I thought my startup was “my baby,” until I actually had a baby

Quartz india
Quartz india

As an entrepreneur, you develop a special bond with the company you build.

I co-founded MadRat Games five years ago—and treated it as my child. That helped me pass several challenges. When the times were rough, and there was no easy way out, I often asked, “If MadRat was my baby, to what extent will I go to make things happen?”

And the answer each time was: “To whatever extent it takes. There is no giving up.”

The problem is, now that I have my own child, I am at times confused. I delivered a baby boy on Sept. 26, and while the nine months of pregnancy were beautiful—thanks to my husband, Rajat Dhariwal, who is also my business partner—the truth is that I am confused about my priorities like never before.

For every minute in the last five years, my startup has been my top priority. But over the last nine months, I have constantly been asking myself: How do I detach myself from my company to prioritise something else? Will my team be able to manage challenges the way I would have? What will our investors think? Will they lose faith in me?

Raised eyebrows

Our startup team was excited when we shared the news of my pregnancy with them. They were glad that Rajat and I had decided to start a family.

Since our parents don’t live with us in Bengaluru, my colleagues offered to help. And almost everyone went out of their way to take care of me.

Between March and April this year, we decided to raise funds for our startup. This was a series A funding round and several investors—including Flipkart co-founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, and Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal—participated.

A lot of wishes came our way, but at the end of the day, the stakeholders wanted to know how our decision would affect our commitment towards MadRat.

Honestly, I am torn between being an entrepreneur and a new mother. I have been contemplating every other way to figure out how to run my company and be a mother.

Employed vs. entrepreneur

I consulted a lot of my friends who work full-time about how they managed when they were having a baby.

They all told me that their managers provided them a relaxed working environment close to their due dates. Moreover, they took their paid leaves, along with their maternity leaves, and extended the break by three or four months.

In my case, I am both the manager and the employee.

Of course, there are several advantages of being an entrepreneur. I can be flexible with my working hours. Women who have full-time jobs might have to leave the baby at home, and not see their child for eight to 10 hours. But I can visit my baby through the day, whenever I want.

Though it helped me to ask my friends, I realised the answers lay within myself. Amid all the anxiety, I went back to the same question that helped me take tough decisions before: “What all will you do if it is your baby?” The answer was: “Whatever it takes.”

The answer for MadRat and our baby remains the same. That’s when I realised that it would be exactly the same for a mother who is having her second baby. She needs to attend to both—and so do I.

You cannot choose between them. It’s not one over the other.

Juggling

I decided to create that balance. Earlier, my work used to involve a lot of travel. At least once a month, I would travel outside the city for meetings. But during my pregnancy, I had to stop travelling out of Bengaluru.

A couple of months ago, I was invited to talk at an event in Thailand, but I could not go because I was not allowed to travel in my seventh month. But I have ensured that my immobility doesn’t hurt our business in any way.

I went to the office until the last day of my pregnancy, and worked just as many hours as I usually did.

On paper, I do get a three-month maternity leave. But I realise that a maternity leave doesn’t mean anything to me. I am just going by what needs more attention when, and based on that, I will be juggling stuff around.

Once I resume work completely, which should be really soon, I will work from home or take the baby to the office. I have not asked anyone from our families to come and live with us because I feel I can manage the baby on my own.

But this is a conscious choice that I have made and does not apply to all working women.

We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.

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