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WKND Special: The world from my kitchen

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Dubai-based Emilia Ohrtmann describes herself as a “multi-passionate” entrepreneur. And she’s not kidding: she does have numerous passions. The German expat has founded four businesses (from clothing to website design), and has been co-hosting a popular podcast called Mums in Biz for over a year. Now, she’s launched a new book.

It’s Your Life is the culmination of years of personal growth for the mum-of-four, and it’s a story she’s now hoping to share with “women of all ages” to encourage them to pursue their dreams.

Excerpts from the interview:

A big part of your identity is encouraging mums in business. Where does that come from?

I think it comes from my own journey, of knowing that it’s difficult to be everything at the same time: a good mum and wife and business owner, while also looking after yourself. A day only has so many hours.

What made you turn those lessons into a book?

The initial idea behind the book originated from my fear of flying. I’ve always been scared of something happening to me, especially when I fly without my kids (I have two girls and two boys, aged 4-11). So, I started writing letters to them and leaving them on my bedside table “just in case”. That’s where it came from.

Who is the book for?

I wrote this for women who need to hear it: that they can choose how to live their lives — to remind them they can choose happiness and confidence. Confidence doesn’t need to mean being loud and outgoing. It can just be a quiet, deep-rooted assurance in your own abilities, and in knowing who you are.

I was not a very confident person, growing up. I let other people’s opinions influence me a lot. But I realised that in order to really be happy, I need to — first off — like myself. Taking ownership of your own life is what the book is about.

In the book, you talk about having to deal with feelings of judgement and guilt. How did you move past those?

I used to judge other people because I thought I’d feel better by doing so, but it never made me happy. I also felt judged all the time, but that stemmed from my own insecurities. I’m trying to turn that around all the time now — to not feel judged just because someone doesn’t greet me or because they look at me a certain way. I realised that the only person who thought I wasn’t as good as everyone else was me.

The guilt was typical ‘mom guilt’ about not having enough time for everyone. Most mums do their best and want the best for their kids. As long as kids are happy and healthy, they’ll be fine. We don’t need to feel so guilty all the time. It’s much more useful to find joy in the time we have together — than feel guilty about things we wish we could do together.

The other thing you talk about is the need to step out of one’s comfort zone. What did that look like for you?

Flying was a big one for me. I love travelling, but I once didn’t travel because of the fear of a few hours of flight. I promised myself I’d never do that again. Releasing this book has been scary too, because it’s so personal — but the desire to leave this legacy for my kids is bigger than my fear of stepping out of my comfort zone.

The thing about the comfort zone is that it may make you comfortable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will make you happy. Sometimes, we’re scared to leave, even if it’s a painful place to be. From toxic friends to a job we don’t like, we choose to stay because the fear of the unknown is so much greater than the unhappiness of the known.

Stepping out of your comfort zone for the first time gives you the confidence you need to do so again, to do things you never would’ve thought were for you. But those things then go on to open so many new doors. That’s why it’s so important to not limit yourself. After all, if you never try, how will you know?

What do you think is keeping women from achieving their dreams today, instead of “someday”?

I think a lot of women feel they need to do things to please other people — and end up forgetting their own dreams. This is especially true once we become mums. We want kids to follow their dreams, but we forget about our own. I don’t mean that they should forget everyone else in order to pursue that dream — but just refusing to put those goals on the backburner and working towards them in tiny, consistent ways would be a huge step.

I think that’s the other thing that holds them back: the idea that they have to be perfect at whatever they’re trying to do. You always have to start somewhere before becoming good at a big dream. Becoming an author seemed like an inaccessible dream to me, but I started with writing for my blog first. You don’t become good at anything overnight. You just have to make sure that you’re working in small ways towards that dream.

Considering that we are all part of families and communities, would it really be possible to say, at every turn, that it’s our life?

That’s a great question. Of course, we live in a society and we all have responsibilities. But while it does make us happy to be surrounded by loved ones and to support them, there should be a time, within those 24 hours in a day, to think about ourselves — just so that we can ‘fill up our cup’, and be able to give more to those we love. If we have a healthy relationship with ourselves, we can be there for others. It’s okay to question all the responsibilities we have or feel towards other people. Do we really need to do those things — or do we just think it’s expected of us?

That’s where the title of the book comes from. I feel women forget that it’s okay to take time out to take care of themselves. To do things they care about, because it makes them feel better and healthier and in a stronger position to help those around them. That’s something I had to learn: that it’s not selfish to think about yourself.

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