Hey mom, are you longing to rediscover ‘yourself’ by doing what you love, while also taking care of your family? Our International Women’s Day story of 5 interesting women is your dose of inspiration!
By Sindhu Shivalingam
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”
- Oprah Winfrey
Working mother or homemaker, as a mother, most of the time you become your last priority unless you mindfully put ‘you’ up in the front. Think back, think about the girl who loved herself more than anything else; the girl who used to not step out without painting her nails; the one who would make sure she spends her weekends volunteering in the animal shelter because it gave her fulfilment; and the one who would wake up singing, or who loved to eat hot samosas; or at least the one who loved watching the rain – not worrying about the clothes on the rail. We got you thinking, right?
When a girl becomes a woman and later transforms into a mother, her personal dreams and goals seem to fade off. Her life becomes one that’s dedicated to her children and family, with personal happiness limited to making others around her happy. Inside every woman, there will be that little girl who wants to do something that she loves the most. But only a few of us realise that dream. Let’s meet mothers like you and me, who started to do things that brought them joy and a sense of fulfilment, changing the way they look at themselves and life at large.
Sowmya makes cloth dolls for children under the name Paanchaalika. “My dolls are made of unused, upcycled fabric. The fillings I use are from scrap battings which I get from my quilting friends. In all, I try making it a zero-waste venture. I don’t differentiate these dolls for boys or girls, and both my children Shri Raghav (9) and Saahiti (4) play with them. When customers come back to me saying how attached their kids are with my dolls, and how the dolls are being used for storytelling or positive disciplining, it gives me great satisfaction. This is like realising all my interests and learnings in one package!” says a passionate Sowmya.
Sowmya was teaching dyslexic children soon after she graduated. As she married and attained motherhood, all her focus shifted to her bundle of joy and she started giving her child her everything. “I am an active and dynamic person. I enjoyed motherhood but I needed an outlet. Otherwise, I was a mother 24x7. I needed to replenish myself. I believe becoming a mother empowers women. Motherhood makes us more sensible, smart and also moulds us into go-getters. That’s how I braved Paanchaalika – my fabric doll-making venture.
It all started with my child. I was looking at dolls I wanted to buy for my son and I somehow knew the stereotyped versions of plastic toys were not what I was looking for. I had learnt doll-making when I was 19, but never put it to use. The crafter in me came alive and I created the first fabric doll that I purposely made to look realistic. Clothed in regular cotton fabric, with brown skin, he was the perfect mate for my son to play with. Friends and acquaintances, who saw my child’s dolls, started asking me to make one for them. What started as a hobby soon turned into a business, and I’m proud to make dolls. They can be excellent tools to engage with your child – play or storytelling,” says a confident Sowmya, who now ships her Paanchaalika dolls to places all over the world. “I don’t have a website, nor do I advertise. It is merely through word of mouth. I now train two underprivileged women to make these dolls with me. Little did I know that doll-making was going to be not just my outlet but also the source of great joy and satisfaction when I made the first doll for my son!” she says.
Paanchaalika FB page: https://www.facebook.com/paanchaalika/
Originally from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Pratibha, currently settled in Bengaluru, is passionate about making crafts. She runs ‘Muddy Puddles’, a crafting venture under which she makes busy books for children. A ‘busy book’, also known as ‘quiet book’, is a book that has pages made of felt or fabric. Each page would have an interactive age-appropriate activity or game for the child to engage in. The pages can include various textures, zippers, buttons and snaps, helping the child get a tactile experience as they play. The books can also be customised with themes you select, such as learning about colours, animals or helping around in the house. Isn’t that interesting?
“I was always a crafter. I used to run a small paper crafts business making props for parties when I was younger. Marriage changed a lot of things in my life. After having my child and becoming a single mother, I needed to get my hands on to something in order to keep my mind occupied positively. I picked up a felt fabric, sewed different kinds of textures on it, and gave it to my seven-month-old son. He was occupied with it for what seemed to be an eternity. It gave me great joy. I started doing more of these – I would make felt animals as puppets or sew zippers on the felt and integrate interactive activities like colour matching, and give it to him. I later discovered that what I had been doing is actually packaged and sold as ‘busy books’ in the market. I thought - well, I too can make these and sell. But it took me four years to start this out as a business venture. I needed my son, Darsh, to grow up a little, so I had the time to make the books in large quantities. He is now 4.5 and is a great buddy and support to me. Now, we have kids all around India enjoying Muddy Puddles Busy Books,” says Prathiba with pride. “A ‘busy book’ is a lot of things. It’s a toy, a skill developer (a child learns hand-eye coordination, sensory skills, etc.) and a learning tool. A child can engage in something by himself quietly with these books. I customised books for babies to children between the ages 0-6,” she adds. Prathiba’s books even come with matching stationery!
“It gives me a great sense of accomplishment as I finish every elaborate page. A great deal of labour and effort goes into the detailing. After establishing Muddy Puddles, I feel I have found my identity again. The sense of self has improved. I tend to read up a lot on age-appropriate activities and child development. That makes me a better parent. I’m now a calmer person and a happier parent. My thoughts have become more positive,” says a happy Prathiba. “Busy books are usually expensive because of the labour involved. I’m now trying to use new techniques and machines so I can package them at a lower price to make them available to all children. Childhood is such a rich period of growth and development. I wish every child enjoys it to the fullest,” she adds thoughtfully.
Muddy Puddles FB page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/mymuddypuddle/photos/?ref=page_internal
Natasha sends out handmade calligraphy cards and homemade pastries and cookies to loved ones on their birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. If you are lucky to be friends with Natasha, you won’t feel the need to step into a bakery to treat yourself.
Natasha has three children, 10-year-old daughter Kaitlyn, and twin boys, 5-year-old Zachariah and Ivor, who not just enjoy their food – be it karela or homemade pizza but also prefer it to restaurant food. And when they plan for a family outing, Natasha and her husband don’t take their kids out to malls and movies, but on picnics to public parks and lakes, with packed homemade food – pasta, chapati rolls, poha upma, cream rolls, fruit jam, crackers, bread, and what not! They enjoy long walks, speaking about things they see, and sharing conversations. Natasha enjoys nurturing her children gracefully and joyously, just as she enjoys doing art, knitting, baking and compering. With family traditions and cheerful moments, their home is a happy nest. Was she always this energetic and chirpy? Let’s find out.
“I love cooking, art, compering, gardening and making things on my own. But when I became a mother, I was not getting to do these things as much as I used to. Motherhood has its own way of giving you strength and causing you to expand, I believe. I remember being at that position – being exhausted. It was when my boys were five months old, and I had just returned to work. The previous night, I had nursed my boys all night long. I still had to get up early to pack lunches for my husband, daughter and myself. When I stepped out of the house, I felt tired. I then told myself – ‘Natasha, one foot at a time and you will be able to pull through the day’ and I did! As I went through the day, I realised how blessed I’m. I was still in a position of advantage when compared to so many others. It was a humbling experience. I started to mentally make a list of things I can be thankful for. I have a supportive and understanding partner, healthy and beautiful children, a home to live in, and a job that pays! Something clicked and I started doing everything with love. I started gardening, and did more art and compering than before. Life is what we make out of it! We need to start appreciating little things and do everything with love, and not forget to do what we love. Life then becomes joyful,” says a cheerful Natasha.
Indie, an Ayurvedic doctor, makes exotic handmade soaps in a small-scale unit, under the banner Ameya. Her ingredients are intriguing - buttermilk, yoghurt, shea butter, vetiver (bunchgrass), panchavalkala (made from five medicinal barks), elaadigana (combination of medicinal herbs), chiuri butter, and a whole lot of essential oils. You will find yourself wanting to try them all. Skilfully handcrafted, these soaps are not just 100% natural, but also look great. They come in the shape of hearts, snow-flakes, smileys, favourite cartoon characters, and more. Hundreds of moms have used, celebrated and endorsed Indie’s products that range from soaps to shampoo bars. Indie has a 3.5-year-old son, Abhram and is based out of Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru. We wanted to know how she worked out this magic.
“Making products was part of my coursework even when I was a student. After my marriage, once I got pregnant, in the last trimester, I thought I’ll make products for my child. I made some and shared with friends. By word of mouth, I started receiving requests from people asking if I can make more. That's how it started. I don’t make it large scale. It’s not for the money. I enjoy the process and the learning opportunity it provides me with. When my experimentation succeeds, it gives me this schoolgirl kind of excitement! Sometimes, kids send me thank you voice messages, and it just gives me the high for the day,” says a thrilled Indie.
Explaining how it brings positivity to her life, Indie shares, “One year ago, my son fell very ill for a long time. We were shuttling from one hospital to another. In the middle of the frenzy, I would receive messages from people asking if I had a buttermilk soap (for baby’s rashes), or a smiley soap (as a birthday gift). At first, I would start typing ‘I’m sorry,
I don’t.’ Then I would delete it and say, ‘Can you wait for two weeks?’ and I’d make the soaps for them. Being part of someone’s everyday life in a meaningful way adds purpose to your life. It gave me peace and satisfaction even in between the tough time my family and I were going through. Being involved in this gives positivity, satisfaction and joy.
Ameya FB page: https://www.facebook.com/Ameya-201414120046190/
Uma lives in Bengaluru and is a mother of two, Siddharth (4.5 years) and Trikay (12 months). She knits soulful blankets, wraps and scarves whose colours would make your heart skip with joy. She runs a small business of selling her handmade knitted products and calls herself ‘The Owl Mama’. “I knit at night when my children are asleep. I put a small bedside lamp and knit as long as I want to. The colour patterns, the ‘click-click-click’ of the needles, and the uniform stitches that come out give me calm. It is like meditation for me,” she says.
“When my first baby was born, I had taken a maternity break from my work. At the end of it, I couldn’t get myself to go back to work. I wanted to be with my child. So, I waved goodbye to my work to enjoy motherhood. But, the others around me had their lives shifting back to their normal routine. My husband went back to his travelling job, my friends had different things happening to them, and I was at home, all alone with my baby. I was running into depression. I constantly picked up fights with my husband, found fault with my parents who were trying to help me, and started seeing negatives in everyone. It also affected the way I interacted with my child, who, in turn, turned cranky and made me feel more frustrated. One night, just out of having nothing else to do and to divert my mind from all the negative thoughts, I picked up a piece of yarn and started to knit, thinking I’ll make a blanket for my baby. I had learnt knitting as a fun activity when I was younger. As I sat knitting, I realised how my focus shifted and I was calming down. It continued for days and I made a larger blanket than I intended to. A few months later, I posted it on a mommy’s social media group for some encouragement. Out of nowhere, a group member pinged me and asked if I could make a scarf for her as a work order. I thought ‘wow!’ that was a great deal of recognition. I worked out the cost and made my first sale.
My business grew through word of mouth and I started posting more pictures of my work on social media. Beyond selling, with every new customer, I made a new friend. These were some of the nicest people I’ve known with whom I could discuss work, home, parenting and emotions, without the fear of being judged! I think motherhood makes you humble, changes you, and helps you to grow and evolve. It helped me rediscover myself. Instead of drowning in self-pity, I found a way to channelise my energy into making a blanket for my baby. In the process, I carved out an identity for myself. I’m no longer just someone’s mother, daughter or wife alone. I’m my own person. I have my own ideas and creations, which gives me a great deal of confidence and satisfaction. Along with this process, as I continue knitting, I can see how I literally calmed down and became a better person. My relationship with my husband improved and I started being a happy person. I started seeing everyone under a different light. I no longer feel people are out there to judge me. I feel like everyone is here to support each other,” says Uma with a smile.
The Owl Mama FB page: https://www.facebook.com/theowlmama/
Aren’t they an inspiring lot? All these mothers have found a connection to themselves. Let us all start loving ourselves more. In Uma’s words, “Look into yourself and see what gives you happiness – plants, books, yoga, art, be it anything. Find time to do it. You deserve it. Find your self-worth. Be a happier version of you.” And when you become happier, you will naturally raise happy children! Happy Women’s Day!
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