Dr Dunni Atalabi: Transforming the Lives of Mothers Through Empowerment
By Sujany Baleswaran
Pulled in every direction, from the school drop off, a day in the office, building a business to a home-cooked meal for the family, mothers do it all. After experiencing the exhaustion that comes with a life of juggling numerous roles, Dr Dunni Atalabi discovered that her medical knowledge was not enough to relieve the pressure of the societal expectation of a woman, and turned towards a more holistic approach. Witnessing mothers leaving their health and wellbeing unattended just like her, the doctor turned entrepreneur, pursued a career as a coach to help other mothers like her break free from exhaustion.
As we nurture and care for others, we forget about ourselves.
You help mothers break free from a life of overwhelm and exhaustion – did you see this in your own mother growing up?
As a child, I saw my parents work extremely hard. My dad was the person who empowered so many and was popularly referred to as ‘the big brother to all’. He was generous, kind and saw the best in everyone. He was open-minded and had a voracious appetite for learning. He was my inspiration for being an eternal student.
My mother stayed at home with us and was so loving and caring. She had a strong innate desire for us to be better and do better. However, I would occasionally see the worry in her eyes as she worked and prayed tirelessly for us. She kept doing so much for us and putting our needs first. So I did my best to make her happy and put her at ease. Hence, I got the desire to empower others from my dad and the desire to appreciate mothers from my mum.
The last two years have seen people make big changes in their life, including stepping away from the shackles of societal expectations and pursuing new paths in their career or business. What led you to pursue your new path from being in the medical profession?
My journey as a coach started after I experienced tragedy in my personal life. When my father died a few years ago, my well-being took a nosedive as I grieved the loss. As a single mother to two young children, under the age of five, who was also working full-time as a doctor, and going through a traumatic relationship breakdown, the pressure was immense. I found myself feeling overwhelmed and exhausted all the time. My medical knowledge could not help me and I knew that I needed a more holistic approach. Because of my multiple roles, I needed to find energy and time-efficient methods to get my health and wellbeing back on track.
Out of necessity, I employed my inherited voracious appetite for learning. This enabled me to not only get my energy optimised and my wellbeing back on track, but I was able to build my clinical, and academic career while spending quality time with my children as I watched them thrive.
On a daily basis, I saw so many mothers who left their health and wellbeing unattended until it was in a state of crisis because they did not have the time or they were facing challenges like I did. This kindled my desire to utilise my knowledge, skills and expertise to empower more mothers, with the energy and time-efficient methods I had used in my moment of crisis.
Hence, I started coaching, teaching, organising events and writing materials including my bestselling book, ‘Every Mum Is A Supermum: Breaking Free From Overwhelm And Exhaustion’. This has transformed the lives of so many mums who feel empowered to achieve more without sacrificing their health and wellbeing.
In your book, you talk about overwhelm and exhaustion – can you tell us more about this? Did you experience it yourself?
Mothers are truly amazing and are definitely not appreciated enough. We have been programmed to be nurturing and this usually starts before we even give birth to our children. Some contributing factors are cultural, hormonal and emotional. However, as we nurture and care for others, we forget about ourselves. This is something I experienced as I was caring for my children while grieving. I found myself overwhelmed, confused, frustrated and exhausted all the time. I also lost three dress sizes and lost connection to myself.
I talk about this journey in my book, with the aim of dispelling the myth that being a Super Mum is about what you do rather than WHO YOU ARE. It is important we recognise the superpowers that reside within us and unleash these powers to break free from overwhelm and exhaustion and live our best life. Writing this book has been such an empowering experience for me and those who have read it. It explored natural, scientific and medical concepts which were made available in practical and easily digestible chunks.
Medicine is an academic path, a contrast to the strategic and creative entrepreneurial journey. Did you always have an inkling towards entrepreneurship?
No, I did not have an inkling towards entrepreneurship growing up. I was more inclined to go into the academic and professional paths. That is what my family did. I however, was creative and had an extensive contemplative demeanour. I constantly analysed what I was doing and how I could do it better. I was curious to know more about myself and life generally. That self-awareness and curiosity made it possible to know that even though I did not have the inbuilt entrepreneurial traits, they could be learned.
You have spoken at many events, including our Global Woman Club London Event. What does your journey with confidence look like? What advice would you give to someone struggling with their confidence?
I had an undulating journey of confidence. When I was really young, I was very confident but reserved. Many described me as shy. Then I was bullied in primary school and my confidence took a hit. I became even more reserved. When I got to high school, I was slightly terrified that being reserved would be detrimental and I was right. So I tapped into the confidence of who I was. That earned me the reputation of someone who took no-nonsense. However, I got married and became a mother, there was another turn where I lost my confidence again. This continued for years until I went through my grief journey. This was when I found myself and remembered WHO I AM.
For the people out there who are going through challenges, facing situations that are knocking their confidence, I would say, confidence lies in you recognising who you are. Recognising that YOU ARE WONDERFULLY AND BEAUTIFULLY MADE. It is a process that can be practised daily.
How do you juggle and create this work-life balance? What do you do to recharge yourself?
I think of life as a musical performance and I am the composer and conductor. There are times when you go fast and other times when you go slow. Times when the pitch is high and other times when it is low. The blend of the sound, melody and rhythm contributes to the harmony that we perceive when we listen. The different roles I have, play a part in the harmony I desire. To create moments to recharge is so important, and having a system to ensure this has helped me a great deal. As such, I apply my 5 step signature framework to create more time to recharge and ensure that while I achieve my goals, I am not sacrificing my wellbeing.
When I recharge, I tap into my inner child and ensure that I am playing. Like George Bernard Shaw said, ‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.’
So keep playing and enjoying the music of life.
What advice or superpowers would you give to mothers feeling the overwhelming responsibility of juggling numerous roles?
As a mother, you have amazing superpowers within. You need to recognise them, connect to them and utilise them. One superpower which many people overlook is the SUPERPOWER OF BEING. It is the key to preventing overwhelm and enhancing your well-being of spirit, mind, soul, and body.
Remember that it is okay for you to slow down. It is important to enjoy the moment. And know that you are not alone.