ABU DHABI: Informal online forums are the first point of contact for mums in the UAE, thousands of whom come together virtually every day to offer each other information and support.
As the world marked Inter-national Mother’s Day on March 21, XPRESS found that these web platforms have helped mums of different backgrounds in the UAE forge formidable communities of their own, making them a force to reckon with.
“Where else would you have a complete stranger offer to cook you some fresh meals because you have just delivered a baby? Or have another mum offer to collect your children from school and take them for a play date as you sleep in sick? Around 95 per cent of our members are expats, and being an expat in the UAE isn’t easy by any means, but virtual communities try to fill the gap,” said Megan Al Marzooqi, who founded Real Mums of Dubai (RMD) along with Holly Bennie.
She said the group is a melting pot which has 6,709 mums and a waiting list of 580. “We created the group with the philosophy “it takes a village” as we believe that motherhood is a sisterhood too.
Struggles of motherhood
“We wanted to create a virtual supportive village where women can come to ask questions, get advice, vent and even have a laugh at the funny side and struggles of motherhood. We have hundreds of posts daily from simple things like a mum asking where to find a certain formula, to needing advice on schools or nurseries, vents on toddler tantrums and sleeping issues. No question is off limits.”
It is the same principle that binds other groups together too. Besides being UAE residents, mums on such forums are cemented by a common thread - be it a specific neighbourhood or a certain interest or purpose.
Deepika Gupta, who started Dubai Marina Mums - an offshoot of a playgroup in a park - nine years ago, puts it in perspective. “In the olden days, we would go to our neighbour’s place if we wanted a cup of sugar or something else. Today, we turn to our virtual communities for anything we want to ask or share. Dubai Marina Mums gets over 200 posts a day about what, where, when and how things are happening.” Little wonder then that a member of the online platform described it as her very own Google. “It’s the go to place for anything I want – whether it’s information on the nearest doctor or support during a family crisis,” said the mum of two.
Clementina Kongslund who runs Dubaimums.com, which has over 7,500 followers, says online communities have become “essential” in a mother’s life in the UAE.
“I see them at the first level of the pyramid after food, water and shelter, especially in a place like the UAE where people, away from their families, have a lot of questions to ask. One tends to get lost if one goes searching for information on the Internet, but it’s much easier on such forums. ”
Besides virtual interactions, Clenmentina said the platforms also bring mums together in person through events and get-togethers.
As Megan said, “We love putting together events for members. It’s lovely to watch them put faces to names and meet women who have helped them through tough times.”
Deepika said the challenge before online forums is to safeguard their prime purpose and keep the community together without any commercial motives. “As admins of such groups, we have to be careful not to let commercial considerations come into play. But over a period of time, the community knows what to expect.”