High-flying banker Afnan Darwish quit her profession and started a children’s activity centre. Behnaz Sanjana asked her about finding her true passion.
What is your educational background?
I am blessed to have been raised in a family that values education greatly. I am a proud alumnus of Ibn Khuldoon National School, where I graduated with a high school and an International Baccalaureate diploma. I went on to continue my studies at University of York, United Kingdom, where I graduated with a BSc in Economics. Upon returning to Bahrain, I started working, whilst also studying at NYIT to obtain my MBA degree.
For how long did you work in banking?
I worked at Merrill Lynch International Bank for five years, and then moved on to Credit Suisse for another five years, in the private banking division.
What made you decide to leave?
I was brought up with attentive, hands-on parents who were greatly involved in my upbringing. I want my child to be raised in the same kind of environment that I was fortunate enough to be raised in. When I was blessed to become a mother, I decided to stop working, so that I could dedicate 100 per cent of my time and effort to raising my son.
My time working was enjoyable, and I grew on a personal and professional level, gaining a lot of skills and experience. But the time had come for me to begin a new chapter in my life.
What is your venture, KidzMania, all about?
KidzMania is a children’s activity centre that caters to all little ones. We believe in each child’s uniqueness, and thus provide a variety of activities that are bound to attract all talents. We advocate learning through play and aim to provide an environment that will foster a love for learning and creativity. Childhood years are crucial in developing social, communication, linguistic, conceptual, and motor skills, and what better way to enhance those skills than through play!
What triggered the idea of KidzMania?
My son Basil was the inspiration behind KidzMania. The plan was to set up an independent business that would provide me with the flexibility I need as a working mother, and spending time with him made me realise that children are my passion.
What I quickly discovered was that, as a mother, you assess places differently. Safety becomes an immediate priority and learning and entertainment are as important. I had a vision of the perfect place for both kids and their parents. KidzMania offers children a safe place to play freely, make new friends and, hopefully, make memories to cherish for years to come.
What would you say about the age-old debate on whether mothers should work or stay at home?
From my experience, I can say that as rewarding as motherhood can be, it is the most challenging job I have ever undertaken. In fact, a study showed that the stay-at-home mother does the equivalent of two full-time jobs. Personally, I feel that the role of parents is incredibly important in the lives of their children. I am happy to be able to spend all my time with my son and not miss his childhood.
That being said, in some instances it depends on one’s circumstances and family dynamics. I feel that if the mother could choose, she should choose whatever makes her happy. A happy mother makes a happy home, so, in the end, I feel that it is a personal choice that each mother should make.
What is your idea of success, in relation to women and mothers?
My idea of success is being a productive member of society. Whether it be in the workplace or at home. Leaving a memorable and positive impact on people and society
What are your future plans?
I’m working to expand in KidzMania in Bahrain and, hopefully, we can fully launch our brand.