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Parenting is a great leveller, says Bollywood actress Tara Sharma

Tara Sharma, entrepreneur, producer and actor on parenting learnings from her celebrity guests Kajol, Aamir Khan, Virat Kohli and Mary Kom.

She also speaks about what business leaders can learn from their parenting journey.

Listen to Tara Sharma's most vital parenting topics

Q: Now you have everybody talking about parenting and how important it is to bring these conversations out in the open – you have mainline media like the Washington Post, The New York Times doing parenting content. We at cnbctv18.com are doing parenting podcast. You did it first! Conceived The Tara Sharma Show on parenting and families in 2009-2010?

A: I think conceived is the key word because soon after I conceived our first baby the question in my head was, what am I going to do to be with kids and work because I realised early on that I am going to be the kind of mom who wants to be with the kids as much as possible but I am also someone who has always worked. Prior to being in films, I was working at Accenture and for me working is part of me. I knew that so it was what am I going to do that will combine both and my Dad who is an author and a play writer, known as the voice of India Pratap Sharma he always used to say don’t wait for the phone to ring with an offer. If you want to do something, create it. I am not some big superstar and I stopped getting some great acting work and was not getting the kind of stuff I wanted to do and I knew it did not want to leave the babies once they were born for long periods of time – so I thought what can I do that combines my biggest passion of family, being with them and being on screen and business side and this seemed a great way of doing all that and that is honestly how I organically began.

So that is how it started 9-10 years ago and its fifth season now, it has evolved and every season has changed. Season 1 and 2 were my diaries as a mum, we had lots of guests –it was gruella style followed us all over the world, doing fun things with the kids, the ups and downs, cleaning potty, giving them a bath, taking them on a flight all that and now it has evolved into more of platform to discuss issues with a view to positive change.

Q: You’ve had celebrity guests on your shows thinking actors like Kajol Aamir Khan, sports stars like MS Dhoni, and Virat Kohli - the sensation. Tell me if you were to go over your journey with Tara Sharma Show what have been some of your learnings by interacting with these big stars?

A: I will be honest, firstly, I am tremendously grateful to everyone who has been on the show, everyone who has been part of making, allowing me to create it. I create it, I co-produced it and I co-write it so it is truly like another baby to me.

I think everyone has taught me something different. I say through the show my favourite line and it probably annoys people who watch me a lot is ‘each to their own’ and let us not judge because everyone’s situation is different. I think the more people I meet the more that resonates because I feel everyone really is different. The beauty is that we all respect that. In terms of what I have learned from some of the famous people, the biggest learning is that parenting is a great leveller and everyone is the same when it comes to that.

Q: Doesn’t matter if you are a celebrity?

A: It really doesn’t, the issue whether it is dealing with tantrums or going back to cleaning potty or anything like we all - it is a great leveller. Also, I find that because in our show every episode has a theme we try and match the guest to the theme. For example, Virat came on an episode on following your dreams. I find myself quoting him a lot not just because he is a superstar cricketer but because his advice was so valuable.

Q: What was that?

A: Our kids are very obsessed with cricket and he spoke about how when he started it wasn’t just enough to be talented, you also have to have a good attitude and how he worked hard on that. So if ever my kids are throwing tantrum I say remember what Virat said and it is not a name dropping thing it is genuinely great advice and he is not a dad, so he spoke of his experiences as a kid. Similarly, say with someone like Aamir recently when I was doing, he is quite concerned about climate change and issues in that zone. I was trying to reflect that and when I was thinking in the context of today an issue on climate change, I was thinking if I have to cut something from my show which is relevant to this it suddenly struck me that Aamir spoke about how everyone can make a difference no matter how big or small everyone has a voice.

It is not just big stars but everyone, if you speak up, can make a difference. In my own way that has inspired me so that was great advise. Similarly, someone like Mary Kom, I had her on the show with her husband on K Onler Kom. She spoke amazingly about how - she said I might be the champion in the ring, but Onler is the champion at home.

Q: Without his support, she wouldn’t be the champion that she is.

A: So it is amazing advice from superstars but it is also honestly could have also come from non-superstars which also makes you realise that this is a universal theme and bringing up as you said empathetic children, people and human being is some time that we all value.

Q: Talking about values now - I know we want these- I mean we might say it otherwise but we all want these amazing children who are well behaved and maybe naughty but just a little bit and they grow up to be like we said wonderful human beings. If there were three non-negotiable values that you would like to drive into your two boys - how old are they right now?

A: They are now 9 and 7.

Q: What a beautiful age, I say that because I have passed that age.

A: You are the veteran so I have to be asking you for advice about the next ages. But for me, the show evolves with their ages in terms of the phases I am in because I can only speak about what I am able to experience. So again there are so many things, one of the biggest learnings from my own parents is to always keep learning and to keep reinventing so I think one is always learning. There are always good values that you want to imbibe. But if I had to think for me three of the top of my head really important things are and it sounds strange but I will say good health for us all forever. The reason why I call it value is because I believe we can all do things, value things which enable us to have a healthier life. Whether it is the environment around us being conscious of things like climate change, pollution, things in your immediate surroundings exercising well, eating well all that I think those are thinks that we need to inculcate in a young age because they are lifestyle choices that you take with you forever. Values it sounds strange call it a value but it is really important not just for yourself but for people around you.

Then, of course, being empathetic and being humble and empathetic inclusive, I am using lots of words to try and fit it all into three but being good people, and also this thing of as idealistic as it sounds it is something that I lived by advice from my dad again of keep reinventing. Don’t stagnate, don’t give up.

Q: Our children are going to get into the gig economy, they will have to reinvent themselves constantly with changing technology?

A: Few years ago none of us knew what Instagram or all these things were. Now it is like let us put this picture up. We have to keep being open to change and it is interesting because technology at some level is just a metaphor for it but it is for so many things in life. Just be open to fact you need to be able to embrace change that is the only constant.

Q: And not get thrown off balance by changes so that is something that if we can teach our children they will be so much more resilient and be ready for tomorrow. As a parent, we all know that children teach us patience but like you said London School of economics, you worked with Accenture, if you were to go through your own parenting experience what have you learned from your guests what is it that business leaders can learn from children some values?

A: A very popular word in these 10 years and I have seen that word grow has been multi-tasking mum and Mompreneur and we have had discussions on our show about even the word Mompreneur. Is it in some way derogatory, are you saying I am not an entrepreneur because you are a Mompreneur. But one of the words or the key things that have come out is that parenting or being a mom and a dad, of course, teaches you a lot of time management. So that is something that the kids help you with because there is no doubt that you have to do a gazillion things and you have to do them well and I was a huge nerd in school so I used to be one of those kids who would block myself in the room and I would actually time and I would write down how many hours I studied each day each subject and I would try and beat it the next day. I was fully nerdy, my parents used to say - you have to come out otherwise you are going to be punished.

So if I were to say about these things that business leaders or all of us learn from the kids, I would say time management, patience, you learn about yourself. Not always good. I have discovered a monster within me that I didn’t know existed. People always think of me as quiet, gentle and my husband says, come home one day and see her when she is in action screaming, you will not have that view. So I think you learn about yourself, which is an amazing thing because there are not many things that teach you even about those not so great things.

Q: They say, you don’t need a mirror once you have a child. Sometimes whatever you are doing, you want to teach them a certain thing but they are going to just reflect what you are doing. So it is such a conscious decision in terms of what you do around your children, right?

A: Absolutely. Also, what I have learnt from my kids - in the last four months - has been that you need to speak up if you feel something. I, by nature, am a bit of a non-controversial fattu. I am somebody who doesn’t like to take a stand in a public in a controversial way. So my show is a very comfortable space, I know a lot of guests who may not go on all shows have come on ours also because it is family, it is safe.

Q: It is comforting. You talk about issues but without becoming angry about them.

A: I love entertaining, gossipy shows and stuff as well but this is not that. So I think there is an element of no one is going to be put in a spot but what the kids have taught me is that they will come home and they will say, mamma, I need to go and talk to the people in the building about saving water or I need to go and tell them not to throw the plastic down and what I really love and perhaps it is the form of education now as well, in their case it is this question authority, be respectful of course but don’t take things ...

Q: But be brave enough to challenge if the issue is strong enough.

A: Absolutely, non-controversially, nicely and to me, that is a huge lesson because I think somewhere it is easy to say, oh this is how it is, we won’t do anything. I feel like we owe it to our children. If we are teaching them to do it that we need to do it too. So for me, that is a tremendous lesson.

Q: A lot of time children will say but why are we using so much plastic and I have seen families dismiss that conversation and say, it's okay, we got to do it, it is important. You can still carry a bottle. Tara Sharma carried a bottle on CNBCTV18.com.

A: I did. The metal bottle which the kids use now.

Q: One less plastic bottle and it is important.

A: Absolutely. Another thing that also is important that I have learnt through the show and we all say it is none of us are perfect. I believe no one is an expert unless and of course, you are a trained expert in a specific field, most of us as parents are learning as we go along.

Q: Don’t be so hard on yourself?

A: Absolutely. In my own show, I always say I am not giving advice because I am not equipped to give advice, I am learning. I might say something and I might get home and I get blasting from one of mine and then I feel like I am a fraud.

Q: It is okay to be a fraud. You try your best and it is not an easy job, just do your best.

A: Absolutely.

Q: Talking about us and we are a privileged lot. We have got good homes, we got the best of the education, we had economic backing, today we are earning well and yet as parents we have tough moments, tough days. Can you share stories of parents who have probably triumphed extraordinary circumstances? What is it that we can learn from their experiences?

A: Quite a few, because of the way in which our show is structured and we have different themes in every episode, we did a few on overcoming obstacles and at that time we had Emraan Hashmi who spoke very touchingly about what he went through when his son was unwell and it continues to be an episode that really touches my core because again it’s a helpful advice for anyone who is going through a difficult situation, it is also so personal and his book that he wrote is also a quest to help people.

We also had a friend Sanam who reached out through a parenting community Ruchi and First Mom’s Club because we have celebrities and non-celebrities on the show. She is wheelchair bound, she is paralysed from the neck down and she is an incredible mother, she spoke about the need for better facilities for disabled parents. How she has been for some events where she has not been able to watch her child because there was no ramp for the wheelchair to go up. Little things that you don’t really think of and it is not like you are not being empathetic or not being concerned, it is just that unfortunately one did not give it as much thought and I think actually our children live in a generation where inclusion, diversity, empathy are huge parts of their everyday life and that to me also quite inspiring on a positive that this is actually an age where these things are top of mind

Q: People for asking them, demanding them and there are parents who are overcoming all of those obstacles to raise wonderful human beings.

A: Absolutely, so quite a lot of stories like that person who comes out of the closet, of what they have been through in order to that like Harish Iyer and how amazingly they have opened the door for a generation of people who can now do that more openly, realise there is nothing wrong. Then on a less seemingly extreme way that people in their 30s and 40s these young women who have not yet got married and the pressures they face when Indian society typically people will be like why aren’t you married, why don’t you have children. So some of these discussions have been very touching and definitely made me learn a lot and I like to believe sharing has helped people to do that more.

Ten years ago people were not as easy to talk about being a parent, especially in the entertainment space. So a lot has changed and to me, it is a great thing that there are more and more shows and more and more communities, more digital platforms where these things are discussed because truly if the aim to bring about change, it is not about selfish only my show, it is about the mass.
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