Mother’s Day: Amidst COVID-19, women entrepreneurs tell us how they juggle work and being a mum

Entrepreneur mums tell us all about juggling two babies — their businesses and their children — as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy on all of us. Between working from home for the longest time, social distancing, and seeing our loved ones suffering, the pandemic continues throwing up different challenges from time to time.

While the difficulties for women may not be any different, they do carry an additional burden as they cope with the “new and scary normal.”

Apart from housework, office work, and their spouses, they also deal with children at home for extended periods, supervising online schooling, and generally, finding ways to keep them occupied.

On Mother’s Day, HerStory spoke with a few entrepreneur mums to understanding how they are navigating life during the pandemic.

Impact on mental wellbeing

Being in the pharmaceutical sector, I was going to office throughout the pandemic. With children having online school, the biggest challenge was to ensure they are focused and didn’t get distracted with other gadgets.

I was also monitoring through the office that they stayed safe and didn’t play in the society without masks, etc. The inability to go for extracurricular classes and meet friends, in general, had a big impact on their mental well-being, and we had to make extra efforts post-work to keep them engaged through discussions, board games, and schedule zoom calls for interactions with friends and family. 

Balancing work and children was the most challenging with no playbook or reference material. Most mothers had to rely on their gut instincts and support system/discussions with other mothers on how to cope best.

 Namita Thapar, Executive Director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals and the CEO, Incredible Ventures, Master franchisee of YEA! India

Coping with the new normal

At home, a woman is expected to be the first respondent to any needs, household management and especially kids. During the lockdown, while staying home with the child and family this became a constant. Also, due to pandemic, no house help was allowed. As an entrepreneur, one has to manage the work along with the family requirements, and that too remotely. It certainly was a challenge initially, because things take time to get onto any new track. However, eventually one day I realised that everything has become automatic in the new normal. My child had got accustomed to my routine including - daily team meetings, household chores, breaks, work hours, etc. Some things take time, and once they fall into place it becomes easier.

Ankita Jain- CO-Founder, GoPaisa

Take one day at a time

It has been pretty rough with a teenage daughter stuck at home in her precious years and a 10-year-old who so easily can get addicted to a gadget.

From refilling gas cylinders to not getting fresh produce for our meals, managing my online nutrition consultations and my nutrition school for entrepreneurship — INUEN — it’s been challenging.

The temptations of a house party to squeezing in a 40-minute exercise is an applaud worthy juggler act. 

I feel blessed that I work for myself. I juggle amidst the needs of my children and my work. I schedule my days in advance and address pressing needs on priority.

My skin and haircare routine has been compromised, but that's not even a problem as compared to what our country is facing. I stay out of negative talks and avoid toxic people.

My prime focus is on my role as a mother and entrepreneur. My mantra is to take one day at a time. I face challenges with a gratitude practice and ask the universe to guide me.

Payal Kothari, Integrative Nutritionist and Gut Health Coach, Founder of GutAvatar and INUEN, author of THE GUT 

Not getting enough 'me time' 

As working mums, we are constantly multitasking and performing various roles of a mother, wife, and professional. Amidst all this, we often forget how important it is to invest time in ourselves for our sanity and well-being.

The lockdown united our family, but the pressure of handling household chores and managing the schedule for my kids left me with no time for myself.

To cope with this whirlwind, I found solace in waking up early and practising yoga and pranayama for 45 minutes every day. I balance my equilibrium by indulging in self-care every morning before anyone else wakes up. Following and setting this routine has helped me sail through these challenging times with ease.

Saumya Ahuja, Co-Founder, Mikami India 

The struggle is real

For a working (new) mum to say the struggle is real is an understatement. Not just with managing time (that’s a given) but also with guilt.

The guilt of wondering if you are spending enough time with your baby, and the guilt of wondering if you’re giving your 100 percent to your other baby — Whoppl.

Being a managing partner at a thriving young startup is a hustle every day. You’re always looking to do more, be better, and create that impact. Besides, being in the middle of a global pandemic doesn’t make life any easier.

You feel like you’re fighting a war every day — one that you can’t see. Never I had imagined motherhood would look like this. 

Yet, I wouldn’t trade being a mother or a managing partner at my thriving startup for anything in the world. Both the roles — which I play are very contrasting — but this right here, is happiness and home for me.

The past year has been about learning and enrichment. With passing time, I am supercharged up to flourish and hustle as a mompreneur. 

Jennifer Mulchandani, Managing Partner, Whoppl 

Curating a new learning programme

Lockdown put a pause on our social-emotional wellbeing, our skillset, and our willingness to learn. As we were locked up, the use of gadgets and screen time went up and almost became an addiction.

My little girl struggled, and so did I — to choose from survival, health, work, family, my child’s learning, and my emotional well-being was an impossible choice to make.

My skills, professional background, and deep concern for children have helped me sail through, but it also got me thinking about children who don’t have someone who could catch these early signs.

In this instance, I conceptualised the idea of curating a modern 21st-century home-based learning programme. With my team at SAAR Education, we introduced “The Homeschooling Kit.”

This is a unique compilation of world-renowned pedagogical approaches, which goes beyond rote learning and conventional textbooks to inculcate 21st-century skills in a fun way while we all stay home and safe.

Priyali Aggarwal, Director, Academic Excellence, SAAR Education (I) Pvt. Ltd 

Making positive memories

At the beginning of the pandemic, I had just started Anahata. For a little while, the uncertainty of the future scared me, especially with a new business. It was tough to try and understand where the world was heading and how I was going to run operations from a laptop.

At the same time, all three of my children had come back home. It was the first time in years that the whole family was together. My children stood by me, got involved, and I made very conscious steps towards making positive memories with them — small things like hanging out, talking, cooking, going on walks, or just listening to music together.

I found myself in this space where I had to look after my whole family at once, and also deal with the challenge of establishing a new venture. This is when yoga and meditation helped me. Teaching and practising yoga pulled me through adversity and helped me not only live positively but thrive mentally in the face of adversity.

Radhika Iyer Talati, Founder of Beauty by Anahata, Yogini, Mountaineer and Philanthropist 

Creating different perspectives

As a working mother, not only did I have to ensure the boundaries of my work and personal life, but I was instantly drawn to deal with any uncertainty that came with the pandemic.

The sudden shift to the virtual world compelled me to ensure that my child’s overall well-being is intact as these are the tender years of his life, and any issues can leave a lifelong impact on him. 

Being a sports enthusiast, my son was forced to stay within the four walls. Emotionally, mentally, and psychologically he was going through an upheaval of thoughts and emotions, unable to fathom the intensity of this pandemic.

Being a therapist enabled me to look at the situation from a very different perspective. My son and I created a healthy and mindful schedule for ourselves. It is an integration of mediation, healthy diet, exercising, movie time, daily expression of our thoughts, and reading. This helped us sail smoothly through the pandemic.

Arpita Bhandari, Interior Designer and Founder of Arpita B Design Studio.

Be grateful than ever before

Being the founder and designer at my fashion label, Kaaisha by Shalini, and a mother of two, has been intimidating amidst this pandemic. The circumstances got so dire that both my children were entrapped by this deadly virus in different countries away from me.

Being a mother, I was truly helpless. I kept consoling them over FaceTime about their rising temperatures, food, and nutrition intake, while I was losing sleep.

I felt very helpless and heartbroken when they did not have the energy to cook for themselves but needed to eat; it was very stressful. While surfacing through this, I also had to act wisely as an employer of over 35 karigars working in my factory, for whom I have very maternal feelings.

The situation was extremely challenging as I had to ensure that I can pay their salaries on time. There were multiple added expenses coupled with new safety and sanitisation protocols that were to be followed.

While battling these situations, my major concern was not generating revenue as the sales were slow due to the stores being shut. Eventually, I did gain victory and retained my positive approach while sailing through this turmoil.

My children tested negative in a few weeks, and online sales began to boom for Kaaisha.

This experience has taught me a few vital life lessons. I have learnt to be more grateful than ever before, resilient like no one, and a truly content, optimistic soul who finds a silver lining in all situations.

Shalini Gupta, Fashion Designer and Founder of Kaaisha

Edited by Suman Singh