Dubai Mum's group
Megan Al Marzooqi, a Dubai-based mum, decided to create a safe space for mums in the UAE, which ranges from coffee meetings to fun events with their children. Image Credit: Supplied

Mum’s the word, indeed!

Young mums need other mums. In the midst of sippy cup routines, battles over toys, soothing bumps and bruises, many UAE mothers have found solidarity in sisterly camaraderie in different corners of the country. Over coffee and bites of sandwiches, they share the ups and downs of their journey with other mums, while their little ones play nearby.

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Rachel Smylie, a Dubai-based expat who started her own little mum’s group, modestly says there’s ‘nothing fancy’ about her meetups. “The sole purpose is for the mothers to know, there’s always a safe space,” she says. Recalling why she started the community, she mentions that she moved to Dubai, with her husband and child, while seven months pregnant and felt rather alone. A new city was overwhelming, and at first, it was a struggle to find friends and forge connections.

Rachel Smylie
Rachel Smylie decided to start a mum's group in the UAE. "Motherhood can be very overwhelming, so I really wanted to create a welcoming space for them," she says. Image Credit: Rachel Smylie

Realising that there would be many such mums who would feel like her, she put out posts on Instagram and joined mum WhatsApp groups. “Early motherhood can be very overwhelming, with toilet training, sleepless nights and exhaustion. I knew there must be others who would be feeling like this too, and I really wanted to create a welcoming space for them,” she says. The children love it too, as Kristabel McCulloch, who attends the meets, says. "As a new, busy mum, it's wonderful. My daughter and I love it," she says. 

Kids playing
There's a comfy, cosy corner for the children to play too, where they can even sit and read. Image Credit: Supplied

It’s support, and it’s comfort. A place to breathe easily, swap stories and learnings with other mums, as Smylie mentions. This group meets twice a week, with some mums bringing their children along. The little ones are far from bored: There are stacks of games and books in the corner, while the mothers talk. “They can come for as long as they want or as little as they want,” she says, emphasising the rules are not set in stone. Such groups are calming for both the parents and the child, as Dubai-based Scarlett Rae Arden, the CEO of Maeva Rae, a sustainable beauty brand, who attends the meetings regularly with her one-year-old child says. “We’ve all been in the same boat and felt a little lonely at some point, so it’s just a lovely space for mothers and their children to hang out, mingle, and feel like you are not alone," she says. 

Rachel Smylie
Such groups are calming for both the parents and the child. They provide warmth and comfort and let the mothers know, that they aren’t alone. Image Credit: Rachel Smylie

Breakfast, tea and cookies

Kids playing
The little ones are kept busy, while the mums talk. Image Credit: Kristabel McCulloch

While Smylie enjoys the company of fellow mothers, there are different communities of mums in Abu Dhabi who seek solace in similar breakfast meetups, and swap stories over cookies. Melissa Lynch, a British corporate communications professional, who has three children aged six, five and four, finds relief in inviting fellow mums over for a ‘breakfast meet’ every couple of weeks.

It all began when she moved to the city two years ago, feeling rather alone and lost. “Those days were particularly rough. I didn’t have a job back then, and was at home all the time with three young children, while my husband was at work. There were sleepless nights, tearful days, and yet I couldn’t show my exhaustion to the little ones, because they weren’t to blame.

We’ve all been in the same boat and felt a little lonely at some point. It's just a lovely space for mothers and their children to hang out, mingle, and feel like you are not alone...

- Scarlett Rae Arden, the CEO of Maeva Rae

“So it was a fight to remain cheerful for them, while feeling lonely and permanently tired,” she remembers. By chance, she found that another mum in her residential community felt the same, and they would meet for breakfast over the weekends, while their children played in the other room. “We took it from there,” she says, they spread the word in their residential community, soon more mums wanted to join in too.

And so, they prepare a potluck for breakfast, whenever they meet. “You just bring whatever you like. Our group of mums particularly love cookies, so before a meeting, we decide who gets to bake and bring cookies over,” laughs Lynch.

The bad days don’t seem so bad anymore, as she says. “Somehow, there’s something different about having the sisterhood of fellow mums around you. It’s as if only they know what you are going through, sometimes, not even your own family.”

‘A place without judgement’

Megan Al Marzooqi
Megan Al Marzooqi created a 'village' where she wanted UAE mums could be honest and transparent about all the sides of motherhood without any form of judgement. Image Credit: Megan Al Marzooqi

It is hard enough being a mum these days without the added stress of others judging you or making you doubt yourself and your choices, says Megan Al Marzooqi, a Dubai-based mum. There are always differing opinions of how to raise a child, how to train them, what works, and what doesn’t work. These already fuel existing anxieties in a young mother.

And so, she wanted to create her own space, where mums could be free of judgement. She created an ‘online village’ called Real Mums UAE, that would be a safe haven for new mothers. “I grew up wanting to be a mum, looking forward to having other mum friends and building my little village, so I knew I had to do something to create the village I had envisioned for all those years. I wanted to create a place where the 'sisterhood of motherhood' was embodied every day,” she says, adding that she built the group on the philosophy ‘it takes a village to raise a family’. It’s a sentiment that shines through the community that she has nurtured since 2016, as she says. “I wanted it to be a place where we can be honest and transparent about all the sides of motherhood, without any form of judgement,” she says.

As her ‘village’ grew, the request for meetups and coffee increased. And now, it’s a large community of over 2000 women. “We have small events from little coffee mornings, to pampering events, fundraising events for charities, brand launch events and our large scale events that gather from 350 to 2,000 mums,” she explains.

Why such friendship circles are important

Such support systems are necessary, especially for young mothers, explains Catelyn Law, a British Dubai-based clinical psychologist. They provide warmth and comfort and let the mothers know, that they aren’t alone. “New mothers, especially young ones, can feel very isolated. Their social circles can shrink as they focus on caring for their babies. They may also feel disconnected from their pre-baby life. Support groups provide a chance to connect with other mums who understand what they're going through,” she says. Moreover, young mothers are new to parenthood, and it can be emotionally challenging. “These groups provide a safe space to vent, share concerns, and receive encouragement from other mothers. It’s also a source of practical help, on childcare and sleeping patterns,” she says.