Haitham On How Being A Dad Makes Life Lighter
When Haitham welcomed baby Olive to his family, his perspective on love and community expanded into new territory.
Sometimes you meet someone and you feel better just by being in their company: Haitham is one of those people. His history, his winding journey through the world and his current reality all centralize on ideas of love, understanding and possibility; ideas you can hear in his voice when he speaks. But his path has not been without challenge and hardship.
Born to Palestinian parents, and in an effort to find peace, his early life was spent in a refugee camp in Lebanon after a history of fleeing several conflicts in the Middle East. When Haitham’s family managed to get a Lebanese passport, that became the gateway to his education and the corporate world of Dubai. Ultimately, his desire to seek out new experiences set him on another journey—this time, one of love.
Haitham now lives in Vancouver, Canada, the hometown of his wife, Fiona Hepher (Saje educator and producer of Well Now) and the birthplace of two new additions to their lives: baby daughter Olive, and Aleph Eatery. Both arrived in his life at virtually the same time, meaning every minute of every day is an exercise in balancing priorities while nurturing his growing family and his growing community.
To celebrate Father’s Day we connected with Haitham to hear more of his journey to fatherhood, and how he keeps his own, 100% natural wellness on the priority list while also tending to his most important relationships.
Has fatherhood always been on your to-do list?
Being a father wasn’t necessarily something I had spent much time thinking about, but from the moment I met Fiona, I was open to the idea. After we met, a mutual friend challenged our new relationship by asking “if you die, would you leave your kids with her?” I knew the answer immediately, and in that moment, I realized that someday Fiona and I would have children.
How did you feel when Fiona told you she was pregnant?
The strongest feeling I had was a rush of acceptance: our life was changing and I was suddenly ready and filled with joy. It was an amazing feeling, the adrenaline I felt the moment Fiona told me the news.
Right away, I was in a place of moving forward with our new reality, but Fiona did not have that same feeling. (Editor’s note: listen to Fiona’s perspective on discovering she was pregnant in this episode of Well Now.) It was a completely different process for her to work through all the elements of our current life, of her current life, that would be changing.
For her, the first thought seemed to be ‘life is never going to be the same again”, and I wasn’t immediately receptive to where she was coming from. A big part of this experience has been learning more about how Fiona thinks and feels, and the support I can give her through our partnership. We grew together in ways I wasn’t expecting, and it has made our bond stronger.
A big part of this experience has been learning more about how Fiona thinks and feels, and the support I can give her through our partnership.
How did you manage opening a new business—a restaurant—at the same time as becoming a dad?
We were already in the process of building the restaurant when Fiona found out she was pregnant. It was definitely not the plan to start a family at that moment, but I knew that we had committed to the restaurant project and would see it through.
There were so many moments during the restaurant creation where I wanted to quit, but then I would think to myself: “what would you want your children to learn from your actions?” I want my children to know the values of hard work, and of courage. There were days when it seemed like the best idea to just close the doors and walk away, but that’s not the kind of role model I aspire to be.
The values I want to instill in my children are the same values I want to live by and it was these thoughts that carried me through to opening of Aleph in January 2018. It also helps to have a wife that holds you accountable to your strengths rather than the weaknesses.
How has your life changed, now that you have a young daughter?
Becoming a father has made life lighter. Everything feels lighter when I look at Olive. On the other hand, there’s a lot more responsibility, but even that has a lightness to it. I trust that everything in my life came together at the right time, and it was all meant to be. Now, I have a deepened sense that everything is going to be ok, because we are together.
The priority I put on family has changed. The phrase ‘family comes first’ always made sense to me, but now it feels real in a new way. I will always choose the option that puts me with my family, whether that’s business or pleasure. In the process of building the restaurant, I had gone from a corporate role to aspiring entrepreneur to delivery man to generate some income for the family. As much as I want the restaurant to succeed, I know that I would be happy doing whatever I need to do to take care of Olive and Fiona.
Becoming a father has made life lighter. Everything feels lighter when I look at Olive.
With so many new responsibilities, how do you find time to take care of yourself?
It’s always been clear to me that when I go to the gym, I’m going to have a good day. Getting exercise decreases the likelihood that doubt of any kind is going to show up in my mind. Twice a week, I head to the gym to lift weights and listen to motivational speakers, TED Talks or lectures on ontology. Spending time in the gym gives me the chance to reconnect with myself, to learn something, and to move my body. I know this has a hugely positive impact not only on me, but the happiness of my family and the success of my business.