I am SO excited to introduce you to this week’s ultra-Smarty Mom, Ekta Shah! Ekta and I met lift-tone-burning at Pure Barre Ballantyne a few years ago. I didn’t even know she was an allergy doctor until CSP posted a couple of articles from our friends at Levine Children’s Hospital featuring Ekta (love it when my two worlds collide!). I immediately stopped her at Pure Barre after the second article posted and peppered her with questions about her life and upbringing. She was nice enough to meet me for coffee one morning so I could get more in-depth. 🙂
She’s originally from India, but was raised in the US. She’s a busy mama to beautiful twin girls, has such great perspective, and embodies everything I love about our melting-pot city. A big thank you to Ekta for not only being a Smarty Mom, but for being willing to be interrogated at Starbucks by this Charlotte native (Ekta – next time let’s make our interview at one of your fave Indian restaurants in town! Yum!!) ;-).
Smarties, meet Etka Shah! I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did!
Smarty Mom: Ekta Shah
Married to: Ameesh Shah; married 11 years
Children: Anya and Sahana; age 7 1/2
Hometown: Germantown, TN
Years in Charlotte: 7
You’re a mom of twins! What’s surprised you the most about having twins?
Finding out that we were having twins was a BIG surprise. We went out for dinner after but were in such a state of shock that we sat there in silence. I think we were in disbelief for several weeks after finding out the news.
Has it gotten easier or harder as they’ve gotten older?
Definitely has gotten easier as they have gotten older. The first 2 years were very exhausting, but now it’s easier as they have gotten older and become more independent. They share many of the same activities and always have someone to play with.
You are originally from India. Tell us what brought you to the US.
My dad came to the US in the 1970s to get his masters in engineering and ended up staying for a job opportunity. My mom and I immigrated a few years later when I was three years.
How do you think being raised in an immigrant family shaped your childhood and the kind of parent you are today?
As a child, I was always stuck between two cultures. It was always a balance of trying to “fit in” and trying to hold onto my Indian culture. I was lucky to have friends who were in the same boat from early childhood, and in high school I had friends from a variety of backgrounds who all respected and appreciated each other’s differences. As a parent, I strive to help my girls appreciate and understand their heritage.
How often does your family go back to India, and what do you love about it when you’re there?
As I child I went to India every 2-3 years for summer vacations. I have such fond childhood memories of India: playing with my cousins, watching Bollywood movies and learning the dances, going for a ride on a motor bike with my uncles, sleeping on the terrace at my grandfather’s home. I could go on an on…as I have gotten older, I have not been able to go as often as I would like but still go once every 4-5 years. I’ve been back to India once with my daughters, and I loved seeing the wonderment in their eyes as they took in the sights, sounds, smells, and people of India.
What are some ways you keep your culture alive with your family?
One way that is near and dear to my heart is through food and cooking. My mom had a catering business when I was younger and I learned Indian cooking by helping her. I remember spending the summer before 9th grade learning how to make a full Indian meal. By the end of that summer, I was cooking for our whole family! Thanks to my mom’s passion for food, I can share the foods that I grew up eating with my daughters and husband.
Do you have any meal prep tips for those of us who can’t seem to get those homemade meals planned?
Meal prep is definitely tough! I usually make large batches of food over the weekend that I can use throughout the week and freeze to pull out at other times. We have a menu set for the weekdays so that we’re not trying to scramble to figure out what’s for dinner after a long day at work. My husband is also pretty helpful in the kitchen!
You work full time as a pediatric allergist with Charlotte Medical Clinic. What do you love about your job as an allergist?
I love my patients! I know it sounds cliche, but I really do enjoy seeing kids grow and thrive. I also really love being able to help educate and support families regarding their child’s allergy conditions. Also, being silly with kids and playing with littles ones throughout the day makes my job fun!
Ironically, one of your twins has a peanut allergy, and one doesn’t. How do you think parenting them has made you a better doctor?
It has made me very empathetic towards what they are going through. Parents of children with food allergy experience a loss of control to some degree. It’s hard to be carefree; playdates, birthday parties, and school functions can be stressful and take some extra planning. But going through this experience helps me empower my patients and their families. The diagnosis of food allergy is an adjustment in day to day life, but it is a manageable adjustment! I also am fortunate to learn tips from the families that I take care of that help me navigate my daughter’s food allergies.
Now for some fun Smarty questions…
Favorite date night spot? Good Food on Montford…this was the first restaurant we went to for a date night after we moved from Chicago and loved it! We go back at least 1-2 times a year.
Favorite work out? Pure Barre…the longest I’ve stuck to a work out!
Best “twin” gear? City Mini Twin Stroller
Hardest part about being a mom? Trying to make sure I spend enough quality time with the kids.
The best part? Their selfless love and wonderment! I love seeing the world through their eyes.
Best gift you’ve ever received? A dinner at Alinea in Chicago. One of the best dining experiences I have ever had.
Favorite place to take your girls on a rainy day? Dish It Out
Three things you’d do on a day off? Sleep in, read a book for fun, and try a new recipe
Favorite “twin” moment with your girls? Since the girls were infants I have always enjoyed watching them play with one another and as they have gotten older, develop a friendship. They really do have a special twin bond.
Thing you’re looking forward to the most as school starts back up? I’m really looking forward to seeing what our girls learn this year and how they will grow as individuals. We attended a 2nd grade preview night at the end of 1st grade and I came back wanting to go back to school with them! It’s fun to relearn some of the things we learned in elementary school as we help them with their assignments/homework.
Finish this sentence: In ten years, I hope my girls…are ready to go off to college with intrinsic happiness, self-confidence, a kind heart, and a sense of adventure.