"Going back to work after being a full-time mother for 3.5 years was one of the toughest decisions"
"Please don't kill yourself with the guilt of having to leave the baby behind," says mumpreneur Tejal Bajla who is the brains behind Brainsmith and Quantum Cards
Motherhood is an experiment on how long your body can function without adequate sleep and caffeine, fuelled only by occasional baby smiles!” says the 34-year-old mumpreneur Tejal Bajla, as she reminisces the four years since the birth of her son, Armaan.
In an interview with Indusparent, she explains her journey as mumpreneur who is revolutionising the way Indian kids are taught at a young age, thanks to her invention – Quantum Cards.
Along with her partner Akshay Jalan, Bajla came up with the concept of ‘Quantum Cards,’ under the company name Brainsmith. But it wasn’t based on the whim to start a company, but on the need of a mum to stimulate her son’s mind.
“Brainsmith was founded out of my relentless pursuit to find novel ways to stimulate my son’s mind. While exploring age-appropriate products that would stimulate his brain, lead me to further research my already existing interest in Early Brain Development. Courses at Glen Doman’s institute in Philadelphia only strengthened my belief that brain growth and development can be accelerated in young children using the right tools and stimulus. At Brainsmith we are dedicated to creating innovative learning materials that stimulate young minds and foster a lifelong love for learning,” she explains.
These Quantum Cards are large format 11 by 11-inch flash cards with a clear picture on the front and detailed encyclopaedic information at the back.
“They are very effective in stimulating the visual and auditory pathways of little children. All the images on our cards are hand illustrated by artists to ensure authenticity and consistency. Our superior quality, size, range of topics and content is what makes us unique,” says Bajla who started the company with Jalan in January this year.
“A chance meeting with Akshay lead to some interesting conversations. It was then that we were toying with the idea of developing early learning products. We realised over endless coffees after that, my idea and his interests were in sync and that we had complimentary skill sets. Thus, was born Brainsmith. Akshay is the operational and research genius at Brainsmith,” explains Bajla, who also founded ‘The Mommy Network,’ a versatile and popular mum-group on Facebook along with her friends Kiran Amlani and Shreya Lamba.
Continue reading to see what urban Indian parents had to say about Bajla’s invention.
Her invention has become quite a rage among urban Indian parents, who cannot stop raving about it.
“The cards have helped her in developing pictorial memory and remembering the different pictures and objects. My daughter likes playing with them and keeps bringing the cards back to me to play with her,” said dad Sourav Bagaria from New Delhi.
Another parent Vaishali Shah who said, “We bought our first set of cards, since he (her son) is a very animal’s person. We started practicing Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. By the 3rd day he knew all of them by heart. He started recognising anywhere he was seeing it, on television, zoo and in fact whatever he was learning in school, he started sharing it with me. So for me the most gratifying and satisfying thing was that, the knowledge that he has gained from these cards is going to stay with him for life.”
“I started using Quantum cards with my son a while ago. I was amazed at how easy it was for me to teach such complex things to my son. To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about these facts myself. While teaching them to my son, I learnt along with him, which made it all the more engaging and fun for both of us,” says Mumbai-based mum Prachi Kagzi.
However, this invention didn’t just came about immediately after her son was born. Bajla took 3.5 years of sabbatical before joining the workforce. But she soon found out that it would be one of the toughest decisions of her life.
“Going back into a work mode after playing full-time mother for 3.5 years, was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. It’s very hard to leave your child in the hands of a trusted caregiver, especially when one has been around full time in the early days watching every move. Of course, I’ve set proper systems and surveillance in the home for the times that I’m away. In addition, my son is now a great communicator so I’m always in the loop of what’s going on in my absence,” she says.
While starting her own venture, she also realised that most workplaces in India are not conducive to young mothers.
“Workplaces in India need to come up the curve in becoming more conducive to working mothers. Whilst most multinational organisations and large corporations in India offer crèche services and the likes, there still is a huge dearth of good flexible working opportunities and child-friendly workplaces in India,” says Bajla.
Continue reading to see what Bajla has to say about why working mums must not feel guilty about leaving their kids behind.
Because of the environment and societal pressures created on working Indian mums, many succumb to them, leaving their well-paying jobs behind. But this is not something to be encouraged.
Bajla explains, “Please don’t kill yourself with the guilt of having to leave the baby behind. It’s the quality of time and interaction that truly matter and not the quantity. Make the best use of the time you spend with your little one. A little planning will go a long way and above all be a happy mother.”
She also adds that this change of mindset can only come when the partner is willing to help out, just as her husband and renowned educationist Amith Bajla.
“My husband had a huge role to play emotionally during and after childbirth. He was extremely patient and not the least demanding of my time while I went through all the changes that came with motherhood,” she explains.
As for the experience of motherhood, “How has it been so far?” we asked.
“No amount of preparation, reading and researching can prepare you for what happens when your child is born. You don’t know what has hit you until your baby arrives. For someone who loves her sleep, coping with the sleeplessness and demand feeding were some of the biggest challenges I faced in the early days,” she says.
As a person who liked to be ‘in control’ of every situation, Bajla found herself struggling in the beginning, only to get back ‘in control’ with some much-needed help.
“In addition, to being the ‘always in control person’ that I was then; I tried to add a method to this madness which only made things worse. It’s hard to switch from managing excel sheets to suddenly start tending to the needs of a tiny human being. I was indeed lucky to have two lovely experienced nurses who patiently guided me through it all, my mom and sister to lean on and my husband who dealt with all my sleepless tantrums!” says Bajla who worked with Morgan Stanley, before she quite her job to take care of her son.
Being an early learning expert and an inspiration for many working mothers, Bajla had a word of advice for Indian mums.
“No matter whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom, the early years in your baby’s life are the foundation of how the next 80 years will be. So, make the most of the time you spend with your little one. While most new moms spend a lot of time, effort, money and energy on hygiene and good health of the little one; brain development and stimulation usually take the back seat,” she says.
Bajla adds that the formative years are the most ‘fertile’ time for kids and the time when parents must do their best to work on stimulating their brains.
“The years between 0-6 are the most fertile and parents must consciously do their best in that direction too. The truth is happy moms make the best mothers, so the only advice I can give other mothers is, make time for what makes you happy so that you can be a good mother to your child,” she says.
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