Mommybites Chit-Chat with Rita Kakati Shah, Founder and CEO of Uma

Mommybites Chit-Chat: Conversations with luminaries, entrepreneurs and influencers in the parenting world

Q: Tell us a little about you (your background, your job, what makes you tick or anything else you think our Mommybites moms will find interesting).

I’m a born and bred Londoner with an investment banking background where I was at Goldman Sachs for 10 years. I moved to the US after I got married, and now have a 4.5 year old son and 2.5 year old daughter. When I thought of re-entering the workforce after taking nearly four years off to raise my kids, it was like none of that had ever happened. I felt firsthand the stigma attached to having a resume gap, and how taking time off to be with my family was perceived as lack of ambition and being a quitter.

The current employment infrastructure does not do enough to help moms like us – once an integral part of the workforce – return. Thinking about how to solve this problem became all-consuming. I lived and breathed this mission, and so for me turning this passion into a business was a very natural next step.

As a Brit from London, with heritage from Assam, India, I couldn’t help but notice the startling differences with not only re-entry of women in the workforce, but the perception of motherhood in general in this country. Arguably, we have a broken system in the US and I want to fix it. We do a terrible job of helping people launch their families in this country—the U.S. is the only developed country in the world without a mandatory parental leave policy, and the numbers of re-entrants into the workforce has gone down.

As I considered what I could do to address this problem it seemed that what was missing was a platform that could make it easier to bring these incredible women back into the workforce. And so I created Uma, a platform to bring talented women back to the workforce after a career break, through educational Uma Academy workshops, curated Umaship job placements and our Party with a Purpose networking events.

Q: What or who inspires you?

All you amazing moms and dads! The very motivation of Uma is to recognize, appreciate and do something to get us our due. The journey and sacrifices that we as parents make in preparation for parenthood and raising and looking after our families, is astounding and quite underrated.

The look in my little ones’ eyes, that sparkle of joy (or mischief!) is what motivates me. I want to be a role model to my kids, so that when they grow up, they can in turn be a positive influence on their friends, families and societies they live in, too.

Q: What is your best piece of parenting advice?

My greatest piece of advice would be to schedule time to yourself and the things that made you, you. For me, I start the day with listening to music and collecting my thoughts for the day. My little ones are up at 6am on the nose and so I make sure to schedule and stick to the “me time” every morning, even if they haven’t slept the night before!

Q: What’s the worst piece of parenting advice you have heard?

I have seen and (experienced myself) random people on the street so eloquently opining on other moms’ parenting styles, right in the moment when their 2 year old is midst meltdown and their 4 year old has had a potty emergency and they are already doing their best to hold it together and deal with the situation!

It is important to remember that no one else can handle it like you can. So really – even when it feels like everything around you is crumbling – you are doing an incredible job of holding it together, so big pat on the back for that, and don’t let other people’s opinions get the better of you!

Q: What’s the most common question you are asked by parents?

I am often asked how I “balance it all” – i.e. spend time with my family whilst running a successful start-up.

Whether you are naturally an organized person or not, becoming a parent makes you run everything like clockwork.

However, in order to do both, you must be meticulously organized in everything. Although my days are pretty full on, no two are the same and so in order to remain as efficient as possible, I set myself a routine on the hours I can control. I will often stay up late or wake up before the crack of dawn to finish off a client presentation or approve a new Uma Academy workshop curriculum, just so that I can also take my 2-year-old daughter to her ballet class and my 4-year-old son to ice skating.

Q: What are some of your favorite T.V. shows? Books? Foods?

Big smile – since becoming a parent, by default my favorite reads are those of my kids! Peppa Pig, Goodnight Galaxy and pizza and ice cream therefore feature high on the list of recommendations, to name a few!

The odd occasion my husband and I get to watch our own TV though, Homeland is a good one, and Mad Men when it was still on. I also (secretly) like Super Girl though, back from my own teeny bopping days!

Q: What parenting books do you most recommend to parents?

Like a lot of new parents, I had read books, swiped the internet for advice and spoken to everyone under the sun. Really though, it’s always been my own intuition that has triumphed. There is a gut feeling you have, coupled with your own life’s experiences as well as watching how other nannies and parents deal with situations outside the house, that allow both my husband and myself to build our own parenting style.

Q: What are some of your favorite parenting products?

Not quite a parenting product and I had sworn against too much of this way back when, but the iPad can be a lifesaver! I travel solo quite a lot with my kids, and so having a collection of soft toys (that you can easily replace if they get lost), puzzles and crayon packs are great distractions for journeys.

Q: Are there any other questions you wish we asked? If so, what and how would you answer?

Yes, see below:

Q: If you could go back in time, would you change anything?

Travel as much as you can before you have kids! Take that babymoon that you were thinking about. Every trip from here onwards will be different so travel as much and go to the movies and as many date nights as you can. Once you have little ones, you’ll have to schedule in everything!

Q: How did you overcome the feeling of guilt when you started working again?

You don’t. I was with my kids every single day from birth till I started Uma, when I started to interview nannies to watch them while I was working. The first step was the hardest for me – feeling comfortable that someone else – a stranger – would be looking after my most precious little ones. Now that I have been working for a year, I can now say that it was the best decision. Not only as Uma is a mission that I feel so passionately about, but because I have some genuine “me time” where I feel independent and confident again. Although being a mother is the most enlightening journey I’ve been on, it is refreshing to re-discover myself again. I have more confidence and energy, which is reflected on my ability to be a more effective parent to my kids.

Q: How can our readers find out more about what you do?

Feel free to check out our website: www.beboldbeuma.com or social media with handle @beboldbeuma (we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn)

Like what you read? Click here to read our previous Chit-Chat! Also check out our latest FREE online classes, parenting advice, jobs for moms, events, childcare listings, casting calls & raffles, and our Parents With Nannies Facebook group.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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