were all outdoor programmes.” She says.
“Yet because of this, it has forced us to think creatively and digitalise our programmes which turned out positively for the following years. If you truly believe in your vision, even when you are met with challenges, you have to find ways to manoeuvre and overcome them.”
The Power of Support Systems
Isabel recognises the importance of practical and emotional support systems. Hiring a cleaner to help with chores monthly and relying on her parents for babysitting has lightened her load. On the work front, mentors and experienced individuals have been instrumental in her growth as a leader.
“It’s quite easy to stay in my own bubble and just keep doing and doing, but having people around to sharpen, challenge, and grow me as a leader has helped me pause in my steps and reflect on how I can be better.”
Motherhood and Social Impact
“More than the doing, I hope my children catch the heart of whatever my husband and I do and the values on which our family operates,” Isabel shares. This core value revolves around recognising the innate dignity of every human being, irrespective of their background, and treating them as such.
Aspirations for the Future
“Our family wants to live a faith-filled life and we have a couple of values that we live by to achieve this, one of them being to love others generously with our resources.” Isabel says. “We do hope that our family, individually and as a unit, becomes a blessing to anyone we meet.”
Isabel’s journey reflects the profound impact of motherhood on her identity as an entrepreneur and change-maker. Her determination to create a positive impact in the lives of migrants and her commitment to her family exemplify the beauty of harmonising personal and professional roles. As we celebrate the stories of women like Isabel, we’re reminded of the boundless potential that lies within each of us to make a difference, both within our families and the broader community.