The moth­ers mak­ing their mark on the in­ter­net

▶ Moth­er­hood has be­come a big busi­ness on­line, with many women proudly cre­at­ing ‘mum’ brands to launch blogs, busi­nesses and so­cial me­dia pages cen­tred on par­ent­ing, writes Hafsa Lodi

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE -

An un­kempt, ex­hausted woman with cry­ing chil­dren cling­ing to her apron and dirty dishes in the back­drop has long been the pic­ture painted of a new, non-work­ing mother. It’s an im­age that rarely ac­com­mo­dates room for a swanky home of­fice, let alone state-of-the-art gad­gets. Yet new-age mums are es­chew­ing tra­di­tion­ally re­stric­tive gen­der roles and turn­ing to the dig­i­tal world to ex­plore a host of op­por­tu­ni­ties. And all the while, they’re dis­play­ing their moth­er­hood badge with pride.

The 21st cen­tury brought with it a rise of ca­reer-driven women who are fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent. Many forgo the cul­tur­ally re­ceived mar­riage-child life plan, in­stead achiev­ing suc­cess and hap­pi­ness on their own terms. These women launch busi­nesses or com­mand board­rooms, fight for equal pay and buy their own jew­ellery. How­ever, there is also a savvy crop of moth­ers who fit this de­scrip­tion to a T; in fact, many use moth­er­hood as a cat­a­pult to launch their own busi­nesses. Like their “boss lady” peers, these women, too, have a la­bel of their own: “mumpreneur­s”.

In Septem­ber, fe­male-fo­cused web­site Re­fin­ery29 found that 82 per cent of moth­ers men­tion their parental sta­tus on their so­cial pro­file or have a pro­file photo fea­tur­ing their chil­dren. Moth­er­hood has be­come a buzz­word for one’s so­cial me­dia bi­og­ra­phy, and women world­wide are reap­ing the ben­e­fits – whether it’s sales for their brands, aware­ness for their busi­nesses or sim­ply more In­sta­gram fol­low­ers.

The UAE is no ex­cep­tion: the coun­try has the lead­ing smart­phone and so­cial me­dia pen­e­tra­tion rate in the world, ac­cord­ing to a 2019 re­port by We are So­cial and Hoot­suite. Many en­tre­pre­neur­ial moth­ers in the Emi­rates use In­sta­gram and Face­book to pro­mote their con­cepts or life­styles. Cases in point: the Love by JO nurs­ing cover cre­ated by Wendy Fran­cis-Best; eco-con­scious chil­dren’s bou­tique Eggs & Sol­diers launched by Sofi Chabowski; the ser­vices of in­fant sleep ed­u­ca­tor Hay­ley Bukham­sin, also known as The Gen­tle Mama; and whole­some chil­dren’s food brand Slurrp Farm, founded by Meghana Narayan and Shau­ravi Ma­lik. For some In­sta­gram-savvy moth­ers, full-time par­ent­ing is their oc­cu­pa­tion of choice, and this, too, is pro­moted across care­fully cu­rated con­tent on so­cial me­dia.

“There is no shame in be­ing a mum, or ‘just a mum’ as I’ve sadly heard it la­belled be­fore. Mums are ready to show the world just how much we do, how strong we are and how much we give. It’s about time,” says Me­gan Al Mar­zooqi, a full-time mother of four and co-founder of Real Mums of Dubai on Face­book. “Hav­ing a vir­tual vil­lage [of moth­ers] means that ev­ery mem­ber can feel val­i­dated and con­fi­dent.”

Moth­er­hood, as por­trayed by many of these women on so­cial me­dia, is an em­pow­er­ing and re­ward­ing job that forms their iden­ti­ties. Zeyna San­ja­nia knows which side of the fence she stands on in the age-old ar­gu­ment of moth­er­hood be­ing a job in its own right. “It’s ac­tu­ally more than a full-time job, be­cause our hours are not con­strained to the tra­di­tional nine-to-five,” says the Bri­tish-In­dian Dubai res­i­dent, who lists “mummy to two boys” in her so­cial me­dia bio. Al Mar­zooqi points out that un­like other roles, there’s no switch­ing off from moth­er­hood. “You don’t get lunch breaks or va­ca­tion time. You don’t get to leave the work in the of­fice, you are lit­er­ally on call ev­ery minute of the day – and night. It’s crazy and it’s chaotic, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

She says that it’s com­pletely nat­u­ral for women to be brand­ing them­selves as moth­ers on so­cial me­dia, and to post about their ex­pe­ri­ences with their chil­dren, and says that ap­prox­i­mately 80 per cent of her own posts il­lus­trate moth­er­hood. “Let’s face it, I’m a mum now and my life re­volves around my chil­dren, so that’s what I will talk the most about,” she says.

Hav­ing a vir­tual vil­lage of moth­ers on Face­book means that ev­ery mem­ber can feel val­i­dated and con­fi­dent ME­GAN AL MAR­ZOOQI Co-founder, Real Mums of Dubai

Brand­ing your­self as a mother goes deeper than In­sta­gram trends and fol­low­ers, though – there are psy­cho­log­i­cal mo­tives, too. Al Mar­zooqi be­lieves that de­spite the in­for­ma­tion now out there about the hard work moth­ers put in, those who stay at home are of­ten made to feel in­fe­rior to work­ing women, even in this dig­i­tal age. Fem­i­nism is an­other con­cept these savvy mums feel they are on top of. San­ja­nia, who started her blog, Mummy on my Mind, when her first son was nine months old, says that moth­er­hood in it­self can cel­e­brate fem­i­nism. “Be­ing a full-time mother is my de­ci­sion en­tirely, and that’s what fem­i­nism is about, right? Women hav­ing the right to choose what­ever it is that they set their mind to, not be­ing thrust into a ‘typ­i­cal role’ if they don’t want to be.

“Whether it’s smash­ing glass ceil­ings in your cho­sen ca­reer field or de­vot­ing your time to tak­ing care of your fam­ily’s needs, you are cel­e­brat­ing fem­i­nism as long as the de­ci­sion is yours to make,” she says. San­ja­nia’s blog and In­sta­gram posts are cen­tred on fam­ily-friendly lo­ca­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties in the UAE, her sons’ mile­stones, and tried and tested chil­dren’s prod­ucts.

The afore­men­tioned Re­fin­ery29 sur­vey found that 95 per cent of moth­ers post pho­tos of their chil­dren on so­cial me­dia – one in four up­load new pho­tos of them ev­ery day. That’s not a con­cept all par­ents are com­fort­able with, though. While In­sta­gram is a main­stream plat­form en­abling some moth­ers to con­nect, share, in­spire and ad­ver­tise, for oth­ers, the pride that comes with moth­er­hood sim­ply doesn’t need to be put out on the web.

Gabby Gar­vey, the in­te­rior de­signer be­hind Style Me In­te­ri­ors Dubai, points out the pri­vacy and se­cu­rity risks as­so­ci­ated with shar­ing these de­tails on­line.

“Although be­ing a mother qual­i­fies you as a mul­ti­tasker, strong leader, good ne­go­tia­tor, et cetera, I don’t think it should be a part of my on­line pro­file. With all the data col­lec­tion and ex­po­sure on so­cial plat­forms, ac­cess to pri­vate, confidenti­al in­for­ma­tion through third par­ties is now start­ing to worry me. I’m even think­ing about re­mov­ing all [prior] pho­to­graphs or ref­er­ences to my fam­ily and kids now.”

Tex­tiles writer Anna Van Der Walt from Dubai, too, doesn’t iden­tify as a mother on so­cial me­dia. “I can’t stand the word ‘mumpreneur’ – you never hear men re­fer to them­selves as ‘dad­preneurs’ – it’s not a thing. And, kids grow up su­per-fast. One day you are in the thick of nap­pies, day care and play dates and the next, they’ve left the house, and you are just you.”

Zeyna San­ja­nia, top, Sofi Chabowski, right, and Me­gan Al Mar­zooqi, op­po­site page, are proud to share their fam­ily lives on­line

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