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Moms everywhere today depend on online mommy groups for the sisterhood support they need in a world where the family or ‘village’ might not be available.
During my son’s last year of schooling and college admissions, getting reliable information took a Herculean effort. I figured that there must be many more moms sailing in the same boat, as moms are often the default parent. I floated SeniorSchoolMoms, an online mommy support group as an idea-sharing platform.
On this online mommy group, a worried mom wanting to send her only daughter overseas has found many friendly families. The non-judgmental approach of most of these moms who also share their experiences means that those who have a question put it up in a frank, open way, querying about their teenagers’ troubles, like cyberbullying, peer pressure, and relationship issues. Moms also often discuss the educational options ahead for their children, and seek assistance without any fear of getting judged.
Though most online mommy groups have the similar aim of encouraging the women behind the ‘mothers’ to find their emotional, entrepreneurial identity, they have also become the extended families to lean on, by helping the moms cope with the anxieties that come with motherhood. Topics that one is wary of mentioning within the family are discussed threadbare. Simply because there is always someone who is listening and is willing to help out.
When in doubt we usually turn to our elders for advice or direction. With nuclear families being the societal norm these days, new moms, who are alone, (especially if they are in a new city or another country, too far away from familiar support), usually depend on their peers in times of need. For a broader and in-depth perspective on parental problems, moms are increasingly trusting their Online Mommy Groups.
Motherhood the first time, is often a scary experience. With multiple bodily changes happening, new moms away from their extended families prefer the knowledge base of these online mommy groups, to solve their queries. The queries get posted with confidence because of the comfort level a peer group going through the same angst offers. The answers work because most are experiential given by those going through similar situations. Plus these online friendships, formed with the like-minded, during their mutual initial hiccups, are often long-lasting.
Sometimes within the family, even the basic support is lacking. These online mommy groups fill in the void where moms can find willing listeners who can give practical suggestions without any harsh judging. These groups step in when women do not find adequate succor in their immediate environment. It is a huge moral support for a distressed woman who could safely query about sexual aberrations, behavioral bullying, legal redressal or even inclusive parenting.
These online support groups come in various forms – but mostly in 3 broad categories, though the boundaries often blur.
A local group like a WhatsApp group, or a support group started through a local council or school can easily grow and morph into a much larger online mommy group. The advantage here is that localised queries like those about a particular school, or problems related to a local cultural issue can be more easily addressed.
Facebook groups which have slowly diversified into need-based and location-based groups. My group, SeniorSchoolMoms, which I mentioned at the beginning, is one such group, catering to moms of older teenagers – on everything from academics to behavioural issues that are peculiar to this age, and the fact that we do not judge anyone, makes it simpler for moms to post their queries without worrying about it.
Under this category, there are myriad kinds of groups, right from those for moms-to-be, new moms and moms of children with special needs, to groups for feminist moms, bereaved moms, mom entrepreneurs, to everything in between, some even catering to all these issues of moms. Many online mommy group also have an option of posting anonymous queries for intensely personal or sensitive issues, if a member so desires, and member moms are readily forthcoming with support and solutions.
Some of these Facebook groups may be worldwide, and some more local. There may even be city-wise chapters of some online mommy groups – for example, First Moms Club, that believes in handling motherhood with honesty and humour, has chapters in Delhi-Gurgaon, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kaula Lumpur, Pune, Singapore, Surat, Sikkim, UAE.
Worldwide .orgs or .coms
These do not really come under “online mommy groups”, but are repositories of parenting and other advice and information that is readily available on the net.
These are some of the heartwarming stories of support-sisterhood narrated by the admins, where the community became a shoulder to lean on.
GurgaonMoms helmed by Ms. Neela Kaushik has a weekly anonymous post where a mom in a tough situation can seek answers without identifying self. There were posts about domestic trauma, hyper-sexual partners, abuse relatives, special-needs children. Lawyers and counselors came on board to help. A young girl was abducted in broad daylight and the forum made enough noise for the police to swing into action immediately. Neela mentions an incident where Ms. P posted about her empty-nest vacuum and the resultant depression. Fellow moms helped her cope.
Nehaa of Gurugrammers mentions how Ms. Shweta, a mompreneur was nervous on the eve of a commercial event as her family was away. Members went in full strength to encourage Shweta. Her business has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to this group.
Neha Khare of UniMo (Universe of Moms, 21 city-wise chapters) remembers an incident from the Mumbai Chapter. A Mumoian (Mumbai Mom) needed blood transfusion urgently as her husband was hospitalized. Fellow moms of the required blood group reached hospital directly as soon as she posted about it. In Kolkata a member mom gave birth to a premature baby and was unable to breastfeed. 2 KolMoians (Kolkata Chapter Moms) breastfed the baby.
Latika Wadhwa of Mompreneur Circle recounts a member’s husband in Gwalior meeting with an accident. Though they were not familiar with the city, they came to Delhi for medical aid. The mothers on the platform connected them with the right specialists. Mompreneur Circle’s Pune Chapter helped a transferring mom with school admissions. A member in UAE had an impending traditional wedding needing Indian attire in bulk. Mompreneurs from India, helped her finalize the trousseau.
Many distinct careers have been launched because of the community spirit and the solace these groups exude. My writing career has taken off because I would share bravely my write-ups in these communities. I wonder if I would’ve been so open with my own family.
Plus when someone moves to a new place, these city-specific online mommy groups instantly help one adjust or cope with the attendant stress or loneliness. They provide all the information about doctors, schools, maids, rentals or food at the click of a button. Often one becomes a member of these trending and resourceful groups first and then starts packing to move.
Apart from these online mommy groups, there are Parents Faculty Clubs – typically in the US – which organize various extracurricular activities and after-school programs for kids. PFCs also work with the school faculty to complement their school curriculum.
WhatsApp groups are regularly used by parents as informal groups to connect with other parents, for example in apartment complexes, or a school bus route. The school WhatsApp group for my apartment complex apart from the human chain, is our go-to place, whether it is about uniform/book sales, bus timings or disaster-holiday declarations.
Some groups like the US based Holistic Moms Network generates awareness for holistic parenting and green living, and has city-wise chapters.
In India, MoI – Moms of India – call themselves ‘the Google of Moms’ with help available for worried moms 24/7, whether it is an infant who won’t stop crying, or a mom needs any help for herself.
Parenting was never a cake-walk. A web connected world gives us a surfeit of info at the click of a button. Both reliable as well as bordering on bizarre. It requires some sagacity to separate the wheat from the chaff as there are many online forums catering to the needs of various age groups. The flip side is that most of the popular groups have gigantic numbers and have some ‘favourite’ members who might be heard more – it becomes difficult for a new person to get visibility or gain traction.
Still, the virtual pulsating info-world with belonging to an online mommy group is much better than figuring out stuff in isolation, by hit and trial method.
So which group are you joining today?
Image source: shutterstock
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Anupama Jain is the author of 'When Padma Bani Paula', a breezy novel about second
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