Suchi Mukherjee, the founder and CEO of fashion marketplace, LimeRoad, needed to move cities to be closer to work and her children. She constantly had to adjust her schedule to make time for her two young kids, which often meant a punishing travel schedule. The story is somewhat similar to Garima Satija, who founded the boutique concierge service Vine and Dine. She faced the ultimate mompreneurial challenge when her daughter was born.

Being a momtrepreneur isn’t easy.

This is especially true for new mothers. Actress Alia Bhatt has spoken openly about the guilt she felt in leaving her toddler at home, calling it a “very regular feeling.”.

Suchi, Garima and Alia are not alone. This is a reality for many working women in India.

An unsurprising report from Ashoka University found that 50% of women in India leave their jobs after maternity. A survey of small business owners in the UK found that almost a third of women entrepreneurs struggle to maintain work-life balance. The same survey found that most women business owners wear multiple hats and were twice as likely as their male counterparts to significantly bear caregiving and homemaking responsibilities.

The Myth of the Working Super Mom

In her viciously funny book, The Supermom Myth, author Becky Kopitzke draws out eight ‘working super mom’ archetypes including ‘calendar queen’, ‘fence hopper,’ and ‘zombie mommy.’ Though caricaturesque in presentation, the book taps into the deep-seated fears and guilt of many working mothers. As more and more women start businesses, there is greater awareness of the intense pressure that women face to be ‘perfect’ at home and work.

There is no such thing as a super mom. Everyone, men or women, working or otherwise, wants the best for their children. It is near impossible for anyone to ‘have it all.’ The social-media-fuelled perfect posts often hide darker realities. Increasingly, women entrepreneurs are turning to family and friends for childcare. In India, familial ties and larger communal support have been traditionally the strongest support systems for working women.

The quest for an Instagram-friendly super mom has negative effects on all stakeholders. Women regularly speak of burnout, underperformance at work, neglect of the child, and strained marriage as they try to wrestle with what is often seen as ‘competing priorities.’ In India, 48% of women who return to work post-pregnancy quit within a few months due to a lack of family or institutional support.

This is why there is an urgent need to speak about the myths of parenting, give relevant advice, and build strong institutional support systems. Neha Bagaria, the founder and CEO of HerKey, a women- focused jobs portal, says that women, especially new mothers, need to realise that “perfect is not the enemy of good.” The quest for perfection is a fool’s errand for the goalpost will always evolve. Instead, mothers should optimise within their circumstances and get creative.

Lessons from the Pros

The doyenne of unique fragrances in India, Zed Black’s Amita Agrawal spoke last year about her journey managing multiple fronts. She leads MDPH’s Perfume Wing, which includes household brands such as Kangana, Neer, and Samarpan. Amita, proudly, speaks about being a working mother and grandmother, and the role of the family in her career success.

Amita is frank about the challenges she faced “balancing work, family, and personal aspirations.” She strongly recommends setting clear priorities and effective communication as key to finding synergy “between professional ambitions and the nuances of personal life.”

This seems to be a recurring theme in the advice that successful women entrepreneurs talk about. For mothers, it starts with acknowledging the feelings and sharing about them. Different support groups for working moms and entrepreneurs are now cropping up in key business hubs like Gurgaon, Bangalore, and Mumbai. Institutional support is higher for public sector employees. Entrepreneurs face longer odds.

Combing through advice blogs, interviews with successful women entrepreneurs and research studies, here are four tips that many momtrepreneurs seem to agree on.

  • Set Boundaries – The work space and home responsibilities need hard boundaries. At work, take breaks and ensure that you check in on multiple fronts regularly. Learn to unwind and go-off your work mode. Keep your domestic commitments realistic and ensure you keep them.

  • Communicate Better – Effective and clear communication with children, families, colleagues, partners, and employees is imperative to ensure smooth management. Some tried-and- tested methods include blocking calendars in advance, a simpler consistent routine, and better planning.
  • Delegate and Outsource – Key to effective business management is people management. Don’t try and do everything yourself. If there are tasks that someone else can handle, delegate them. And, if there are tasks that you don’t have time for, consider outsourcing them.
  • Prioritise Self Care – Take breaks regularly, exercise, check your diet and nutrition, and zealously guard your “me time.” A balanced mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health will provide long-term benefits. Don’t overwork yourself. It can quickly lead to burnout. Meditation and fun time with family is important for sustained productivity.

Use technology to ensure that you manage your family, social and work commitments effectively. At ATLAS Edge, we understand the concerns of momtrepreneurs and other female business leaders. Our Executive Program in Women’s Entrepreneurship will explore how working women can effectively manage different fronts. The program will have sessions from successful female start-up founders who will share their experiences.

Know more about the program here.