A 12-year-old illustrator contacted me and we started networking when I discovered she also did the artwork for “Off to Work Mummy Goes” by Amne Alkurdi. I contacted Australian author, Amne, to get to know her better. She is a working mom who battled harsh criticism from her community on being a mom and working at the same time. She showed that just because she was career-driven, it did not mean that she was neglecting her motherly duties. In order to battle this criticism, she published a book with Muslim characters and a hijabi working mother as the main character. Through the publication of “Off to Work Mummy Goes,” Amne sends a message to the world. Let’s find out what it is in the interview below:
R. Why you felt the need to write “Off to Work Mommy Goes?”
A. I went back to work when my daughter was still very young (I think 7 months old). I started to experience guilt almost instantly, and it was very overwhelming at times. What bothered me the most was how people reacted to me working. I was told things like “You shouldn’t leave your daughter,” ” Work less, how are you managing cooking and cleaning your house?,” “A mother belongs with her child at home, not in the workforce.” My initial thoughts were, “What if they were right? Am I a bad mother for leaving my daughter and going to work? Will my daughter hate me for it?”
However, I had just started my one-year internship at a pharmacy in order to receive my certification so I didn’t feel like it was an option to suddenly stop working. Slowly, I began to realize that there is nothing wrong with me working and having an identity outside being a mother actually made me a better mum. My confidence levels increased and my mental health improved. Working was definitely not a reflection of how much I loved my daughter and I wanted to show her that it’s okay to be a strong independent woman, regardless of what my specific community thought about it. I decided to normalize the idea that mommies can go to work.
I started by having discussion about this with family and friends. It wasn’t until I discovered my daughter’s love of reading, that I decided to write a book for her. I initially only wrote the story for her, but decided to eventually get it published. I was particularly excited because I wanted to include Muslim characters in the book so it would be directly relatable to Muslim children.
R. مَا شَاءَ ٱللَّ, how did you get it published?
A. I’m actually very new to the publishing world, I never thought I would write a book as I’m a pharmacist. So, this is my first!
I started researching in May 2020, when COVID restrictions hit Australia,´ and that’s how I began. I remember thinking, How am I going to do this? There is so much to know! But I gathered that the first thing I had to do was put together a manuscript. So that’s where I did. It was a lot of writing and rewriting, and I would read it to my family at our dinners every week, get their feedback…then, fix it for the next week. Once I had a draft, I found a local publisher and consulted with her for a few months until we had a final draft. I then posted a story on my Instagram looking for an illustrator and I had a sister reach out to me saying she was interested. She did warn me that she was 12, and initially, I thought it was a typo. I replied, “Well, how are you going to commit to this if you’re in year 12, you have a lot of exams coming up.” She proceeded to say “No. no. I’m 12-years-old.” I was amazed. She showed me her portfolio and requested to speak to her parents who said they were very happy for her to take on this project, and they would be involved the whole way. We managed to finish the whole book in under 30 days, which meant I was able to get published in the same year, which I was really happy about!
R. What books/authors do you like to read and recommend?
A. I don’t have a specific author. I love reading biographies, comedies/romance, and religious content. One of my favorite books is The Sealed Nectar, which talks about the prophet’s life. I had to read it more than once to understand it, and it still feels like justice hasn’t been done to the book. So I’ll probably re-read it again.
R. Why would kids want to read “Off to Mommy Goes?”
A. The feedback I’ve had so far is that most kids can point to the mum in the book and say, “That’s you, Mummy!” I love that! And the truth is, most mothers do work! And that will look different for every family. Whether it’s one day or five days, or running a business from home. Kids can see that their mum working is normal and I hope in some way, it helps normalize working mothers.
We don’t have many children’s books with hijabi characters or muslim families, and to be able to make that available to children makes me very happy. Kids will point and see a woman in a hijab and say, “That’s mum!”
R.Where can we get this book?
A. For anyone located in Australia, it can be ordered directly off the website at www.booksbyamne.com.au. For international orders, it is on Amazon. Alternatively, you can send me an email or DM and we can organize delivery to wherever you are located.
R. Tell us about yourself and how your upbringing has impacted who you are today.
A. Well, I’m 27-years-old. I’m the oldest of seven children, so this has always placed a certain pressure of setting a good example. No matter what my siblings tell you, I am my fathers favorite!
My parents were very big on education when we were children, and would always push us to do our best. They loved us unconditionally, and helped me become the woman I am today. My father was very gifted when he was younger, but unfortunately couldn’t study as he had to work to support his family, so everything I have achieved is not only my accomplishment but also his.
R. How can we follow your journey (links, blog)?
A. The best way to follow my journey/updates is through my Instagram.