Hello Mridula, tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do, how old are your children and what happens with your kids when you are at work?
Last year I founded Peppy with my co-founders, Max and Evan. We help employers to support their employees when they go through a major transition in their life, such as becoming new parents. Peppy enables people to find the right health support for their families, supported by their employer. I have two kids, who are of preschool age. They go to a local nursery and have a nanny when I'm at work. We're also lucky to live in London where we have lots of friends and family around.
1. One word to describe how being a WoMo makes you feel?
Streeeetched. But also exhilarated, to be doing the work I do.
2. What’s the funniest experience you have had juggling kids and work?
In my previous job I ran a business unit at Sandoz, a pharma company and it was 'Bring your child to work' day. We were in the midst of our biggest product launch of the year. The older kids were away doing activities, but I had my six month old baby bouncing on my lap in the launch meeting as we were discussing negotiation tactics with our distributors. And then I did a very messy nappy change in the glass-walled conference room just as all my team were walking past.
Oh, and I regularly spill a mix of stickers, cartoon plasters, glittery hair clips and grotty tissues from my coat pocket/ handbag when I reach for something. Usually in front of clients or investors.
3. What is the one piece of advice you could offer another WoMo?
Take time to develop great colleagues, friends and mentors. It's so important to have people around you who believe in you, because there are inevitably times where you get overwhelmed and doubt yourself.
4. What’s the least amount of sleep you’ve gone to work on and how did you cope?
Probably four hours... that's my absolute, absolute minimum now, although I’ve done less when I was at McKinsey and MIT. It takes a LOT of coffee, sugar and pinching myself to get through the day. I find it helps if I don't have to sit still in meetings but try and walk around, stand up, or at least find a bit of time to stretch in the loos.
5. What have you learned about yourself as a WoMo?
I've found being a working mother very empowering, which I had not anticipated beforehand. Impostor syndrome is a real thing and being a parent makes me feel grown up.
6. If you had a working mother’s anthem or mantra, what would it be?
Enjoy the moment. Remember things will change, so relish it, even when it's manic and exhausting. For me, there are so many funny and sweet moments that make it exhilarating, both at home with my family, and in these early days of Peppy.
7. What is your guilty pleasure to combat WoMo guilt the best?
If I have to do a work trip away, I take the kids to our local bakery for breakfast before I leave.
8. Would you rather be dealing with a tantrum or presenting in a board meeting?
Presenting at a board meeting. Without a doubt.
9. If you asked your children what your job is, what would they say?
'Mummy goes to her office and does number work and letter work with her friends, Max and Evan (my co-founders at Peppy)". Which is true!
10. What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you became a WoMo?
Don't try and please everyone, because you can't. There are only 24 hours in the day between work, kids, partner and the other people/ commitments in your life. And your kids will never have enough of you, regardless of what choice you make, so you just have to live with that.
11. To date, what has been your best WoMo achievement?
Starting Peppy. It was a huge leap of faith, as I was still discovering what it meant to be a working mother of two tiny children. It took a lot of belief in myself and in my co-founders, and a lot of support from my husband and family. So far, the journey has been amazing. Peppy just went live and we recently announced our partnership with the NCT. It's wonderful to hear from the parents-to-be/ new parents that we are helping. I'm also so grateful to all the people who continue to support us, either on our advisory board, or as investors, or friends.
12. What do you want to teach your kids about working mothers?
I want my kids to live life fully. I believe that means having a multitude of relationships and things you feel passionately about. These might be having an exciting career, raising kids, having a partner, earning money, caring for a sick family member or hobbies. The priorities will change over time, but it's never healthy to focus exclusively on one thing for too long. Especially as a working mother, you're forced to come face to face with that reality. I also believe that working fatherhood is going through a huge shift (which is why Peppy is also for dads!). So hopefully things will be different for the next generation.