Saee Koranne Khandekar’s Journey # BeLikeHer

Entrepreneurship can be a wonderful thing for women, especially new mothers. It puts decision making squarely in your hands, leaving you to choose how fast or how slow you want to take things, to decide how busy you want to be and to plan how you want to chalk your time out. But most of all, choosing entrepreneurship can give you an opportunity to dabble in an area of work that you are passionate about, without having to sacrifice the joy of being a mother. Or vice versa, like it did for Saee Koranne-Khandekar, Food Writer and Consultant, writer of the gorgeous, simply-styled and classy blog MyJhola and a passionate lover of food, food culture and culinary history and tradition.

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Saee’s journey into food was a transition that occurred after her first child was born. Like many other mothers she took a break from work to be with her daughter and to savour motherhood. She had no plans to go back to work and instead indulged her passion for documenting food, telling food stories and making gorgeous videos. Honing her skills and dedicating time and effort to her blog and writing paid off and pretty soon, presented a whole new career avenue.

Five years later, when she was pregnant with twin boys, things were very different. Already an established Food Consultant with exciting projects such as curating menus, teaching baking, reimagining Maharashtrian cusisine in a contemporary avatar, luring her, Saee saw things very differently. “I was now a food consultant and writer — roles that are difficult to quit! I was merely toying with the idea of a short maternity break,” she says. “Yes, I did think I might lose out on opportunities, but I was certain that would be a temporary occurrence.”

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A lot is said about working alongside being a mother and shrill views abound on either side of the debate. For every woman who is happy to commit to motherhood, several others would like to continue working. The reasons are many and range from wanting creative freedom to pure necessity. Yes, there are several mothers for whom the choice of taking a break from work simply does not exist. Continuing to share the load with a spouse or being a single-mother presents economic demands that women must face, sometimes alone. Finding an alternative path, switching gears, choosing entrepreneurship, if your situation allows it, can give new mothers a new trajectory.

It was during Saee’s second pregnancy that she signed on her first cookbook deal and began working on it. She was also compiling a family cookbook of heirloom recipes, while pursuing the odd written assignment too. Saee worked through most of her second pregnancy and says, “It was a bit of a strain to work on the two writing projects while I was pregnant – and I say this purely from the perspective of physical discomfort.” A range of pregnancy complications required her to stay in bed and she also had her now-five year old daughter to tend to. “I had a lot of help and support from family, but it was my writing that gave me a constructive distraction. I used to steal time from when my caretakers would shower or step out on errands,” From bursts of writing, to styling pictures and also take photographs for her recipes, she continued to tread the line between the two worlds precariously, but managing them beautifully.

“I couldn’t think of not working in the future – the lack of creatively fulfilling work would drive me insane (and with me, the rest of the family!),” says Saee, echoing the sentiments of many women, for whom tasting a truly satisfying career can be hard to turn away from.

Happily, foraying into entrepreneurship has given Saee carve a niche for herself and the flexibility to carefully balance her work and family too. “It can get a bit difficult, sometimes, to draw the lines and demarcate the time of day you play mother or wife and entrepreneur respectively, but it is a decision I don’t regret” Saee says, talking about how she is able to enjoy the many little moments of joy with her three children, while continuing to pursue something that is creatively fulfilling and financially rewarding too.

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Most entrepreneurs will tell you, it is a path that is not without its challenges. Too often, the lines between work, play and family blur. But like most entrepreneurs will also tell you, it is never a journey you take alone. “It helps to have a rock of a husband who pushes me to take the risks I am wondering about, while managing the home despite having a demanding job himself.” With ample backing from her parents, parents-in-law and dependable house help, Saee is able to take on assignments that require her to travel too.

In a world that is quick to scrutinize, judge and label every decision women, especially mothers, take, Saee has sound advice, “Nobody has the right to tell you what decision is right or wrong. Your choice between motherhood and “work” or “remunerative work” is your decision alone. Like me, you may find that if you have the time, your family will have your “our” time. But whatever decision you take, you do not have to justify it to anybody.”

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