Entrepreneur Shama Hyder On pregnancy plus working motherhood

By Colleen Crivello

Brilliant and bubbly, with an 18th-month-old, a booming business, and baby on the way, this mama has her hands full — to say the least.

As a thriving CEO, Indian immigrant, and total powerhouse, Shama talks opting out of maternity leave, learning to prioritize her time, becoming a more empathetic leader, and staying focused and creative throughout her pregnancy.

Feeling?

All I know is that I’m due Q1 (I think in business terms) and in the home stretch! I have to say, the second pregnancy has gone by so much faster with a toddler to chase after and a company to run; I’ve barely noticed I was pregnant.

Plus, I rely a lot on my husband and have so much respect for anyone who goes through this alone. I’m beyond grateful to have a super supportive partner who grew up with a feminist mom and sisters. He makes being able to work as hard as I do and be a mom, possible.

Path to pregnancy?

I often say this is our last “planned” child, but I like to leave room for possibility for the unknown. Before trying, we’d read so much and heard from so many friends about how long it can take. Fully prepared for it to be a lengthy process, we didn’t pressure ourselves and went in with the attitude of, ‘let’s see what happens.’ To our surprise, it actually happened very quickly and naturally with both.

Knowing how many couples struggle with infertility, I’m grateful my body can even do this. I’ve never taken pregnancy for granted, given that for some women, it’s not an option, or it takes years and a lot of effort.

Experience being a working mom?

12 years ago in grad school, I did my thesis on Twitter when it had 2000 users. Then, straight after graduation, I launched my company doing marketing and PR in the tech space. Since the early days, I understood the digital landscape and even went to a magnet program for technology and media arts in high school. Working in this industry merges all my passions and is a natural fit.

Ahead of the COVID curve, we’ve been remote as a company since it’s inception. As a result, we have many parents who work for us because we’ve been flexible in that way. Plus, now that I’m a mom myself, I find I have greater empathy as a CEO. Before I was a parent, I didn’t fully understand the demands of parenthood, and while I could sympathize generally, I didn’t empathize the way I do now.

Will you take a maternity leave as a CEO?

Work is an acceptable addiction in our society, and the truth is, I feel like the best version of myself when I’m working. Overall, I’m used to going at life 100 miles an hour at all times, but I’m learning to recognize when I need to slow down for a moment.

Regarding a proper maternity leave this time around, the answer is, I don’t know. While I encourage all my employees to take the time they need and whatnot, I find it impossible for myself. In fact, I fully anticipated taking time off with my son, but in the end, I didn’t. The day after I gave birth, we had a client finishing their series A and wanted my input on it. I was like, ‘I’ve got this,’ and dove right back in. Honestly, I don’t feel like I missed out on the maternity leave front. Plus, I’m a better mom when I have multiple outlets for my energy and creativity.

Do you think it’s important for your kids to see their mom working?

I’m choosing to lead by example as a working mom. That said, I hope my kids see that mommy and daddy are both hard-working. I have to say, one of the more challenging things I’ve found is learning to set boundaries. Since we work remotely, my husband says I need to teach our son that mommy’s office is sacred and not for coming in and pounding on the keyboard. I also find setting “work hours” to be tricky and takes discipline. It’s beneficial that my husband grew up with a single, working mom and is helping me set these expectations with our son and perhaps myself as well. It’s definitely a work in progress!

Now that we’re having a little girl, I often think about what it means to be her role model. I hope she learns that you can have a career, plus a supportive partner, and be a mom. It’s not either-or. And while it’s not always perfect, looking back I hope she knows that I got up every morning and did my best. 

Growing up as an immigrant?

I never took anything for granted. I was born in India and moved to the US when I was nine. My parents came here for multiple reasons, including political asylum and a better life for us with more opportunity. Much of my drive to succeed and give back comes from my humble roots and watching my parents work hard. My parents never cared about what grades we got; instead, they cared about our community. They taught us to give back and support the greater good because everything was about adding substance and meaning. Every day I was asked, ‘what did you do to help others today?’ As a mother myself, I believe my parenting style reflects my childhood, and I truly believe the quality of the questions we ask our kids impacts where they focus their attention and place value.

One hope?

Resilience. It’s such an important skill. When life knocks you down, so much of what happens next is dependant on how you respond to that. Looking at the world right now, with so many struggling, my hope is for all to come out stronger on the other side.

Any advice?

It’s true what they say, ‘you can’t have it all, but you may not be able to have it all at the same time.’ You have to look at life almost day by day. There are days when I really excel as a CEO, but maybe not as a mom and vice versa; I try not to determine my month or year based on one tough day in any area of my life. Plus, I’m careful not to make macro decisions based on micro-moments. This applies to motherhood and entrepreneurship. Life is all about riding the waves gracefully.