Living With Kids: Kena Paranjape

I’m so excited today to introduce you to Kena Paranjape and her wonderful family. Kena is an entrepreneur and a designer, and lives in one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Toronto. Her home is bright and spacious and full of great details that make it feel homey and stylish all at once. Kena also sings the praises of big city living even though its not always perfect. You’ll love getting to look around and hear her great takes on being a working parent and finding that elusive balance. Welcome, Kena!

Hi! I’m Kena Paranjape, and I live in this lovely two-story flat above a clothing shop on Toronto’s Queen St W (named by Vogue Magazine as one of the trendiest shopping areas in the world back in 2014) with my daughter Nova, who is five years old.

I’m the founder of All You Are, a women’s lifestyle brand focused on inspiring and motivating women to live a life that is true to them. We do this through content, workshops and programs. We also make the perfect women’s robe that I designed while Nova was a newborn baby. Like most entrepreneurs, I designed the robe I couldn’t find.

I have worked in retail merchandising for most of my career for brands like Banana Republic, Indigo, and most recently, Houseplant, Seth Rogen’s cannabis company. This is my second time being an entrepreneur. In 2013 I co-founded BRIKA, a platform dedicated to highlighting talented artisans and designers. 

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom, but life took a different direction and at one point I thought it wasn’t in the cards for me. When we found out we were having Nova, I cried. She has been the greatest blessing of my life. She is full of joy and enthusiasm, has a love for all humans and knows how to make even the mundane magical. I learn as much from her everyday as she probably learns from me!  A friend summarized it perfectly — she goes out into the world sprinkling confetti wherever she goes. How can you not want to aspire to that!

Nova loves singing, dancing and performing so our house is always filled with music, lately with a playlist dictated by her. Her Dad has always nurtured her appreciation for music, so it’s not kids songs for her — she loves everything from Paul Simon, to Dua Lipa to, Nina Simone, to Tool, to flamenco guitar! She also loves arts and crafts so there are supplies on every surface and always stray cuttings or pom-poms on the floor (not my favourite thing, I’m not going to lie!).

We live right on Queen St, in the heart of the neighborhood which is filled with independent shops, cafes, restaurants and these days, quite a few weed shops! We love being right in the heart of things. We are close with the owner of our favorite coffee shop (Nova heads straight behind the espresso bar when we go in), and know the guy (Hi Jonathan!) who runs the smoothie place. When we walk past the biker store in the summertime, the owner, a big, burly man, comes out to give Nova temporary tattoos.

I love that we live in the heart of the big city but it still feels like a neighbourhood.  We have two decks off our place, which is lovely, but no backyard. Luckily, Trinity Bellwoods park, one of the biggest and most popular parks in the city is just down the street and has truly become Nova’s personal playground. In the summer she is there almost every day and has a crew she meets up with. I used to have a shop (BRIKA) on this strip, so it definitely holds a special place in my heart as well. Nova has also grown up seeing all kinds of people on this street — I feel glad that she has compassion and understanding for what others might be going through.

As much as we’ve LOVED living in our home and in the heart of things, the one thing that has not been easy is the noise level, especially from my bedroom which is towards the front of the building. During the pandemic, it was quiet as the bars and restaurants were closed, but in the summer when things opened up, it was definitely too loud for me, which is why we’re looking for a new home. As Nova is getting older, I’d also love for her to be able to step out into a backyard and play.

I love to tell the story of how I found our home. I used to own a shop just down the street, and one day I was parking behind it at the same time as our landlady. I was heading to get a smoothie so ended up walking down the street with her. As we caught up she told me she was headed to see a place that she owned that was finally being vacated (she wasn’t a huge fan of the previous tenants). She asked if I wanted to come up and take a quick peek so I could pass it along to friends who might be interested. I checked the time and saw that I had a few minutes to kill and headed inside with her to have a look.

We headed up a long narrow staircase typical of apartments that are on the second floor of three-story buildings. As I reached the top of the stairs, I paused to look around and was blown away. The space was BEAUTIFUL. High ceilings, light-filled, full of character, and a real sense of space. As I walked around, all I could think was “I want to live here” and then I heard myself say those exact words out loud. And so it was. I’ve always wanted to live in Paris and until I do, this is my “parisian apartment”.

When I first walk into our home, I immediately feel grateful. There have been so many times in my life when I’ve felt displaced or not at home. Our home, even if it’s always a bit messier (who am I kidding, A LOT messier) than I’d like, truly feels like home. I feel a sense of comfort, of familiarity, of safety, but most of all gratitude for the beautiful space that physically holds our lives. We use our space to the fullest — we create, cook, rest, dance, play, work and host family and friends here. It is truly home.

I can’t imagine being anything other than a working parent. I love to work and especially the work that I do. I want my daughter to grow up seeing work as a wonderful part of life vs as a separate activity that we have to do. Every day I step closer to aligning my work to my purpose and I hope my daughter does the same when she grows up.

Having said that, sometimes it is very hard to shut work off — I would say that is one of my biggest challenges. I want to be able to give my daughter my undivided attention when I’m with her, but especially in the last couple of years, that isn’t always the case. I have learned the art of when to use a screen as a distraction device! The trick is to use it very specifically when you need to focus on something or need to speak with someone. While making dinner or doing other things around the house, screens are off and if she’s not participating, she’s keeping herself busy while I’m doing what needs to be done and it’s probably one of my favourite times of the day.

Moms so naturally point to their faults. We often focus on where we feel we could be doing better, so it is nice to think about where we are particularly strong. I am so focused on raising my daughter to be highly emotionally intelligent. I want her to know, understand and love herself. I want her to have compassion and understanding for others. I want her to appreciate the world we live in, including nature, art, design and music. The other day she on her own said to me, “Mama, I love….All You Are”. Just when you think they aren’t listening!  As a side note, my superpowers are most definitely NOT being an amazing homemaker or incredible at logistics! 

When it comes to our home, I hope she remembers the dance parties, the laughs, the time spent with family and friends, the cuddles on the couch, the crazy activity on the street outside, the arts and crafts afternoons, the movie evenings, the lazy weekend mornings, the home cooked meals, the baking and all the friends we’ve made in the neighborhood. I hope she remembers how much her dad and I loved her, appreciated her and nurtured all the magic within her. I am so aware that we tend to lose sight of what is special about us as we get older — I want to be the one who always reminds her (if she needs it!).

I love the sound of her footsteps thundering through the house and the sound of her laughter. In general, I love the energy and life children bring to a space. When I get annoyed by the constant mess I remind myself that there will be a day where the toys, craft supplies and random artwork strewn about will be gone.

 I wish someone had told me (and I had listened!) to appreciate having your own time.  When you really want to have a child and the journey is much longer than you expected, you live your life feeling their absence. But once they are there, they take over everything! Having time for yourself is so precious and so important. When I get time to myself now, I panic about how to make the most of it!

——

Thank you, Kena! I love seeing a home full of art and well read books So many inspiring little corners to look at and investigate. And the light that comes in from those beautiful windows in the living space. The sunshine is so wonderful. And I loved the serendipitous way that they made this home theirs. Sometimes things are meant to be.

I really appreciated what Kena had to say about focusing on raising an emotionally intelligent child, and helping her remember what it is about her that makes her so special. Aren’t those such rare and wonderful qualities? It’s easy as parents to get hung up on external milestones: good grades, trophies, sports teams or dance troupes. And all of those things can be really wonderful! But isn’t raising a kind and smart kid who believes in themself so much more important? Kena’s thoughts are a good reminder of what really matters.

What kind of things do you to help your kids be emotionally intelligent about the world around them? How do remind them of what it is about them that makes them wonderful?

SOURCES

Living room sofa

Espresso Machine

Artwork in Nova’s room by Meera Lee Patel

Pebble Match Strike

All You Are Robe


Photo credits to Stefanie Nakamura. You can follow Kena here or check out her company here. Living with Kids is Edited by Joshua Bingham. You can follow him on Instagram too.

Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at features@designmom.com.

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