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Posted at: Mar 4, 2018, 2:17 AM; last updated: Mar 4, 2018, 2:17 AM (IST)

Missing moms no more

Is it possible to be a career woman and a doting mother? That’s a choice every working mother has to make. In a run up to the International Women’s Day on March 8, we chat up with two women who have balanced these roles well and are also easing the burden of childcare for others

Geetu Vaid

Picture this:  A well-established woman having a high flying job, a promising career and a settled married life gets the shocking and emotionally disturbing news of her newborn having Down’s Syndrome.  What do you think are the chances when it comes to choosing between her job and the future of her child? This was the Hobson’s choice that Latha Gangadharan had to make almost a decade back when her younger son Aditya was born. This management graduate immediately quit her 17-year-long career to take care of her child full time. Bereft of the cushion that her job provided her, she was caught in a whirlwind of trips to doctors’ clinics and caring for her two sons and managing home single handedly as her husband was working abroad. It was 19-year-old Rubina, the nanny for her children who was her “third hand” and support all that while. Being a hardcore professional, it was difficult for her to not use her professional managerial skills in her new domain. Thus, making Aditya achieve the basic milestones of walking, talking and being happy was her new “project”. 


Latha also put her experience as a manager and trainer to train his nanny, Rubina, and it is fascinating to hear her say how a good and efficient nanny is all about proper briefing. “In most households, it is not made clear to the help what is exactly expected of them and that leads to chaos,” she explains her logic. “Each day I would brief her thoroughly about what all she was expected to do and she was good in following orders. So there were rarely any rough patches.”  It was this transferring of professional aptitude to her home space that was carried to the daycare where her son started going later.

“When my son started going to the daycare, the fact that nannies, entrusted with the care of children were not given  due respect became all the more obvious to me and started affecting me. That is when I felt that there was a need to increase sensitivity about the importance of the work being done by these women.” Her valuable tips to the daycare helps were much appreciated and soon her help was being sought by friends and acquaintances wanting to “equip” their nannies. Thus, the foundations of her venture “Moments of Magic (MoM) were laid and her stint as a nanny trainer started. 

Beginning with a few schools and just the taxi fare as her remuneration, she moved on to not only developing a ‘standardised’ training module for nannies but also started regular training programmes. Four years down the line, Latha has  trained more than 300 women from the economically weaker sections. She is also in the process of establishing Sakhi institute where these women will be skill- trained. A nanny app — MoM Tech Tracker — too, is in the offing, which will allow the mother as well as the nanny report the work being done by them in a day. 

On the personal front, too, Latha has been successful as the targets of her ‘project Aditya’ have also been achieved as her son is not only able to talk, walk and cycle, but is also going to a regular school and learning ballet and plays tennis. 

Winning mantra: More than establishing a sustainable business model, Latha is also credited with creating awareness about the need for trained nannies and respect for this underplayed and underpaid job. “Looking after someone else’s child is a very tough job and we have to respect these women and treat them with patience and empathy”. Sensitivity in childcare or emotionally intelligent nannies can never be a reality if the employers are aloof and callous to their needs. So MoM’s Child Sensitivity Programme is a two-way street where mothers, too, have to learn to communicate their expectations and needs to the nannies. 

The USP of her training modules is that she trains nannies not in a sanitised, artificial environment but in their homes or nearby places where they are more comfortable and receptive. Based on the amalgamation of scientific principles and the human angle, her training includes not only psychometric testing but also a personal rapport series where these women share their life stories. In the formal training part, they are apprised of their role and responsibilities, hygiene and nutrition, legal implications and financial awareness and the right use of different tech devices.


If it was her own experience that egged on Latha, for Mumbai-born Priya Krishnan, the trigger was the fact that many of the new mothers in her offshore team at MphasiS Software were leaving jobs to look after their children or post childbirth. While pursuing MBA at the London Business School Priya, a mid-career student and a mother of a nine-month-old and pregnant with her second child, used the child support system. The childcare system she utilised and its implementation inspired her to work towards bringing that same form of high quality childcare to India. 

She moved back to India seven years back with a blueprint in her mind, which she soon turned into KLAY — a daycare chain that provides crèche facilities to corporates and also has independent centers near work hubs. 

Based on the concept of making it easier for new moms to get back to work by giving them a safe, caring and a learning environment in which they can leave their children, KLAY currently has 100 centers across India. The growth has also seen three acquisitions along the way, that of Mumbai-based The Little Company in 2014, Bangalore-based WeCare Learning in 2017, and Intellitots in Gurgaon at the tail-end of 2017. 

With top companies like Johnson & Johnson, Airtel and P&G as clients, an interesting fact is that even men use the daycare facilities offered by their employers. “In fact, 80 per cent of the users are men where their wives’ employers don’t have good facilities”, says Priya.  

Winning mantra: However, success hasn’t been a cakewalk for her. “People were the biggest challenge as this is not seen as a dignified vocation. To convince people to work in this field and to train them was the most tough part. There is a need to recognise caregiving as a mainstay and viable career option”, she adds.  

Over the years, she has worked out a training and operational module that incorporates best practices from all over the world. It is mandatory for staff to avail of different training modules for at least 20 days in a year. “This involves a substantial financial commitment but training is the spine of my whole project”, she emphasises. 

While providing daycare facilities to work-from-home moms too, through her venture, she is also offering employment opportunities to women from poor families as well as victims of abuse. “There is an effort to employ women from minority communities and from families where they are otherwise not allowed to work. Once they start earning, they feel empowered and some degree of emancipation is there”, she adds. 

Thus, looking beyond their business models, both Latha and Priya are making a difference in the lives  of women@work true to the spirit of #PressforProgress theme of International Women’s Day this year. 

Skip the guilt trip

Balancing, multi-tasking and persistent guilt trips — if you are a working woman and a mother then this is an all-too-familiar scenario. Frantic calls while finishing assignments or in between meetings to check from the help at home whether the toddler has been fed and cleaned or to rush to crèche during lunch time to ensure that everything’s fine, define a typical working mom’s work day. A recent report in The Guardian highlighted the fact that guilt over not doing enough household work affects women’s health, but that’s not all. The guilt trips that working moms subject themselves to harm their careers severely. No surprise then that almost 48 per cent of women leave their jobs within the first four months of returning from maternity leave. As many as 50 per cent drop out mid-career before the age of 30. 

Both Latha and Priya see this guilt as a quicksand that engulfs the joy of achievement and take away the fun of being alive from a woman. It is this sense of guilt and self pity that we women should take a pledge to conquer this Women’s Day, is the mantra that these women give. “Women are multi-taskers and while playing so many roles, it is but natural to feel inadequate and not achieving 100 per cent in  each. But I always say that if you add up what you are giving to each role then it will be around 300 to 400 per cent. So, shun all this guilt and focus on priorities”, says Priya. 

For Latha, the need to take up each role as some sort of a challenge is  anathema. “You really want something and when you get it, you see it as a challenge. This attitude can be painful. Emancipation lies in enjoying what comes your way and women are strong enough to do that, they just don’t try enough,” says the fiesty mother who fought a battle for a normal life for her son. “We women epitomise love, strength, smartness multitasking and we must revel in it. If life offers you lemons then make a lemonade. This is fine. But you have to learn to pour that lemonade in a tall glass and enjoy  sipping it”, this is her advice to all ye pretty women this Women’s Day.  — Geetu Vaid


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