It takes a village to raise a child and most mothers are finding their community on social networks, seeking and getting answers for their parenting dilemmas in a supportive space.
By Ritika Jain
‘Does money guarantee happiness?’, ‘Where can one find a Japa caretaker?’, ‘Suggested itinerary for a holiday in Amsterdam’… from philosophical debates to practical information, everything is up for discussion on an online moms’ group.
This urban phenomenon caught on in India around the time Neela Kaushik kickstarted Gurgaon Moms in 2010, a hugely successful community on Facebook with 27k+ members. The group does have a few ground rules but anyone who’s a member can introduce new members. Reminds one of a kitty party, but one that is monumental and diverse, offering a range of activities, from book readings to “dandia” nights. There are professionals (lawyers, artists, financial advisors, teachers, etc) as well as homemakers, all advising and supporting each other as parents or rather simply as women. There are many women here who aren’t moms but don’t want to be left out.
Deeksha Verma, an active member, says “This place is like a ready reckoner where you get to hear other points of view and polls simply do not allow for a regressive outlook. The majority talks sense. This isn’t just a support group, it’s an opinion changer. One can ask pressing or personal questions anonymously and uninhibitedly, and get relevant answers. The women are really encouraging and inclusive, and many people get to promote their talents.” Personally, I treat it like a sort of local Google or a news channel where everything grave and lighthearted gets aired.
“It’s a storehouse of information and your queries get resolved promptly. It’s a sisterhood that is keen on helping each other,” adds Shikha Sheth, another member.
An acquaintance who’s also on Gurgaon Circle of Moms (another popular community) advises people to post carefully because unfortunately, the internet has the disadvantage of us not being able to verify if a particular identity is male or female in reality. There may just be some fake members trolling or stalking others. Besides Gurgaon Network and others in the NCR like South Delhi Moms, Faridabad Moms, Noida Moms etc, networks have also cropped up in other cities. Down south, Super Mums of India is a popular group with 32k+ members, while Mum or Mumbai Moms caters to 171k+ followers. I have cousins who are NRIs and find groups like Bento Moms Club extremely useful for finding Indian recipes for their kids, say a vegetarian protein meal bowl.
Offshoots like Gurgaon Moms Book Club and Senior School Moms are also popular because they narrow down the audience and interests even more. Anupama Jain, author and admin for Senior School Moms, says “It took a while to establish a group that was all about education, non-commercial and non-promotional, but now we’re 5.4k strong. Some of the moms are simply gold. When my son, an IITian, cracked his entrance exams after 12th without any tutoring, I wanted to share our experiences with others. We learnt a lot from this journey and I understand this can be a scary time for many parents. That’s how the idea took off. We have an event every three months, each approximately four hours long. Counsellors and teachers, bright students who’ve cracked a particular exam come forward and talk to parents. Soon, I would like to invite representatives from various Indian colleges and talk about their campuses. My family helps a lot in streamlining the process of coordinating with people and getting confirmations. Moderating the Facebook page is a full time job but it’s my baby and it’s all worthwhile.”
Besides Facebook, there are other websites like meetup.com that host various groups like moms of special needs kids, moms of multiples, breastfeeding moms, etc. Most of them organise no-cost or low-cost events. They’re so widespread, there is sure to be one near you. I discovered the Delhi Working from Home Effectively meetup. There are also websites and blogs that feature activity calendars and yellow pages for finding anything like daycare centres to hobby classes, plus articles ranging from attachment theory to hiking with a toddler. These are semi-interactive in the sense that you can comment and read other comments, and vote for favourites. When I was expecting, my go-to-place was BabyCenter. They too have announced a community called Birth & Beyond, a platform to get in touch with other parents. I remember the time when there was no internet and it baffles me now to think of how limited our circle of advisors was. Wish I had the privilege of having a heart-to-heart with another nursing mom back then or connecting with friendly unknown voices that felt like friends.