“Women Should Know When to Say No”: A Mompreneur’s Guide To Managing It All

When you are an entrepreneur and a mother – a ‘mompreneur’ – both your children and your business need equal attention. And often, it becomes difficult to prioritize.

Being an entrepreneur is no piece of cake. Neither is raising a child. And doing both at the same time? That seems like a whole new set of challenges.

While simultaneously being a parent and an entrepreneur sounds like a daunting task, a study found that adults without children are not only “far less likely” to own a business, but also far more likely to give up business ownership.

Starting a business is frequently likened to being a parent, since both pursuits require constant attention. They can even inspire similar emotions: a recent study by university researchers in Finland found that “entrepreneurial love is strikingly similar to paternal love.”

“When we start something of our own, we are everything for the business. And when we have a kid, the same happens with them as well – we are everything for them,” Shravani Pawar, Founder of Safe Hands 24×7, a Karnataka-based startup, tells Jumpstart.

Balancing two roles that require a great deal of attention and dedication, therefore, is a significant ask. Pawar is also quick to add that it’s essential to give equal importance to both occupations.

“Even when we have a maid or caretaker, the kids need special attention from the mother. As a mother and as a founder, the startup and the kids are equally important. So, it becomes difficult to prioritize sometimes,” Pawar says.

Pawar’s startup Safe Hands 24×7 is breaking stereotypes by training women from socially and economically weaker sections of society to become security guards. She’s also a mother of two – a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl.

When she founded Safe Hands with two friends in 2009, Pawar was only 23-years-old. However, soon after, her friends left the startup, leaving Pawar to take up the reins by herself.

Juggling business and parenting

When it comes to worries about finding a work-life balance, Pawar says that often, it’s all in one’s mind.

“We think that having kids can become too much of a burden. Of course, they take our time, they need our patience, they need everything. But still, [we believe] that they can become too stressful,” she says. Conversely, what she believes is that children are part of life, and if parents want to have the joy of children in their lives, they need to schedule their time accordingly.

While earlier, Pawar used to give eight hours to work, she made sure to bring that down to six hours and spend the remaining two hours with her kids. Sticking to such a schedule, she says, became easier after becoming a parent, as she also became more disciplined.

“When I have to wake up at a particular time, I make sure I do that. If there is ‘so and so’ to do, I will do it. Whatever we do, if we do it with compassion and dedication, that will [solve] everything,” she adds.

Furthermore, it is imperative to have others to help you, especially when you are donning multiple hats. At home, Pawar has hired two people to help her out, with household matters. At the office, she has a competent C-suite team to whom she delegates work.

Pawar says that so many women give up their careers because they think that they cannot manage. However, she adds, anyone can manage anything if they plan carefully, accept help, and stick to a balanced schedule.

Communicating with children

When Pawar’s daughter was just two months old, she started taking her out everywhere, including her office. However, by the time she turned one, Pawar stopped this practice.

“She never cried when I was going out or asked me why I was not taking her out. Neither she nor my son complains, because they know that I’m going to work and I will come back home,” she says.

“We have to train ourselves first, and then train our kids,” she adds. “My kids know that I will spend time with them when I am free. They also know that they should not disturb me when I am at work. We have to make them independent, which also gives us space to follow our passions. Otherwise, we will just be stuck at one level.”

Even on days when Pawar has to go out of station for a couple of days, her youngest never complains.

“I clearly communicate to her that I am going out of station and I will be coming after two or three days. So, now they know how they should behave,” she says.

Similarly, whenever her kids need her, she takes leave from work and spends time with them – a practice that’s now familiar to her team and colleagues.

The art of just doing it

After Pawar’s marriage, many asked her to postpone her plans to have children out of concern that the burden would grow too much for her. However, Pawar paid no heed. For her, mindset is everything, and her mindset was absolute confidence that she would be able to handle both obligations.

“When I got married, I didn’t stop working. When I felt that I should get married, I did. When I felt that I should have children, I did,” she says.

She emphasizes that self-awareness and clear decision-making are very important for those who wish to have children or start a business.

“It is not necessary that everyone should have their own kids. But it is very important that they should have that clarity – why they have chosen to be a parent or to start their own enterprise,” she adds.

Furthermore, Pawar makes it a point to remain unaffected by what others have to say. Her dual responsibilities sometimes place her in lose-lose situations where she always comes off looking like the bad guy.

“When you have small children, it’s hard to attend late-night meetings. I cannot be there beyond 10 pm, which is the time I should be at home,” she says. “If I reach home late, my relatives [wonder] why I am working so much when I have small kids at home. If I leave the meeting early, then my colleagues will say that I am always in a hurry, always in a rush to go home.”

“So, whatever you do, people will always have something to say. What I have understood is that whatever is my work or role, I just have to do it,” she adds. “I have made my own schedule and I will only work towards that.”

Gender gap in childcare responsibilities

Another factor compounding Pawar’s challenges in balancing both her roles without attracting negative commentary is her gender.

A 2019 survey of around 1,900 entrepreneurs from across the world by 99designs found that there is a significant gender gap in childcare responsibilities among male and female founders. 54% of female founders with children provide the primary care for their children, compared to 37% of male founders. In addition, 30% of female founders were also found to put in over 50 hours of childcare per week, along with running their business.

“When it comes to the founders who are taking care of their own family, with kids, compared to women, men have less responsibility […] in the sense that they think that it is not their job,” Pawar explains.

“If a kid is not feeling well, they can easily tell the wife to take care of the kid. But, for us, it’s not like that; our priority then becomes the children. For them, as a father, they can say that the mother can take care of the child. But for us, it is difficult, because we always want perfection,” she adds.

Pawar employs many single mothers at her startup Safe Hands, and can empathize keenly with their struggles. To help them, she is also planning to start a baby care center at the office.

“Those who have small children can leave them here and go for work. It is much needed when we want women to work without thinking of their children,” she says.

Finding quality “me time” and learning to say no

Amid the hustle and bustle of being a mompreneur, it is also important to find your “me time.”

“Every day, we need to know where we are. Otherwise, we end up being too busy in satisfying others,” says Pawar.

Every day, early in the morning and at night, Pawar takes some alone time to reflect on how she is doing and what she should do.

“Every morning and night, for an hour, I make sure that I also talk to myself. This is very important, because the confidence that we have within us is the only thing which will help us to take decisions the entire day,” she says.

Pawar’s husband is also a steadying force, always willing to take exclusive responsibility for the kids if she needs a few days off to decompress.

Learning to say no

For Pawar, every day presents new challenges. “When I had one child, I thought that for the second child, it would be easier. But it wasn’t. I thought that when my daughter starts walking, my life will be easier. But it wasn’t,” she says.

She explains that as both her children and her company grow, they present different challenges and require different kinds of attention. As such, there’s no ‘easier’ to be found.

“I have to be prepared. Every day you will have to face a new challenge and you have to be okay with that,” she explains.

Most importantly, Pawar also believes that it is high time that women learn when to say no and take a break.

“We, as women, should know when we should say no. To know when its enough and say, ‘Now I need a break.’ Life will go on,” she says. “If you want to go for a long way, then you have to learn and understand when to stop.”

Header image by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash

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Reethu Ravi
Reethu is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart.

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