My Journey, My Community
By Anjum Choudhry Nayyar @masalamommas
Editor, publisher masalamommas.com
As I sit here reflecting on the years since the launch of masalamommas.com, I am just in awe of the one word that sits front and centre of every experience I’ve had thus far: Community. I wanted to make this my inaugural post in a column I hope to write monthly barring any Liam and Annika (my son and daughter) interruptions or crises!
When I first started the idea of having an online community magazine for moms with South Asian connections, I was pregnant and expecting my first child (over 6 years ago.) I had several conversations with my in-laws and parents about what it was they wanted to do to celebrate the birth, the first year,
first Diwali, Lohri and everything in between. My head was spinning. Fast forward to my first year as a new mom and I have to tell you it was isolating.
I felt alone most of the time, but never told anyone. I juggled a day job that was never truly fulfilling my desire to write, report and be the journalist I wanted to be while also trying to balance my desire to be a good mom. Most of all, I felt like I didn’t have any connections to other moms like me who would truly ‘get’ the cultural expectations that come along with being a South Asian mom.
I went to mommy groups and mom and child activities but very rarely did I see a South Asian face. While I never suffered post-partum like some women do, I definitely had ‘baby blues’ after giving birth the first time and had days not knowing if I was doing it ‘right’.
Whether it was breastfeeding (I had such great difficulty with this with my first), bonding, sleep training, preparing my daughter for pre-school or dealing with her constant bouts of respiratory infections, those first years were anything but easy. Celebrating the cultural celebrations and milestones and trying to expose her to our culture in a meaningful way sometimes proved to be a tad challenging. (I’m still working on it!)
Not one of my friends had had kids at that point so trying to vent to them wasn’t helpful. Being South Asian I think doesn’t make you unique, as I think any culture that is so closely intertwined with family will come up with the challenges that we face as South Asian mothers to find that healthy cultural balance.
A few years later when I decided to do the ‘baby’ thing all over again, I started to come across so many more moms like me whose parents had immigrated but they were born in the US, or UK or Canada. I met moms who were married but never dated and never talked about the challenges they had with their first year as a mom and intimacy.
I met moms who were single moms, having decided to forego marriage entirely because they couldn’t find someone who would be that partner to have a child with, so they had a child on their own. Finally I also met a mom who was divorced due to infidelity and wanted to re-marry but couldn’t make the leap because of her kids and having to answer to relatives in India.
As a mom life can be isolating but also fulfilling at different periods in your life and when you add culture into the mix, it can be even lonelier. I founded masalamommas because I felt a need to build something where moms could have these cultural conversations, share stories, their triumphs and challenges and hopefully learn from each other.
And it was also for selfish reasons: I felt I needed someone to talk to who also had similar cultural expectations or needs. I heard from so many women like me on twitter, facebook etc. on questions I was struggling with: How do you balance your need to be realistic with cultural celebrations as a mom of this generation with your need to respect elder’s expectations?
How do you learn to cook like your mom (and include South Asian meals), when you work 10 hours a day away from home or in the home for that matter, (or like me and just hate cooking)? How do you teach your child your language when you can’t speak it yourself?
These are just some of the great online conversations we were having.
Since launching masalamommas in June 2011, I have met some of the most inspiring women, some who are moms and others who are not. Women who have the biggest hearts, and nurture conversation in our community by sharing the smartest ways to balance culture with motherhood. Most importantly they have welcomed me and masalamommas into their daily lives to support others like them.
We’ve talked about what it means to be a stepmom in a mixed marriage, be a single mom battling stigma, raising sons, raising daughters amidst gender bias, celebrating cultural occasions in ways that resonate with kids, the cultural pressure felt by youth, growing your family, infertility, and South Asian inspired style.
After our official launch in 2012, the online conversations were fast and furious on these topics. Meeting some of these women in our meet-ups and seeing the connections being made was the best feeling in the world. In May 2012, some of the women I had met in the twitterverse developed into really meaningful relationships.
So we thought wouldn’t it be great to meetup in real life? (sounds whacky, I know).
How do you meet when half of you are on the west coast and half are on the east coast? Well, you meet in New York City of course! I say it so casually but that’s what became #MMNYC. That was the best girls’ trip I’ve ever been on but also the
Being on a weekend with women you don’t really know can either go really well, or really bad, really fast, right?
Lucky for me, these women were amazing. Some of the women would become writers at masalamommas and some would become real friends. I hope you’ll continue to read about their incredible journeys through motherhood.
I’ve had the honour of meeting amazing moms in person at community events, tweetups for masalamommas, trips for stories and also through the launch of our first parenting editorial board. As the publisher of this incredible community, I’ve had the chance to connect with moms in the UK, Israel, across North America and even India. Most recently I had the opportunity to share the masalamommas story as a speaker at my first BlogHer Conference in Chicago, where bloggers across the world came together to talk about writing for their communities. (that will be next month’s post, stay tuned!)
I’ve had the chance to meet and interview leading women in the South Asian community like Monika Deol, Lisa Ray, Mallika Chopra, Sangita Patel and also moms like Christy Turlington who brings awareness about barriers in maternal health.
Masalamommas launched speaker panels recently to give moms a chance to meet and talk to the inspiring women they were reading about on our site. We also started our first MM bookclub, where we talked about sex. Yes sex with Jasmine Aziz who wrote, “Sex and Samosas.” A book club with the book ‘The Secret Daughter’ by Shilpi Gowda brought tears to one mom’s eyes and I’ll never forget that conversation where this mom talked about being raised in family of girls.
The stories I read from our writers and contributors and the interviews I’ve had the chance to do, all show me that our community is incredibly giving, supportive and inspiring. All we need to do is reach out connect with someone, ask that question, share that tip and know that we’re more than moms.
We’re a community.
My family and my amazingly supportive husband have watched me put my heart and soul into this magazine and has seen the immense joy it brings me. They thank you too because I am no longer that first time mom with fears of failure (well I still get pangs once in a while!). Feeling isolated isn’t part of my life anymore because I have a second family: the masalamommas community.
I’d like to thank you all for your support as readers and fans most of all I’d like to thank our writers who take time out from their families to share their stories with the world out there.
Sheba, Salima, Shweta, Nisha, Deepika, Kavita, Zannat, Nadia, Renu, Vaishali, Jasjit, Yashy, Anchel, Angie, Chitra, including our amazing roster of contributors and of course our amazing sponsors who support our magazine in its continued growth.
You have made this space something that moms from all cultures can relate to. Thank you for giving me a place to connect and foster dialogue on the richness of our culture in a language we all understand: motherhood.
Keep on masalamomma-ing,
©masalamommas and masalamommas.com, 2016-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to masalamommas.com and Masalamommas online magazine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.