Meet the working mom who wrote a book so children can understand the delicate work-life balancing act
Juggling work-home-kids is never easy but setting up office at home while your kids are virtually schooled made the procedure infinitely more challenging.
Hear it from Pooja Sriram Belur, working mom, author, blogger and Manager, Brand Communications, at Chargebee, who captures the essence of this difficult yet memorable time in the lives of working mothers through her newly-released children’s book, Amma’s Work From Home Buddy.
“As working mom to a 3.5-year-old, I could relate easily to the ‘balancing act’ that moms around the world manage. I have been vocal on this subject for a long time in the digital space. I have written articles about companies that make lives easy for working moms, challenges that moms face in the corporate world, the paradox of ‘luxury’, difficulties of the work-from-home set-up, and tips and hacks to make life easier on my blog and social media channels.
“Though there are enough self-help books and a lot of content for moms to consume, I realised there was nothing on the topic for kids. So I decided to write a kid’s book to help explain to them that their moms are doing their best and how little ones can be buddies and help their moms by understanding this balancing act,” says Pooja as she chats with YS Weekender.
Excerpts from an edited interview:
YS Weekender (YSW): How did you venture into this field?
Pooja Sriram Belur (PSB): I may have started writing even before I was aware of my love for it. My mother recalls that even as a kid I was keen to put forth my opinion and perspective in the written form. She still treasures my expressive letters, comic strips, poems, and funny anecdotes from those times.
Writing took on different forms for me - from writing my personal diary to travelogues of family vacations, to articles in school magazines to poetry in newspapers, through my student life. Professionally, I developed my skills in writing long-form press releases, blogs, website content, and more. With time, I also learned to write copy for the digital medium in various formats for social media, emails, app notifications, and more.
I have a soft spot for storytelling that explores the different possibilities of a given situation. This comes from a love of reading books and watching movies and other content. I make mental notes on what I like and try to apply that to my writing.
Someone recently told me that I speak from my heart, and this is true for my writing as well. I write without wondering what the output would be.
It gives me creative freedom to put my thoughts in a place that I can revisit whenever possible. Like most art forms, consistency, and perseverance have made me better at writing, and I can say without doubt that there is still more to learn.
Before writing this book, I watched a ton of videos by children’s authors and pursued courses on understanding the nitty-gritties of kids’ books - ideal length, language complexity, maintaining themes, publishing formats, and more.
YSW: How has your new book been received so far?
PSB: The response to the book has truly been overwhelming. I have been flooded with congratulatory messages. The subject, title, and cover really struck a chord. As an ally to working moms (irrespective of what they do - corporate jobs, freelancers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, stay-at-home moms) I am truly happy that they connect with what I have written.
In terms of numbers, 100 copies were sold in the first three days of launching the book and this was great validation for a new author.
We have sold more than 200 copies till date, have done exhibitions at pre-schools and been part of newsletters for parents. I am still learning the art of book marketing, mostly to get the book to reach as many moms and kids.
YSW: Please tell us about your writing process from start to finish.
PSB: I humbly admit that I usually ‘wing it’. I write from my heart. I do not write a line and then go back to edit it. I complete the entire article/story in almost one go. And then I shut my laptop. I do not even revisit to check grammar and spelling. After a break, I open the document with a fresh perspective and put myself in the reader’s shoes (in this case a mom and kid reading it together). And then I edit.
In the case of this book, the editing stage happened after I began working with my illustrator, Somya Barpanda, Product Marketing Manager at Chargebee. Looking at how some of the scenes were depicted, we edited tiny bits so the writing and pictures tell the story cohesively.
YSW: Where do you get your inspiration and how do you do your research?
PSB: The dedication page of my book gives this away. It says ‘Inspired by Yajur’, my 3.5-year-old son. He has never been to a formal school thanks to the pandemic and I have been a work-from-home mom, even before the pandemic thanks to him.
While I have adapted to his changes in routine, nap time, snack time, and more, I have also seen him adjust to my schedules, deadlines, and work stress. This book recognises his dependence on me for certain things and applauds his independence that allows me to manage my time. I’m aware this is the case for hundreds of kids and moms around me.
My husband, Bharath, is also the son of a working mom and he understands and supports me in all ways possible. He motivated me to go ahead with this book as it was not just something I was doing out of passion but something that was going to add value to working parents.
Nevertheless, I did my fair share of research to understand what other moms do. How they balance things like online school, privacy for important work, deal with guilt for having to be away, use breaks between work to spend time with kids, and more. You will see tiny bits of this in the pages of Amma’s Work From Home Buddy.
YSW: What are you working on next?
PSB: My next is also going to be a kid’s book. It will however be more of a story that has the right mix of fiction and subtle takeaways for kids. I am very excited to see how it will be received. The writing is done. We are fine-tuning the illustrations and it will then move into the publishing phase.
YSW: Where can one access your book?
PSB: As a first-time author, I took the easier route to make the book available online first. It can be purchased on Amazon and Flipkart. It will soon be available on many other children’s ecommerce stores and curated set-ups on Instagram. I
have received some interest from a couple of bookstores and hope to collaborate with them too. I do hope to reach as many working moms and speak to them through this book so I am reaching out to corporates/HRs to see if they can help me.
Ultimately, it’s important that everyone understands this simple fact. In a world where ‘work-life’ balance is a myth, the concept of being torn between your kids and work needs to be normalised - for us and for our kids. That’s the only way we will find the balance. Let’s do it together with Amma’s Work From Home Buddy!
Edited by Teja Lele