Juggling motherhood and career is one of the biggest challenges young mothers face. Manuela Pacutho, who is a wife, mother, businesswoman and bank brand manager, decided to start a daycare centre to help other women like herself strike a balance between the two, writes Caroline Ariba
Starting a daycare centre
Manuela Pacutho used to listen to story-after-story of the never-ending challenges working mothers faced. If it was not a devious maid, then it was a child kidnapped or abandoned alone in the house as the maid fled or took a French leave in the absence of the parents.
Pacutho cites the example of her friend who opted to stop working until she was done with child-bearing to avoid hiring maids.
“The biggest challenge most new mothers face is the ability to advance their careers and still take care of their families, without one area suffering,” Pacutho says.
She hoped that one day she could open up a daycare centre, to help young women work with a peaceful mind knowing that their children were in safe hands.
Lady Luck smiled upon Pacutho in 2012 when she won a cash prize of $5,000 (about sh12.5m) for participating in Inspire Africa, a business television competition. The first thing that crossed Pacutho’s mind was to start a daycare centre to ease working mothers’ woes and save the children’s lives.
“Together with my business partner, we set up Little Hands, a 24-hour daycare facility for toddlers between zero and 36 months of age,” says the mother of one.
The daycare centre is located in Kireka, Wakiso district.
Married to TV personality Brian Mulondo, Pacutho is also planning to launch a maternity clothing line called Bump Love for vibrant young mothers. “When I was pregnant, all the clothes that were available were big and odd-looking. None “celebrated” a mother’s new body,” she says.
Balancing work and family
Pacutho says she managed to balance work with the help of her husband, mother, nanny and God.
“I also prioritise my roles. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and a professional. Family comes first,” she says.
Pacutho believes that with motherhood comes lots of dynamics. “To say I was prepared would be a lie. You can never be coached enough on how to handle these dynamics,” she explains.
But Pacutho confesses that taking care of a child is through guess work, especially for the first-time mother. She says there are some basics first-time mothers could follow.
The basic reasons a baby will cry are hunger, dirty diaper, wants to be carried, tummy aches, needs to burp, the weather and teething or is generally not feeling well.
Who is Pacutho?
“I am the eighth of 10 children and was born in 1986. I spent most of my early years at Makerere University because my father was a warden at Northcote Hall, now Nsibirwa Hall,” Pacutho says.
With her mother also working at the Link Marketing Board in Kampala, the family led a fairly comfortable life. However, disaster struck while Pacutho was in P.6 at Kitante Primary School in 1997. Her mother got involved in an accident, which prevented her from working efficiently, so she lost her job.
Shortly after, Pacutho’s father retired, forcing the family to vacate the house the university had given them. With 10 children and relatives to take care of, and no income, Pacutho’s father had to find means of catering for the family. He became a freelance graphic designer.
However, the money he made was not enough to guarantee the family a comfortable life. He rented a house whose roof was partially open in Kamwokya, Kampala, as it was all he could afford.
“My constant prayer was that it did not rain. Whenever it rained, we would get up and move everything to the dry side of the house,” Pacutho recalls.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Pacutho’s father managed to pay her school fees until she completed P.7. However, he could not afford the fees for secondary school. This is when he approached Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) to sponsor his daughter. Luckily, they took her on.
Pacutho went to Our Lady of Good Counsel Gayaza for O’level and Kings’ College Budo for A’level. “I was a bright student and often got bursaries. However, I would request that they are converted to cash so that I pay the tuition for one of my brothers,” Pacutho says.
“I started doing odd jobs at the age of 16 such as operating telephone booths, selling juice and promoting products outside supermarkets.”
Pacutho would use the income for pocket money.
She adds that the family once lived at the back of a dairy shop that belonged to their aunt in Bukoto, Kampala.
“To cater for our needs, we started selling our own clothes. You would wear a dress during the day, wash and iron it in the evening and put it up on display for sale,” Pacutho narrates.
Pacutho’s mother also borrowed a blender from her friend and started a juice business. During holidays, Pacutho and her siblings would hawk the juice on Kampala Road.
“The men on Kampala Road who sold novels used to call me ‘Katunda’, which some people still do to date. It does not unnerve me, it reminds me of work ethics and values,” she says.
Pacutho later joined Makerere University on Government sponsorship for a Bachelor of Science degree in statistics and psychology. She is currently pursuing a Chartered Institute of Marketing degree.
Becoming a bank brand manager
When applying for the position, Pacutho included all the odd jobs she had done on her CV to prove that she had experience in marketing. “It is these same skills that prepared me for the managerial position,” she explains.
Pacutho still sells juice.
“Not on the streets anymore, but to corporate companies and hotels in Kampala, school children, at introduction ceremonies and weddings, among others,” she says.
“It is rumoured that Mulondo and I dated for five years, but it was only two. He pursued me for about five years,” Pacutho says.
She insists that it was in these five years that their friendship blossomed to a point where today even when upset with each other, they still talk.
About her husband being in the limelight, she says: “Whether he was in the limelight or not, some girls would be out to snatch him like they would another man.” “He was made by God for the limelight, it is his destiny, it is who he is, and it is where he flourishes. I would never take that away from him by brooding on any emotions that do not foster trust!”
“I would love to have matured in my walk with Christ, celebrated 12 years of marriage, have two or three children and started a family business that will live long enough for my grandchildren’s grandchildren to reap from,” she says.
Many have complimented Pacutho’s Facebook page called Bump Love, so she wants to grow it. “I plan to learn more about writing and put out the information on my page,” she says.
Dating tips for women
“Control your expectations, you are two different people,” Pacutho advises. She also does not believe in women changing who they are for a man. “He fell in love with you just the way he met you, so he will probably stay in love with you for the same reasons,” she says.
Brian Mulondo speaks out about his wife
“I met Pacutho seven years ago on a Christian mission trip to Nairobi. I stepped out of the bus and saw the most beautiful girl,” he says. Mulondo’s world suddenly came alive. “The sun suddenly shone brighter, I knew she was the one I would marry,” he says.
According to Mulondo, Pacutho had the most beautiful lips, eyes and waist.
His first dilemma, however, was how he was going to start the conversation, given that she was tremendously beautiful and spoke very good English.
“Not that I could not speak English, but speaking it all the time was a hurdle,” he laughs out loud. “It is one of those languages that take too much effort to crack a joke in,” Mulondo comically adds. A few days and conversations later, he gazed into her eyes, and there flared a chemistry between them.
Mulondo says he soon learned that Pacutho was the most sincere, hilarious and ambitious woman he had ever met and her passion for God put the icing on the cake.
“Not to waste the moment, I told her right there that I liked her and I was going to marry her. I had no idea that amid the chemistry between us, I would wait five years before dating her,” he says.
Nearly two years into marriage and a son later, Mulondo claims to be the happiest man alive.
To the rescue of new working mums