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SOCIETY: MOMS OF THE INTERNET

April 14, 2019

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Tabinda Nabil, a Pakistani resident in Dubai, struggled to cope with the drastic change in her life after she first became a mother. “I was a full-time teacher but, after the birth of my son, my life completely changed from a happening career to nursing and changing diapers with no social life,” she says. “All of this made me lonely and I went into post-partum depression.”

Tabinda’s child was four months old when she wrote her first blog. It was her loneliness and post-partum blues that made her start a blog. At first, it was all about sharing the journey of parenthood. She is now a stay-at-home mother of a two-year-old. With time, her blog evolved into a space where she began sharing her experiences on everything related to parenting such as homeschooling, self-care routines, food recipes and clothing for kids or reviews about products related to baby care or women. “With this blog, I am happy that I can help new moms and moms to toddlers, in Pakistan and around the world, cope with their day-to-day life,” she says.

Over the last decade, the phenomenon of mom bloggers has redefined the concept of motherhood, as modern-day moms create their own images of parenthood on the internet.

New age mom bloggers on Instagram are redefining the concept of motherhood in Pakistan as well

Although ‘mom bloggers’ emerged in 2002 in the West when single mother Melinda Roberts founded TheMommyBlog.com, they gained popularity all over the world, and in Pakistan, in the recent few years.

NETWORKING FROM HOME

Nabila Iftikhar, mother of a four-year-old child, who lives in Karachi, also struggled in her initial years of motherhood. “I decided to share my journey, struggles and learning with all new mums so they don’t feel alone in their trying days,” says Nabila. Her blog, which has been running for four years, covers a variety of topics including parenting tips, mother hacks and child development.

Many women like Nabila, be they working mothers and stay-at-home moms, have opted for blogging as a full-time career. Blogging is a platform for them to share their views on breastfeeding, burping babies, changing diapers, swaddling, or feeding solid foods to kids. Other important issues such as post-partum depression, anxiety and mental health are also discussed.

In recent times, most mothers who started out as conventional bloggers have switched to social media. According to Influencer Marketing Hub Study 2017, Instagram is the top social platform among adults. The reason, social media experts explain, is that it is easy to share and connect with people through this app.

Tabinda and Nabila use Instagram in addition to their blogs. The former is the founder of @Frommummytonayel and the latter runs the Insta account @Karachimombloggers. Tabinda has more than 11,000 followers and Nabila over 1,000.

Tabinda posts daily and her contents are usually about her son’s activities or relationships. “I also share inspirational posts from other Insta feeds but I make sure to give credit,” she adds.

Both these mothers agree that Instagram has helped them to connect with many remarkable women around the globe, and also provides a medium for their blogs to reach to a wider audience.

‘Instagram moms’ and mom bloggers on Instagram are usually called ‘influencers,’ mainly because they share visuals to show off the lives of their children or family and, in doing so, sometimes make money too.

A stay-at-home mother of two daughters, Aisha Hassan, a resident of Karachi, runs the Insta account @Supermom.pk and has nearly 10,000 followers. “I share six to eight posts per week which are mostly about food recipes, outfit of the day pictures and fun Tik Tok videos [a media app for creating and sharing short videos] with my daughters, which provide a daily dose of humour to new mums and married women to keep their sanity intact,” she explains.

Pakistani-born Sabika Meraj, currently living in Australia, has been running the Insta handle @Mamaandazaan for the past seven months, and in a short period has gained more than 7,000 followers. “My followers love posts about my son and his naughtiness,” she says. She usually puts up at least three posts a week (quality over quantity), which are a mix of parenting, health, beauty tips and relationship struggles.

It is not only stay-at-home mothers who run blogs or Instagram accounts. There are also working mothers like Omaira Liaquat of @TheHRmommy. Canadian-based Pakistani Omaira, who has been working in the field of HR for almost 10 years, started her feed last year. She has over 8,000 followers and her prime focus is those women who are uncertain about their career, and have unnecessarily engulfed themselves with ‘mom guilt’. She puts up six to seven posts a week, which include career or HR advice, daily inspirations, tips on motherhood, home décor and social issues.

JUGGLING WORK AND FAMILY

Most moms on Instagram agree that sometimes it becomes overwhelming to balance both motherhood responsibilities and an online presence. For moms on Instagram, it’s also important to maintain the traffic, so daily interaction and constant engagement are key. Hashtags or reposting helps increase the number of followers while giveaways can also do the trick.

Considering hectic schedules and familial responsibilities, how do these moms balance work, home and kids?

As a mother of two school-going boys, Omaira believes that it’s all about planning, setting priorities and doing what you enjoy.

Nabila has been juggling with working from home as a part-time employee in a private firm, running her dessert business online and managing her blog as well as an Instagram account. She usually sets her work hours around her daughter’s nap or school time.

Tabinda, on the other hand, maintains a diary in which she writes down her plan on a daily basis. “I have set a routine which keeps things smooth between my child and work.”

However, Sabika admits scheduling her day can be challenging. “I sometimes try and batch-cook my meals so I don’t have to worry about cooking and other chores. This way I get a good few hours to work,” she says.

PICTURE-PERFECT VS NOT-SO-PERFECT REALITY

A 2016 study titled “Doing Gender Online: New Mothers’ Psychological Characteristics” published in the research journal Sex Roles, states that mothers who more frequently compared themselves to others on social media felt more depressed, and less competent as parents.

Atiya Sayed, a stay-at-home mother of a toddler, reveals that every individual’s experience is different. “I won’t lie but I stopped following moms on Instagram. I was frustrated. After all, everything is not real on social media,” she says.

Another mother, Amreen Shafiq, says that there are some mothers who are honest but “then there are those who post a picture-perfect meal and happy kids or spouse on their feeds and you are demoralised because your life is not that perfect.”

Instagram moms and bloggers feel that most of them depict the reality of motherhood, at least in Pakistan. Zara Fahd, a resident of Karachi and the founder of @Zarainspirations is an Insta mom and a blogger, with more than 5,000 followers. “I believe in keeping it real, focusing more on the positives but not ignoring the negatives either,” she says.

Omaira ran a campaign called #ShareMyClutter where she encouraged everyone to share their ‘not-so-perfect’ and cluttered spaces. On the other hand, Sabika openly shares her parenting struggles, failures, depression and anxiety.

Nevertheless, there are women who are inspired by the work of these Insta moms. Kiran Ashraf, head of content at Communita-Pakistan, is one of them. “Most of these mums do not hesitate in showing themselves with no cosmetics, messy hair, running after their children. Seeing them handle the two universes to the best of their capability is genuinely inspiring,” she says.

MOTHERS AS INFLUENCERS

In 2015, eMarketer (a market research company for insights and trends related to digital marketing, media and commerce) reported that mothers control around 85 percent of household purchases. Marketing experts suggest that, since mom influencers have the ability to sway the views of their followers and most people trust their recommendations, they can have an impact on brands for product or service awareness among consumers.

Insta moms engage with their followers on a personal level. From parenting to home décor to relationships, and their loyal followers (mostly mothers and women) value their advice.

According to Abdullah Qureshi, brand manager at Zellbury and Kapray, this kind of influencer marketing is relatively new in Pakistan but mom influencers have proven to be beneficial for many brands to promote their ideology among relevant consumers. “One of our brands promotes trendy wear, so we look out for moms who are interested in fashion or styling,” says Abdullah. “Our team then sends out gloriously packaged products to mums to use and then review for us. Our other brand is for the masses, so we look out for mothers who do not shy away to support and vocalise real issues. For our #REALConversations campaign, we contact these mums and give outfits and sit down for a one-to-one with them,” he explains.

“Mostly, brands do barter deals where they send their products for you to try and, in return, you give them exposure on your blog,” explains Nabila. “Others who pay, their scale depends on the number of followers a blogger has, their engagement and target audience type. The fee can range from 2,000 rupees to 10,000 rupees.”

In the last few years, there has been a steady growth in the Insta moms’ influencer marketing; there is no set matrix to measure the success ratio in terms of sale, nevertheless this is a potential market for brands to tap into.

REACHING OUT

The love and support received from fellow moms builds a mutually beneficial learning relationship for mothers across the globe as well as opportunities to work with some well-known brands. Tabinda adds that bloggers can also guide and help other mothers regarding taboo topics such as breast engorgement, post-partum depression and family planning via online chat.

Other perks include invites to events and parenting panels.

Most significantly perhaps, mom bloggers can help other mothers face issues related to their homes, work-life as well as kids. Sharing experiences on potty-training, nursing babies, pregnancy complications, cooking as well as parenting tips with fellow moms on Instagram helps other moms find comfort and support, especially in the smooth transition to parenthood for new mothers. Learning about other’s experiences helps alleviate stress and anxiety faced by many during the journey of being a mother.

Published in Dawn, EOS, April 14th, 2019