Written by Ayanna Muhammad
Neelam Hakeem was originally known for raising the standard of beauty as a modest fashion influencer, but she shocked the world when she begin to showcase her activism through her rap covers. Her viral rap videos quickly circulated around the web with repost and high accolades from legends like Erykah Badu, P. Diddy, Will Smith, Jill Scott, Wesley Snipes, Jay Electronica, and the list goes on. Major blog sites caught on to Neelam’s revolutionary charm and jumped on board including World Star Hip Hop, Media Blackout USA, The Shaderoom, and many more. She made her television debut rapping at the BET Hip Hop Awards cipher with Erykah Badu as her DJ and continues to make waves with spreads in Vogue Arabia, features in Forbes, and many more.
Aside from using social media as a tool to showcase fashion, art, and activism, Neelam has created a space dedicated to shifting the consciousness around Muslim women and highlighting a worldwide sisterhood!
Below is the interview with Neelam Hakeem, January’s Feature Epic Mom of The Month
AM: What is Motherhood to you?
NH: Motherhood to me is the superwoman manufacturing of human beings LOL
AM: What was the transition like going from being solely responsible for yourself to being responsible for 2 little ones? Was there one thing in particular that was the toughest?
NH: It amazes me how you can literally go from being yourself to a mother the moment you give birth and hold that baby in your arms. It’s also amazing to me how the motherly instincts kind of just kick in. Of course it’s scary when you’re not sure you’re doing everything right, but for the most part everything seems to work out. The toughest thing about it was how much your sleep changes and how there really is no day off. When you have a cold you don’t get a sick day, if you’re in need of a “moment” it’s not really that available.
AM: Postpartum Depression is something I feel a lot of women shy away from talking about. Did you experience PPD with any of your children? If so, what were some keys that you would share with moms that helped to get you through that period?
NH: I really didn’t experience PPD, however I struggle immensely because I had two emergency C-section after going nearly 10 cm in natural birth. Healing after that is absolutely unbelievable and it seems impossible to be handed the baby after you’ve been “hit by a car”. I honestly feel like it took me half of year to fully heal. But in those first weeks it’s extremely tough. You’re trying to get to a baby that’s only starting to whimper, but because your body is in such agony you can’t get to your baby until they’re shrinking. Only because it took so long to lift up and reach right next to you, pick them up and feed them. That is extremely frustrating because things are hard because of the state of your body and it literally didn’t have to be that hard. So then you start to ask that question “why did this happen to me? Everyone else have a natural birth why did I have to have a C-section?”
AM: Are there in particular values or ways that you learned from your mother during your childhood that you might not have understood growing up that you now see yourself instilling in your own children?
NH: Honestly the number one thing I’ve learned as a mother is the fact that our mothers were winging it and going with the flow too LOL. They didn’t have all the answers but they were doing the best that they could and I see that now.
AM: Let’s talk about expectations vs reality for a moment. A lot of women have this idea of what kind of mom they will be before they have children, but off times that changes when the babies are here. What was your expectations of yourself as a mom? Did it meet your reality? Please share both.
NH: My expectations actually has to be one of the things that made everything harder for me. As hard as I went about the importance natural birth to only end up doing a C-section made it harder for me to accept my reality. I had everything down from A-to-Z as far as how I was going to be as a mother. I later learned how naïve I was I never expected to have a son who is on the spectrum, that completely threw off any expectations that I had. I used to judge mothers and their children only to have to later put my foot in my mouth. I have to say that motherhood was a defining moment for me to never think you know something and never judge someone going through struggles you don’t understand. Especially if you are not walking in their shoes.
AM: Things have drastically changed for you in this past year. You have taken the internet by storm with your picturesque beauty showing men, women, and children how beautiful modesty is, along with dropping some serious fire on the mic now, even releasing your own music that has given a brand new meaning to real Girl power. You have been acknowledged and reposted by some of the best in the game, Diddy and Will Smith just to make a few, even got a cameo with Erykah Bahdu herself in your video. Please tell us all how you manage to balance this work and home life balance. It is glitz and glam at home? How do you keep it all together?
NH: My husband and I are a team and my close family knows the goal and help as much as they can in any aspect they can. My family is my first post so honestly we get a lot done at bed time and school hours. I have to admit that we don’t sleep as much as we should lol but we work now so we can rest later.
AM: Being a mom is one of the most selfless jobs that one could ever do. Off times giving so much of yourself to others that you begin to neglect ourselves. Was there ever a time throughout this journey of motherhood that you felt like you had lost yourself? How did you get back to you? What tips would you share with others that may be experiencing the same thing?
NH: Honestly neglecting myself is something I still struggle with daily. I think naturally we can’t help it, but making self care my priority is important to me even though I suck at it. I never thought I lost myself until I ended up in the hospital due to exhaustion and dehydration. That moment taught me to put myself first so I can be the best me for everyone else. My advice is to ask for help and don’t care about being inconvenience (I always struggled with that.) Also sleep nap and say no and don’t care LOL
AM: What does the modern day mom look like to you?
NH: She does it all. Period.
AM: If there was one piece of advice you would give your 16 year old self to better prepare you for adulting and motherhood, if any, what would it be?
NH: Don’t be so uptight and hard on yourself. It’s all good. It’ll all work out!
AM: Lastly, with all the peaks and valleys of motherhood, share with us one of your favorite memories in this journey. And leave us with a little advice for the new mom out there that might be uncertain about what is it come.
NH: Because my son is on the spectrum I always worried about how I would connect with with him and teach him. When he started reaching milestones in reading and writing I was overjoyed. One time his teacher at a daycare he was going to at the time said that he was only one who could read out of the entire group. That gave me so much hope about his future and showed me that even though he struggles he’s has gifts and strengths that excel and make him even more special.