x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Juggling parenting with work is no mean feat, and solo at that

The Life: Yamini Bhat, owner of YBhat Events, talks about being a single parent and a businesswoman.

Yamini Bhat, the owner of YBhat Events, an event management company, combines the roles of businesswoman and single parent. Pawan Singh / The National
Yamini Bhat, the owner of YBhat Events, an event management company, combines the roles of businesswoman and single parent. Pawan Singh / The National

Yamini Bhat, a single parent and the owner of an event management company in Dubai, tries to keep her lunchtime free so she can share it with her 16-year-old daughter Anoushka.

Although Ms Bhat is the owner of a new enterprise, YBhat Events, she believes that taking the time to be with Anoushka during mealtimes is important.

The two have always been close, but the death of her husband in July has brought them closer, she says.

"In the last few weeks you feel a lot more vulnerable; there is definitely a void in our lives and [we are] seeking each other out and helping each other out," says Ms Bhat.

Entrepreneurs are fortunate to have the flexibility of being their own employer, but combining the pressure of running a business and being a single parent can be exhausting.

Juggling the worlds of business and family is not easy, but time management and self-motivation are key to finding a balance between the two.

"The challenges for parents who do this are tremendous: juggling parenting with working to deadlines, and this often means a low work-life balance as you try to meet work goals and also enjoy caring for your family," says Diann Rodgers-Healey, who is an adjunct professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, and is an honorary fellow with the Australian Institute for Business WellBeing at the University of Wollongong, south of Sydney.

While there is no data available for single-parent business owners in the Emirates, the number of single-parent households last year reached 111,000, which is more than double compared with 2006, according to Euromonitor International, the research firm.

Ms Bhat, 42, who came to Dubai when she married her husband at the age of 22, had spent 15 years in the event management industry and left her job in October last year. Seeking creative freedom and flexible working hours, she started her company in April.

The death of her husband meant that her short-term plans for her company were put on hold, but Ms Bhat says she is getting back on track and is being more disciplined with her time management.

"[Two months ago] I picked myself up and said I cannot keep wallowing in the pain and it worked out well [for the business] as things were picking up after Ramadan and I have concepts for other projects, too."

Ms Bhat says she plans the following week's routine every Thursday. Her day starts at 8am, after she drops her Anoushka off at school.

"I am a huge believer in lists," she says. "I [write down] a set of achievables, such as meeting people, suppliers, contractors and around 9am I get into emails, [and think of] strategies."

For a single-parent business owner, setting a budget is also a priority.

For an upcoming footwear exhibition she is organising, she has set a break-even target.

Ms Bhat says the footwear brands will have to pay a participation fee, but she will arrange the fashion shows for each of the brands and enlist a personal stylist or a fitness trainer as a guest speaker. The event is designed to be more of a social event for women and the footwear companies to promote their brands.

"I do not expect huge margins for the first show," says Ms Bhat.

A safety net of Dh200,000 [US$54,451] is essential for young companies to see through the first few months of the business, but this is especially true for single-parent business owners because they do not have the back-up of a spouse, she says.

"Plus, [you need to] have a separate budget for the child's future."

Being comfortable with the balance such entrepreneurs achieve between work and life is crucial, says Ms Rodgers-Healey.

"It is ultimately about … valuing your needs, communicating them to your family, [and] finding ways to outsource work activities that are draining you," she says.

Self-motivation is also vital for entrepreneurs to keep their businesses and families on track.

"When things do not work out, you tend to slip down," says Ms Bhat. "You have to know when you do it yourself; you do worry, but you cannot waste time."