Saying “no” to things that don’t matter with Zainab Bass

Embracing a life of “and’s” can be a big transition–there are lots of voices (inside and outside of yourself) that speak into your fears and make you believe you have to pick a lane and stay. But what if you learned to exist in the lanes that matter, and say “no” to the ones that don’t? Zainab Bass joins Tiffany to discuss this topic.

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Embracing a life of “and’s” can be a big transition–there are lots of voices (inside and outside of yourself) that speak into your fears and make you believe you have to pick a lane and stay.

But what if you learned to exist in the lanes that matter, and say “no” to the ones that don’t?

Zainab Bass, Director at Periculum Capital Company, is doing just this. She and Tiffany explore how their upbringings and views of motherhood affect their own motherhood journeys, and what they do to keep their marriages at the forefront in their busy lives.

Zainab: My goal for this year. I think I told you is to say no more. And When I say my goal was to say no more, my goal was to say no more to things that don't matter.

Tiffany: I'm your host, Tiffany Sauder. And this Scared Confident. Zainab Bas, I'm an investment banker, predominantly helping companies sell their businesses we moved up here nine years ago because I mean, I was just, was doing energy investment banking down in Houstonworking 80, 90, a hundred hours a week.

Zainab: We'd just gotten married and I was kind of having like a early life crisis. I was like 25 years old.

Tiffany: What were you

Zainab: freaking out? I was freaking out about how I make this marriage sustainable and the burnout of the job and, and just feeling like I was growing up really quickly and then when he brought up moving to Indiana, I was really afraid that I was gonna take a huge career step back.

'cause, you know, I just, you know, worked for this big investment bank. It just had, you know, all my colleagues were going to these big private equity jobs. My college roommate was in New York, you know, about to go get our MBA at Harvard. And you know, you're in that moment where you're it's yeah. Big names, big lights.

That's the life I've always wanted. First, want to get married out of that crew. So I think there's a lot of different voices in my head. And then I was afraid that I was going to take a step back and kind of throw away what I'd done, but you don't realize what you want or maybe even need at an age that young.

Tiffany: Tell me a little bit about the environment you grew up in, and now you're. To career home with young kids with a high internal motor. Yes. So what did you grow

Zainab: up in? So this is a fantastic question. I always tell everyone where the product of our own baggage.

I'm Pakistani we were practicing. My mom was a stay at home. Mom who came over here, you know, got married at 21 and came over to the states. My dad was going to college here and didn't really speak the language and was, you know, I can't imagine how brave at that point she was.

And I always felt like she didn't have any options. If she wanted to write, because she came over here and, you know, she just raised four kids spanning for like my sister's like nine years older than me. So standing a long time. And even if she wanted, when we left the house, I felt like she just now what?

Zainab: And that is my driving motivation. Why I'm so. Career oriented for good or man, I mean, I just felt like sometimes she, she was lonely. She was bored and I feel like she, if she wanted to take certain steps, my parents had a good marriage, but if she want to take certain steps, that, that wasn't an option culturally means wise.

And I just grew up in a pretty strict house. A lot of pushback when I married Jordan because he's white, but I was always the one pushing boundaries. And that's so much the reason why the person I am today, I'm constantly pushing boundaries. And there's nothing I believe I can't do, but it also puts me in a bad spot.


Tiffany: Are there boundaries, you feel like you've pushed that you've realized looking back, you didn't need to.

Zainab: Yes. I think there's a thin line between pushing and being aggressive and being an asshole. I think I was overcompensating in times when I was younger and not that I'm on emotional, I'm emotional.

I have kids. I'm a mom. I care about that stuff, but I tend to have tunnel vision sometimes, and I think there's a right way to do things.

Tiffany: So tell me about Jordan's family and. Maybe some of his accidental expectations that you brought into your relationship? I think the more things that we brought into was maybe our communication styles, but so Jordan grew up in small town, Indiana, Delphi, Indiana, super small town on a farm. You know, his parents weren't farmers, graduating class was probably like 70 kids.

Zainab: And a lot of them became farmers. So we couldn't have grown up more differently, but both his parents worked. Mom's a nurse, but that's the epitome of his mom. Remember. Is St. I mean, she's a nurse. She cares so much about people. She's so welcoming. She's the family host. She's a phenomenal cook. She really did it all.

And that's what he saw growing up. I don't think you can realize, even now I'm like, man, Ramona, like take a break. I'm exhausted watching you. But he grew up with a mom who did it all, put herself back through school, became a nurse practitioner, but still cook these extremely amazing meals and was present and was kind, and they had a support.

Like her parents were closed and his dad, parents were close to the it's not like they didn't have a support system, but I always say this to him. I was like, I don't think he realized like how normal and fantastic of family you grew up in the thing is they didn't really like confrontation. So people might be mad and then they just.

Move on. My family was like, let's go zero to 60 and say like the most hurtful things we can say to each other. Pretend like it didn't happen. So when we started dating and we would like be in our different family dynamics, we were both uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable with like, I'm a super outspoken person and I have trouble holding my opinions bag and maybe I should dial it down in front of your parents.

And he was like, I am uncomfortable with like, how aggressive you and your siblings are to each other. Our first few years of marriage, we struggle when it comes to the communication. Sometimes. Just because I'm just say what's on my mind. Don't think about the consequences, but I also then want him to fight back.

Tiffany: Why, why do you think you were.

Zainab: I don't know. I think it was like a form of love in our house. Maybe it's better than indifference. And I would sometimes take his silence as indifference, but his silence is him processing and him thinking about it. And that's how he deals with situation. He needs to take a step back and he analyzes, whereas I just don't need that.

So that's been the biggest thing is like adapting both of our communication styles to kind of give each other what we need, you know? He needs more positive reinforcement too, but in the dynamic of two working parents, two young kids, it's a, ever-changing kind of ever-growing process.

Tiffany: Uh, one of the things I've seen in my own marriage is when you get really busy, when both of you have big careers, you can try to be efficient with each other.

And it's like, relationship is not an efficient thing, but everything else is efficiency driven. This is my calendars. When I need to leave, this is the shortest distance between two points what's going on for dinner. Can we reheat? Like everything is like, you're trying to be efficient. And so then you step into your marriage and you're like, what is the shortest difference of what I need to communicate with?

Zainab: Agreed. And then it's just like managing logistics half the time and not having a real conversation. And then for me, I don't know, like, I don't feel like I have to come home from work and talk about work. I talk about work all day, every day, half my work is in marketing and then talking about more work after work, but Jordan really loves to do that, which I appreciate I'm as big as confident.

And he wants to like, run through what happened and his reaction and what his reaction should be. And, and I kind of want to turn my brain. But then realizing like what each other needs. Right. And sometimes he likes to know what's going on and work. It makes them feel more included in what is one of the biggest parts of my life.

And I think realizing that, I think realizing. That what's easiest for you or more convenient, isn't necessarily the path to take, which is what you were just saying. It's easy to be two ships passing in the night when your life is chaos.

Tiffany: we have the same story. My husband would ask my opinion on things and I would be like really distracted with the kids or whatever it was, and I wouldn't get to it. And I thought about like, if a client asked me to do that, I would get back to them. I'm putting. Even like just the respect that I would give my client.

I'm not extending to my husband and this was not proud of that. And it's like, I need to like, love the fact that he respects my perspective enough to like bring it to me. That is a way that he's showing me love.

Tell me your care situation. They're in daycare. They're

Zainab: in, this is in school. We're were in daycare, but both in school now. So they were both in daycare at starting to see. Six weeks. It's the earliest your kids can go to daycare. If you guys didn't know fun facts, fun facts here. Um, I took six weeks maternity

Tiffany: the same way again.

Zainab: Ah, that's such a tough question. I don't know. I don't know. Sometimes think maternity leave really wasn't my thing. Right? Like I'm a very practical person and it felt kind of like LA LA land. And I was like the faster, I snapped back into my own personal reality, the better Headspace I got into, rather than this fear of how's this going to work when I go back to work and plus there's like no one to hang out with.

And like, you're just by yourself. However, With my first kid, now that I know what it's like with the kids, I think I would chair some more time, but those are some of my early memories of your kids are some of the hardest and best times I think I made the right decision for me at the time, my kids both went to daycare at six weeks, have always been, we've never had a nanny or help.

We've just kind of piecemealed it through. They go to aftercare. So my kids are both shows ours. And first grade, now she goes to aftercare. I pick her. By six. And then Jones goes to a Montessori academy here. He's three and pick him up by five 30. So we've relied more on the school systems than help. Um, I've started to debate the help, the more activities and the driving and stuff.

My fear is that if I give myself an inch to not show up, I won't right now. I don't have an excuse, like. Pick up my kid and I've got to take her to dance. I don't have an excuse to not show up. I block those days off my calendar. We're not having afterschool work. I'm not doing after-school work stuff, but if I had someone else doing that, then I would just be like, oh, I don't have to be home at this time.

And then I would keep pushing it later and later

Tiffany: I was the same. I took very short maternity leaves except for my last one. So the benefit of having a baby at 40, I think. It feels very on trend right now to talk about having like 3, 6, 9 month maternity leaves. It's a banana's planet for me to think about. And some ways I feel most. Myself, when I'm in my schedule, my plan, this balance between mom work and personal life.

And I also think that there's like this thing that like, maybe I should feel bad that that's how I feel.

I have learned as my kids get older, I was getting what I needed from the. But I started to realize that a place where they weren't getting what they needed from me. which when they're little, it is like, you're fine. You're safe. You know what I mean? They don't, they don't have a way to tell you, but as the girls got older, I started to realize, oh, your plumb line.

It doesn't feel confident because you need different things from me. I'm steadying for you. And I'm not showing up in a way that you need for a hard driver mom. This realization that like, I need to release a little. In what I would most prefer with my time for what you need from my time at was all of a sudden I was like, oh, ah, oh crap.

Cause I didn't need more time with them. They need more time

Zainab: needed more time with me. I am getting that a lot from czar right this year for the first time ever. Why were you the only mom that didn't stay at girl Scouts? Or why are you gone so much? My goal for this year? I think I told you is to say no more.

And it's funny, cause my perspective on that changing a little bit, because I listened to one of your podcasts and you said don't be afraid of a life of more ans and that resonated with me that actually those two things go hand in hand. When I say my goal was to say no more, my goal was to say no more to things that.

Matter because like I was away from my kids multiple nights a week. So now I'm S I set boundaries there it's only one to two max and it was directly because of the feedback I was getting from her the last six months of this new social dynamic with girls at school. And just wanting to talk to her mom about certain things that she just doesn't.

You know, I won't say she didn't feel comfortable with Jordan, but it's just girl talk. The girl time. That was kind of eye-opening for me, because I felt like, Hey, where we hang out all the time, we're with you guys all the time. We plan fun trips. We do all this stuff, but maybe I wasn't turning around asking her what she wanted to do, or if she wanted more one-on-one time.

I think we also lumped our kids together a lot and I have a boy who's super hyper and she can get frustrated with him. So having lead now we do individual date nights. Well, let

Tiffany: me tell you one thing I did when I realized, because I traveled a lot. When my kids were that age, I started to realize that.

Part of it was expectations. So I would print the month out on the fridge and I would put a green like ax or check or something on the days I was home and red Xs or whatever on the nights I was going to be gone. And some of it was that. And also it helped me see. How many nights I was actually gone.

So if your goal is like, I don't want to be gone more than five nights in a month or whatever it is, then you like, literally have a record of like the last two months I was gone five nights than it was seven, then it was four or less. Yeah. Like it kind of holds you accountable even to your own priorities.

But I started to realize when they could see it, they felt more in control. That's

Zainab: so bizarre to a T actually she needs to know the plan. If we go off the plan, it's, you know, she's like, that's a really good idea. I'm definitely gonna do that.

Tiffany: My oldest is the same way. And so she would get so thrown off on the regular over here.

Like, I don't know, I just like switch all the time and that was so unnerving to her. And so I started to realize if she could see it, she felt in control and then it was such less of a deal. It didn't feel like a surprise. So that was a, it was a big thing. I did that for a long, long, long time. And we still have Sunday nights.

We go to the girls are like, what are the expectations for the week? Which nights I'm going to be. What's going to be dinner like that kind of stuff is just part of our family

Zainab: culture. The things you're doing that we need to do is Jordan. I do the same thing every Sunday. I'm like, where are you at this week?

Where am I at this week? Hey, you've got the kids, this and this and our lives. Aren't like an outlook calendar. Honestly, if it's on my calendar, it's not happening. I mean, I'm going to forget. I put every little school thing on there every late. Which is ridiculous that it's every other Wednesday or something like that is on my calendar because that's just how I function.

But while you're saying that I, we are not incorporating, which I think would be great is roping the kids in to the schedule and making them feel they have some ownership of it too. And I want them to be independent. I think the benefit of being a working mom is, and maybe just with the limited capacity for me to remember things is I put a lot on sorrow.

If it's pajama day at school tomorrow, You need to remember that if your library books are due on Monday, you need to remember that. So

Tiffany: have you endured and figured out how you best connect?

Zainab: Yes. And I think that the first key that we are really good about is we have a date night ourselves every other week, because the thing you talked about is like having an opportune times for conversation, he always wants to do it like at dinner with the kids, when the kids were yelling a million things and they're interrupting us and I can't follow.

I think what we realized is we need time to be Jordan and Zaneb and any time we're around the kids, it's we default them on. And I think that will, that dynamic will change as I get older, but our kids are younger, so they need us more now. So we, you know, even if it's like, we're going out to eat just us, do we need that time?

And the second thing you know, is we'll try to do one thing that we both do. So that's like another thing we can kind of share. The bigger thing is like, we're huge sports fan. So that's always a huge dynamic for us to like, just even go watch a game together or something like that. What I realized he needs more, is more my undivided attention.

And really, we needed to just figure out the environment that we can accomplish that because also what I was doing a lot is I was like bringing him to like work events or like work schmoozing events, like even fun ones, like super elation and feeling, oh, it's a date. That's not date night, I'm all over the board.

I'm talking to a lot of people. I would do that all the time. And I think it was important for him to voice like, Hey, I like coming to these things with you. I really do. But like, let's not say that this is a substitute for us spending time together because just because I'm here doesn't mean that's quality

Tiffany: time for me.

I found I could only be totally present for Jarrod when we were like, oh, way out of the. On a trip and it takes me like 36 hours every time I think of like the plan I'm going to put together to li you know, lose 20 pounds. It's not going to happen. I'm just like cramming as like, oh, I'm just like being psycho.

And then all of a sudden, like, oh, just chill out. And then you kind of discover your own. Fun and funniness a little bit, you know, it's like, I feel like I'm doing things all the time. It's like, I don't know that I'm fine or funny, but I'm like, I've been fun and I've

Zainab: always find you kind of fun and funny.

Right. Cause you, cause

Tiffany: yeah, that's true. But I think I'm able to really be completely present for him. And we found it only happens really, really, really when we go somewhere. So how often do

Zainab: you, do you go somewhere?

Tiffany: We're in the habit of, we generally take like a five day trip in the first quarter of the year, just because it's a hard season in Indiana.

It just sucks here. Sucks. And so usually do about five days. And then in the fall we usually do a long weekend, like maybe four days, like a Friday, Monday. So we're not missing, you know, two 40 weeks kind of. And one is usually like skiing, snow active, and then one is more or before all the craziness, we would love to go to like New York city and go to the theater and, or discover new cities together.

We'd love to eat our way through like progressive dinners. And yes, sometimes we'd go have like a second entree after a show, just like fun, you know, and like just explore and not have a plan. That's what we have found. It's the only way for me to not be in performance.

Zainab: Yeah, I think we definitely need to take more trips without the kids, for sure.

That's uh, that's also.

Tiffany: And if you start with just once a year, just to be like, you're like, that was awesome. Like we really have.

Zainab: Yeah. And you kind of revert back to like, ultimately we're eating. Yeah. You're dating and you're telling your best friends. And I think you guys have similar situations. Like I'm at Jordan.

I was 20 years old. Like we have like grown up together. Like I was like a child, like really immature person when we met and just really evolve together. But this is the other thing you said to me. I remember it is almost everyone gets remarried. In their lifetime, you either choose to remarry the person you're with because you guys are different.

Or you choose to kind of go the other way. And I remember thinking that's so true because we are so fundamentally different than the people we were at. Not fundamentally, but like, you know, you become adults and then you have you re wake up and you're, you know, in your thirties or almost forties. And do you choose to be with this person?

Every day and make that commitment. I always tell him that I choose to be with him every day. And I think sometimes he likes to hear the word need, but I think we just view those words differently.

I definitely do need him, but the thing is like with my mom going all the way back to that, I'm not financially dependent on you. If we needed to go separate ways we could. But I enjoy who we are together better and who we are apart. So I'm choosing you every day.

Tiffany: My grandma says love is a choice. I think that's a way to look at it.

And that doesn't mean that it isn't sometimes an emotion, which I think is an interesting cause sometimes also the emotion is there, but oftentimes it is. If you're going to do something for 60 years, 70, it's going to be a choice but sometimes you do have the added benefit of the emotion. What advice would you give your 24

Zainab: years?

Slow down. I'm an impulsive kind of person and some of the best things, the best moments in life I've experienced, just slowing down.

What does fear say

Zainab: to you today? You can't have it all. I'm a firm believer that I can have it all. I can be that fantastic wife, mom, I have a successful career, but the fear in me is that I'm going to fail at one of them.

Or like you said, Don't be fearful of a life of ANZ. And that's kind of what sometimes I'm fearful for you throw one more ball in the air. Can you handle it? Or which one, can you be good at all? Three at the same time, which one fails. And it would be unacceptable to me to have any of them fail. And I think that's my number one, fear.

Tiffany: What does fear tell you? You'll have to sacrifice if you actually believe you can have.

Zainab: I think my family always sacrifices. You try to make changes in that perspective, but it's always, I feel like they're the ones who suffer for sure. And the, you know, on that note, I think I was talking on the front about, this is we're working so hard right now in our jobs and building our career and building all this stuff at the time of their lives were like, they're with us for a finite period.

And you turn around, you've reached that pinnacle and they're 18 and they're leaving. And you're like, was it. Was it worth it that maybe in a time that they needed you the most, you were busy building this life for them. I mean, that's ultimately what we're doing. I mean, there's a big personal gratification I get from being successful as well, but at what cost and my number one fear is I would choose wrong and there'll be gone and I can't have that time.

there is sacrifice that has to be made along the way. of Jim's Collins books. There's luck events in our lives. a luck event that I have as my kids are healthy. And another luck event that I have is that they're natural learners.

Tiffany: Like school is not a struggle. I don't have to sit with them for hours on end and I, they don't have appointments. And like, those are not things that take up space in my life, but what would I give up if one of those things weren't true. So if they had a really hard time learning in school or needed additional support or physically or mentally, they had it, you know, something that was wrong.

Totally understand that that would have to create changes at work. I also, as they change, I had to say like, if I see that they need me, will I make different decisions? It's like, I will. So along the way as the girls grew, and as I would say, see like that, they needed me in different ways. I kind of took myself off the road at some point.

My, my husband, I made the decision during school in particular, us both being gone over. Is a train wreck. Okay. It's it's never going to happen. I don't care what it is. We made that decision as a family. that was kind of the first level of it. And then it got to the place where me being gone overnight more than once a month was just hard on them.

And it's like, okay, I just have to take myself off the road. Well, what does that mean for my career? It's like, I don't really care. This is what the girls need from me. And I felt our spirit. I felt that we weren't in sync. And so I was willing to look at that and say like, what's going weird. It's like, it's not really that I need to quit my job.

You know, we kind of be extreme is that it's really hard on them when I'm gone at night. That's a really unsettling for them as they get into school and more uncertainty with friends and all that kind of stuff. And so I guess I would take it to like, well, if I suddenly found out they had a disability and I had to change my.

I would do it, does that are


Zainab: words. It does. It makes perfect sense. It's like you don't need a grand event to make that change. Right. But

Tiffany: sometimes we do. And so I was like, I didn't want there to have to be a grand event. And so I would say that in my head, but if there was something so acute physically that was wrong with them, I would change my schedule.

Why wouldn't it? When I see it so acute about their spirit. Does that make sense? Total sense? Then I was like, well, I will just accept the consequences of what it means to not be gone at night because I'm not willing to accept the consequence of being gone because I see it so hard on them. And so I would let the consequences be in my career.

And what I found is that there was almost never as gigantic of a negative reaction as I expected on the.

Zainab: That is the number one learning. I think part of the fear of giving up some of the stuff at work, not giving up, but like limiting, like, you know, I'm only going to do drinks one or two nights a week with people that I need to meet.

Tiffany: And I'm only going to be on a couple of boards and it's more all in my head than reality. My mission for secure confident is to help women confidently pursue a life of ant and I want to be available to you. Passionate about vulnerably, stepping into my stories so that it can help women. This is about creating the resource that I wish I had as I was going through this journey.

So if you have questions, comments, or feedback, I'd love to hear from you text me at 3 1 7 3 5 0 8 9 2 1. So here's what this tool is. It's a personal number that I've set up for scared, confident it comes straight to my phone and it allows me to see and us to interact with one another, like directly. So I can text you back and answer your questions.

So this opportunity to be able to interact directly, not necessarily I have to jump through. Algorithms of social media, but have a really a direct conversation and relationship is what I'm really excited about with this project of scare confident. If we help just one, the whole project will be worth it.

So 3 1 7 3 5 0 8 9 2. One is the way that you can get in touch with me and don't think your question's stupid. It's not, we're all wondering the same thing. So step into courage, ask for help and help other people who have the exact same questions, normalize their journey. Thanks for sharing this.

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