This week’s Meet a Mom is Sonia Kaur Kandhari, a Riverside mom of three with a background in entrepreneurship and technology, and a passion for travel. Born in Northern California, she and her family practice the Sikh religion, and are sharing some of that culture with a growing following on social media! We spoke to Sonia about her new job with the Families Love Travel media platform, her plans to do remote learning with her three kids this year (!), and her local faves.
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your family?
I was born and raised in Northern California and my husband grew up in Queens, NY and Milford, CT. After we had our first child, we moved to a wonderful condo in downtown Greenwich for five years and enjoyed having Bruce Park as our backyard. When we outgrew that home, we moved to Riverside with our three children. We have two boys (12 and 8) and a little girl who is five. Our family stands out wherever we go because we practice the Sikh religion. Sikhism was founded in what is now the state of Punjab in Northern India, and is the fifth largest religion in the world. As part of our faith, we do not cut our hair so you will see men (and some women) wear turbans, and boys with patkas (a square piece of cloth) worn as a head covering. The Sikh faith is founded on the tenets of freedom, equality and justice and we are proud to call ourselves Sikh Americans. We love how welcoming and progressive Greenwich is, and how curious and interested our children’s friends and teachers have been about our faith.
That’s so wonderful. Why did you choose Riverside?
When we outgrew our first home and began our search again, we were not focused on only one neighborhood. We happened to find a great home in Riverside, and the town has proven to be an amazing place to raise a family. We love that all of the kids’ friends are so close to home and we can walk or bike to so many of them. It was important for us to be near the train station, and being able to walk to both the elementary and middle schools was a big plus. Having Ada’s around the corner is the cherry on top!
Love Ada’s! You just started a new job—what are you doing?
I recently started working part-time as the Digital Marketing Director for Families Love Travel, a family travel startup with a strong, all-female team. I have always been passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs, and I’m excited about traveling the world with our children, so this was a great fit! Prior to that, I worked in the corporate and startup world in CT and NY. I also created a South Asian wedding planning portal that began as a passion project, but became successful and eventually allowed me to quit my job and become an entrepreneur full-time. By creating and growing a business from scratch, I was able to teach myself a multitude of new skills that I can apply to my work now. I sold that business when I had my third child and switched over to being a stay at home mom for a few years before my latest role.
You’ve chosen remote learning through Greenwich Public Schools. Can you share a little about your decision to do that?
This year, our oldest son will be a 7th grader at Eastern Middle School. Our middle son will be a 3rd grader and our daughter will be a Kindergartener at Riverside Elementary. 2020 is a unique year in which every family has to decide what works best for them in deciding their return to school plan. Our family chose remote learning for our three children, along with approximately 20% of GPS families. Our children see their grandparents often and for us personally, the risk outweighed the benefit when we thought about returning to school in-person. However, I fully believe that this is a decision that needs to be made independently by each family, and we should all respect each other’s choices.
Couldn’t agree more! How are you feeling about the school year/back to school?
Every year I take a “Freedom Selfie” of myself on my walk home after we drop the kids off on their first day of school – it happens to be my favorite day of the year! I won’t be doing that this year since I’ll be dropping them off in various parts of our house instead of in classrooms! I’m nervous about managing their learning while also working part-time, but I also feel much more prepared than I was in March when we all switched to distance learning. I believe the Greenwich school district has made many improvements to the remote learning program, so I’m hoping it will go more smoothly. I’ll just have to push off my Freedom Selfie until we feel safe enough to be back in school!
What is Families Love Travel?
Families Love Travel is a community-based website focused on kid-friendly travel around the world. Made in collaboration with the Facebook group “Families Who Love to Travel” (the largest family travel group with over 31k members), it provides a diverse platform for families to connect, learn, and share experiences based on common interests. When working for a startup, each member of the team has to wear many hats and quickly learn new technologies and strategies to grow the business. I have worked on everything from editing articles to search engine optimization to sales and marketing. The website is unique in that it caters to families and focuses on making travel less intimidating and more enjoyable – whether your family is traveling to Paris, the Caribbean or within the United States. So much of the content featured on the website comes directly from families in the Facebook group, so it is very relatable and credible. The website just launched a few months ago, but we have big plans once travel becomes unrestricted again!
Why did you start your Instagram/Tik Tok accounts? Were these quarantine projects?
I started a public Instagram account, My Punjabi Family, as my escape from mothering and working 24/7 while quarantined with the kids. Social media helped me carve out a virtual personal space for myself and became my own take on self-care. It provided me with an outlet to share my thoughts on life, parenting and culture. My parents, as well as my husband’s parents, immigrated from the state of Punjab in Northern India. We were raised straddling both our Punjabi and our American cultures. It is our hope that we can pass the Punjabi culture and our Sikh religion on to our kids, and Instagram has allowed me to find and share ideas around how to do this with others who have the same goals. I share my honest and sarcastic take on life and parenting, and hope to share more about our local Greenwich adventures soon!
TikTok provided us with some fun distractions and allowed us to get creative with the kids while being stuck indoors. We have had so much fun making videos together and watching other families do the same.
They’re so fun to watch; what is your goal with them?
Embracing social media during quarantine has led to positive experiences for myself and the kids. I have connected with so many other moms and learned so much from them on how they are handling the current pandemic. I have also found a way to share our Punjabi culture with others who have been looking for ideas to help their own children. And my kids have had so much fun acting, lip syncing and being little stars of their own videos. Some people do family hikes; we make Tik Toks =) We have really bonded while making them, and at least two of my kids still think I’m cool because of them. My five year old daughter has been learning bhangra from me (a Punjabi dance) and has even created video tutorials for other kids to learn that have been a hit! I filter out and save videos for them that are appropriate so they are not exposed to everything on social media.
Where are your favorite places you’ve traveled as a family?
We have really stepped out of our comfort zone traveling with three children! We traveled to Punta Cana, Mexico, Lake Tahoe, Denver and other great spots with the three of them. Most recently, we went on a major adventure to India as a family of 5 for my brother-in-law’s wedding, right before COVID shut travel down. It was my first trip to India in over 15 years, my husband’s second trip ever, and the first trip for the kids. We were not planning on taking them until they were older so we were definitely nervous, but it turned out to be an amazing vacation and we made so many great memories! It is truly so fulfilling, as parents, to see the world in a brand new way through your children’s eyes. We can’t wait to travel again once it’s safe!
Has any strategy or advice helped you through quarantine?
We always hear that moms need to take care of themselves, but this has never been more important than in this pandemic. We are bombarded with work, children, household responsibilities and the stress of keeping everyone we love safe. Even though we have less time now, it is so essential that we carve out time to take care of our own needs. Devote at least half an hour daily to taking a walk, reading a book, or spending time with a friend. During quarantine, I finally carved out time in the mornings to take a walk or run by myself or with a friend before the craziness of the day began, and it has helped me so much. I realize now more than ever that having friends in close proximity is so beneficial. A simple conversation with another mom lifts my spirits in ways I didn’t fully appreciate before this.
Every mother’s needs are different. We are all being challenged during this pandemic, even our children. We can’t be expected to take care of them properly and understand what they need for their mental health, if we can’t first take care of our own. Figure out what you need to stay sane in these crazy times, and make it a priority!
Such good advice—and for some reason, so hard to follow! Do you have a motto for this year?
I do have a motto for this year, but it’s probably not appropriate to publish!
Ha—too funny. Finally, we love to support local businesses. Can you please share your favorite places to:
Go out to eat as a family
–Elm Street Diner
Grab a quick lunch
Get your hair colored
–Hiro’s Hair Salon
Get your nails done
–Coco Nail Spa
Have fun as a family