Parentpreneurship [Pt 3]: Coping with peer pressure as a mother and businesswoman

Photo: Alumnae Relation/Smith College

In a series we started on International Women’s Day 2020, Business Forward explores modern-day obstacles to women leading successful businesses and happy, functioning families.

In part three of our series, we speak to parentpreneur Dr. Manjula Kumari, director and senior physiotherapist at the India-based KIITES Slimming, Physiotherapy & Cosmetology Clinics. Kumari has been a physiotherapist for 15 years treating a multitude of skeletal and muscular illnesses in her patients.

Photo: WEF

Interview conducted at the Women Economic Forum, hosted in Cairo, between March 4 and 9, 2020.

Describe your own experiences of balancing motherhood and starting and running your own business.

As a mother of a 13-year-old son, I like to manage everything along with him. I even brought him here to the conference. I can manage the business very well when my son is around because I do not need to worry about how he is and how he is doing at home or class or his studies. After his school hours, he will come to my clinic and spend some quality time with me then he goes to take care of his studies. At the end of the day, we both go home and in that way I can manage my work-life balance.

No matter how much time I spend with my son or my business, I keep myself focused.

In your opinion, what are the key obstacles to women choosing to become both mothers and entrepreneurs?

There are many obstacles, like peer pressure. Someone like my son’s friend would say things like “my mom is a supermom. She is doing that, she is doing this and she is taking me everywhere” and it may not be the case with me. A friend of mine might say “I am taking my son to drama class” or “I am taking him to tennis training” or something. I cannot do that all the time. At times, we ask things like “am I a good mom?”

Is it possible to be a fully available supportive parent and an entrepreneur running a successful business?

No, it may not be possible all the time because it is a tightrope. I once had to attend a conference. At that time, I could not choose to be with my son because the conference was also important. The one thing which I have to remember always is that I am building the best future for my son. I am working for my son. Business is something I am building for my son too. I had to give the responsibility of taking care of my son to his dad and my mom. In certain instances, I cannot do that but still, I just keep on calling them.

In the beginning, I could not focus at times. I learned how to focus things later. I started telling myself that I am doing everything for my son as well as myself.

To what extent do you think privilege plays a part in the opportunities for women to be both mothers and entrepreneurs at the same time?

Definitely, there will be some disparity between the socio-economic classes because women entrepreneurship itself is difficult in a patriarchal society. In that aspect, when a woman is not socially well-off, it takes time but definitely she can be successful.

What advice would you give to women who want to be both mothers and entrepreneurs?

First thing, do not take the peer pressure. Do not accept labels. Do not worry about the labels that society gives you. Do not worry about judgement. Just be what you are and do not be afraid to be yourself. Just live your dream. Self-actualization is just as important as taking care of the family. You can easily balance because women are multitaskers. You can do both things. Do not take the pressure. Do not let the pressure build up in your mind in such a way that you go into depression and then you start questioning yourself. Questions like “am I a good entrepreneur?” or “am I a good mother?”

Certain things are beyond our limits and we cannot control them. It is okay to be imperfect. It is okay to lose people. When we know our goal and we know what we can be, just focus on that. No need to concentrate on the obstacles.

Business is like a kid of your own. If you have two kids, how would you balance them? You concentrate on both and you give your quality time to both.

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