Juggling motherhood and professionalism is just another day in the life of fashion designer and mother, Mrs. Sarah Karim. Mrs. Karim discusses the intricate work life balance, managing herself, her business and her family as well as sharing her wisdom for how aspiring mothers can tackle the hurdles of entrepreneurship.
1. Would you please introduce yourself?
I am a fashion designer, and a mom, for many years. We have our own label and although we started it around 12/13years back, the organization itself has existed for almost around 35 years when my grandmother-in-law started it. So, the artisans who work for us have many years of experience. We emphasize a lot on the kind of handwork that we do, especially the zardozi and aari work. These are very specialized crafts and I firmly believe that no one does this better than us in Bangladesh.
I have also done my Masters in English Literature and taught at University and high school for a while. Now I do the bridal ensembles for many of my students and that’s a wonderful feeling.
2. How do you balance your work life and family life?
It’s actually not as difficult as one thinks, it’s all about time management which helps out. I try to finish my appointments by 4:30 pm. By then, the kids come back from school, and so I get to spend the majority of the evenings with them. I also make sure that I do not take any appointments on weekends. Of course these are perks of having your own business.
3. Have you ever experienced the “mommy guilt”?
To some extent, yes. It does exist, but it is also true that kids will eventually have their own lives, and if a mothers sacrifices a lot of her career goals for them, it puts pressure on the kids to compensate for that later. I have seen so many mothers whose world revolves around their kids but they eventually tend to become very controlling, or worse interfering and possessive mother-in-law. And I would much rather be a more “relaxed” mother.
So, I think it’s much healthier for moms to have their own lives and to let the kids eventually live their lives on their terms. But of course, the basic instincts of a mom to love and protect are always going to be there, and there’s nothing one can/should do about that, haha.
And kids realize and understand that they have a working mother and that she is doing so to contribute to the family. They tend to become more independent which is great. So to have a career is not a selfish endeavor I think.
4. How do you stay focused and productive at work?
Being focused isn’t a problem because if you are passionate about what you do, your career goals will automatically motivate you to keep working hard. For me, the problem may be to focus on things other than work, haha.
5. How important is family support when it comes to being an entrepreneur and a mom?
Very much. I think it would have been very difficult without that support, especially from the spouse. It’s even more important when the work is the kind we do, which is working at odd hours during shows and shoots, being in the spotlight etc. You need to have a husband who appreciates your hard work and celebrates your achievements.
So yes, my husband has been very supportive, and my kids too, with all the technology stuff that I am really bad at, haha.
6. What are some of the things that help you stay organized throughout the day and give time to everyone and everything?
It really helps to have a to-do list. Whenever I have a really busy day, I have a to-do list on my phone, and I keep crossing out things on it.
On a busy day, it starts from the morning bazaar, the school routine, and so on. The last time I had a fashion show, I did have 45 things on my list, and I was only able to do them because they were organized on a list.
The other thing that I do which is very helpful to me is that I have a “lunch and dinner menu” printed for almost an entire month. I do enjoy cooking a lot but on busy days I will just say “number 3 on the list”.
7. Does being a mom change anything in your professional life?
My children are 19, 15, and 10 now. So, when I started my career, I already had my kids and I don’t know what it’s like to work without them being around. Yes, almost half of my To-Do list has to do with them but kids these days are pretty independent & busy with their own stuff. And of course they also have each other which is a big plus I think!
8. What are your thoughts on people posting photos of their kids on social media, like a picture of their kid’s first steps on twitter?
I think the best way to go about this would be to strike a balance. I don’t think overexposure of kids is a good thing. But then again, I myself post the occasional Eid and holiday pictures with the kids.
I think it’s okay because a lot of people do want to know about your life and such, but only to a certain extent. And I think, unless they have achieved something on their own, there’s no need to constantly put them in the limelight.
9. Could you please tell us an interesting story about you related to the kids?
I remember something my son said when he was only 2/years old. I was going to pick him up from school, and I knew I only had to go up till the gate, so I didn’t bother about the fact that I had oil in my hair. Once he saw me, he looked horrified that I’d come looking like that, and when I said that it doesn’t really matter, he said in his broken English, “No, but you have to be ALL-THE-TIME pretty!”.
My cousins still laugh about this and say that I have taken that tantrum too seriously & that’s the reason I’m always well turned out. And now making sure everyone else is doing the same as well ha ha!
10. Can you give 3 recommendations to a mom who is stepping into entrepreneurship or who wants to be an entrepreneur but just can’t get started?
I think it’s best to start small. These days, with social media, it is actually much easier than it was for us. With social media, you can easily reach out to a lot of people. You don’t even need a expensive retail space anymore! And starting small means less risk as well, you are not putting much on the line.
I remember when I started, I use my own money to design and creat my first 12 outfits! This was still when my nani shashuri was running the business. So, at one of her sales I had showcased these 12 salwar kameezs and they sold out in no time! And that is what made me confident to work in this line.
So, I would suggest starting small but also do what you are passionate and excited about. It could be anything from delivering home cooked food to being an IT technician. If you are passionate about it and you know that you are good at it, the sky is the limit!
And, of course, always believe in yourself!