Soothing the Soul of the Shut-In Child
How One Tech Star’s Ingenuity is Helping Pandemic Parents Cope
By Andrea Sachs
Once upon a time, there was a pandemic that made mincemeat out of parents’ work schedules and childcare plans, and left millions of squirmy locked-down kids in its wake. Across the country, an impassioned refrain could be heard: “I’m on the phone with my boss! I can’t play right now!” With schools closed and restless kids at home, what were stressed-out parents to do?
Enter Miral Sattar, a busy New York City mother of two and tech entrepreneur. Sattar is the founder and CEO of Bibliocrunch, a literary services marketplace that connects would-be and current authors with other book publishing professionals. Sattar was born in Karachi, Pakistan, “loving classic fairy tales.” When her two children, Zara and Reza, were old enough, Sattar began to read those stories to her children. But she became alarmed that many of the fairy tales were “sexist and archaic,” not to mention overly violent. Recalls Sattar, “reading these tales of passive princesses, damsels in distress and torturous witches made me realize how woefully out of sync they were with modern times.” So she set out to rewrite and update them, and merchandise them as audio stories.
Sattar’s kids were the first guinea pigs, er, beta users. In pre-pandemic times, recalls Sattar, her kids resisted staying put after bedtime: “My daughter would be thirsty for her third glass of milk. My son would be “super, super hungry.” But she found that both children loved listening to stories and as part of their bedtime routines she would stream the audio stories to each one’s bedroom.
After nearly two years of planning, Sattar was ready in February to raise money to develop, manufacture and distribute the Bearily Bear Audio Stories; with them, she planned to offer a plush stuffed bear. But then came the pandemic, the ultimate Big Bad Wolf. It was clearly the wrong time to introduce a new product in the marketplace. Instead, Sattar and her husband Haider Akmal, who is in finance, found themselves working at home and homeschooling their daughter, six-year-old Zara, and their four-year-old son, Reza,
What to do with the Bearily Bear project? From her own experience, Sattar could see the need for keeping kids stuck at home busy. Zara, a kindergartner, was engaged by remote learning. But Reza was more fidgety: “I love Mommy school,” he told her, “but when can I go back to my real school?” So for the sake of homebound parents and kids everywhere, Sattar decided to give away her library of stories as a gift to other parents. The whole collection of stories is available free at https://bearilybear.com.
Sattar is a champion multi-tasker: as well as working at home and home-schooling her kids, she is seven months pregnant. She admits to being pooped at times: “I often want to take a nap after home schooling.” And after their third child arrives and the health crisis abates? Miral and Haider’s pandemic fantasy is to “move to a less densely populated area, where we could live in a house with a yard.” Where they could live, pandemic-free, happily ever after.
Andrea Sachs is the editor of The Insider.