Four years ago, my family’s day to day life was overhauled when we took the plunge to move from the United Kingdom to Qatar. Last year, it took another unexpected turn. This is the story of my journey here in Doha, from being a burnt-out healthcare worker to an inspired business owner.
Making Our Move
Like many expat families with strong home roots, diving into a new life in another country had challenged our comfort zones and all the norms we knew.
This transition came after I was offered a lucrative opportunity to work as a pharmacist in a newly opened paediatric hospital. So, me, my husband and two daughters packed up our lives in London and headed to Doha.
Going from a fully immersed stay-at-home mother to a full-time pharmacist and family breadwinner wasn’t easy. However, we all saw it as a wonderful opportunity for my husband to develop deep connections with our daughters.
As a professional paediatric pharmacist working in a busy emergency unit, the events of my day would vary from one extreme to another.
At the end of an emotionally heavy day, I would shed tears recalling specific moments. The relentless team efforts to save severely ill children, the heart-stabbing sounds of out-pouring grief, and the deep feelings of failure would all haunt me long after finishing my shift. Yet, I would set foot into my home, switch to being a devoted mother and wife, and more importantly, try to be physically and mentally “present” for my family. This was never easy, and it mirrors what healthcare workers have to face every day, especially during these trialling times.
During our early days in Doha, we struggled to find a holistic nursery for our elder daughter that fit our vision. She attended nursery for six months, but I didn’t realise how unhappy she had been until she completed the year and transitioned more excitedly to school. Having grown up in a mindful and nature-integrated environment in the UK, I yearned for the same for my daughters. Before the pandemic, we routinely travelled to off-beat places to experience wild and extreme environments to connect our children to nature and integrate them into different ways of life. Giving my daughters these experiences is essential to me because, as a child, I was immensely creative. I loved to express my innermost feelings through drawing, dancing, and playing music. I am committed to keeping that alive in my daughters, too. Because after experiencing a traumatic childhood of bullying, I lost a sense of who I really was, and my confidence and self-worth fell to rock bottom. Consequently, I felt a warm comfort in pursuing what my parents considered to be a successful life. This led me to a career in pharmacy.
Still, there had always been a spark inside of me that every so often attempted to ignite a giant fire until fear pushed it back in. I didn’t want this for my daughters. I wanted them to be comfortable growing into their own versions of success, starting from their nursery years. Little did I know, I would need to reignite that spark and harness my talents and creativity for this next part of our journey.
The Turning Point
In November 2020, during a typical working day, my world was once again turned upside down. I received a rare email invite to an HR meeting. I was casually informed that my clinical pharmacy specialist position was being terminated.
My loved ones, colleagues, and I were all shocked as it wasn’t at all expected. Yet, surprisingly, I also felt an inner sense of relief and peace. However, the greatest difficulty was processing the prospect of uprooting our whole life as a family. We had built our life here over three years—our beautiful home, life by the sea, our daughters’ warm affection for their school, and our close-knit Doha family. Immediately, my survival instinct kicked in, and I started searching for career opportunities in Doha, the UK, and the wider Middle East.
As we continued to try and process this news and reluctantly plan our move back to the UK, my husband and I found ourselves having intriguing conversations with friends. We intuitively began building connections and attracting inspiring individuals with whom our vision unfolded.
Then, the process of starting our own holistic eco-nursery began. We do not have an educational background, but we have an innate compassion for children and immense concern for their well-being. Simultaneously, I received two competitive job offers in London at my previous hospital workplaces, both of which I cherished. So, the time to make a crucial—and potentially life-changing—decision was here.
Risk and Reconnection
Should we take the safe option and return to the UK, continue our professional careers, and be with our families? Or should we risk it and stay in Doha to pursue our dream?
After a few deep conversations, we decided to follow our hearts and intuition and stay in Doha to start our business. It was a difficult decision, particularly during a pandemic. We had not seen our family for a year and a half and were taking a financial risk in a foreign country. And naturally, our families opposed it, though they still reluctantly lent us some support.
There are countless opportunities in Qatar, and my husband and I are thrilled with the prospect of opening a holistic nature-inspired nursery for children. We felt that it was needed, especially with the current global situation. We believe that children are happiest in connection and synchronicity with nature. They need to have their inner spark nurtured to share their unique gifts with the world, and this is the vision that led us to start creating and developing this space for the children of Qatar.
Personally, losing my job has resulted in a reconnection to my inner child. I have had a creative and holistic urge bursting to unveil itself but never had the space, time, and confidence to pursue it. Doha is a place of calm, and it has given me the healing I needed to connect to my life purpose.
It’s been a long time coming. Over the last nine years, I have undergone professional training in classical Indian dance and yoga and received reiki teacher training. I also acquired a lifestyle medicine practitioner diploma. A lot of this creativity and artistry was brewing inside, and now, I have the power to share it and bring happiness and peace to others. Now, I get to help children harness their pure and powerful energy through our oasis nursery!
Ultimately, what helped me make my final decision was envisioning sitting in my UK home after a day of work and absorbing the reality of not following our dream. It was then that I decided that I would rather risk and lose what I have than feel regret for the rest of my life. So, if you’re in the same place I was last year, don’t be afraid to take a risk. Finally, follow your intuition—that way, you will always be happy and successful, no matter what.
Leena’s Three Tips for Starting a Business
- Start with a clear and specific vision: when you know exactly what you envisage and what you would like to achieve, everything else will follow and align. For example, from the very start, our vision has been to create an eco-nursery for children. This is becoming a reality because we have remained committed to and focused on our vision.
- Perseverance: don’t let what you can’t control get you down. There will be ups and downs when taking a major risk like starting your own business. There is nothing you can do about it, so why waste your precious energy getting anxious about it? Just keep going!
- Have an open mind: we have learnt throughout our journey to surrender and accept the unexpected events that unveil. Life is full of them, and we become enriched by those experiences.
- Network, network, network!
Leena Bathia is the founder and director of The Nest Nursery. She has lived in Doha for four years with her husband Ketan and daughters Keshavi, aged seven and Saachi, aged five. Leena is also a freelance yoga and dance practitioner currently teaching at the Sharq Village & Spa, a lifestyle medicine consultant, and a paediatric clinical pharmacist. You can follow her on Instagram @leenabathia or Facebook at The Nest Nursery, Doha.