International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8 in honour of the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. This year, the theme is I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights, which is aligned with “UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign – Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, the Beijing Platform for Action is recognized as the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.”
On the occasion, we spoke with Ruchita Dar Shah, founder of FirstMomsClub, an online and offline community for mothers with over 2 lakh members across 100 countries. She started the community back in 2010 when Facebook had introduced the group feature and she did all this while raising her 15 and 11-year-old sons. FMC helps encourage moms not only to find their emotional identity but also their entrepreneurial and social identity. Shah tells us about how she balances her professional and personal life and gives out some advice to mompreneurs.
What inspired you to start FirstMomsClub? What are the challenges you faced as you navigated this career?
There were a couple of factors. First, I used to work in the advertising industry as a graphic designer and my husband was a banker. Every time he would move cities, I had to do the same. So I took quite a few breaks in my career, and I spent the time learning something new and was also able to spend time with my family.
Secondly, most of my friends used to google for parenting advice. I soon realised that if I start an online community, not only can I share my learning with my friends and other people but they share theirs too and would be a great platform to connect with other moms.
Motherhood is quite a transforming journey both physically and emotionally. I felt moms needed a space where they can share their journey and not alone handling tough situations. Everyone has their own challenges and needs a space where they can share the same. Sometimes, your own family might not understand you. Indian women are taught not to talk about their problems, they are supposed to be strong and adjust. Sometimes, mothers take their jobs too seriously but there’s a lighter side to it as well and they must enjoy the journey.
These are the reasons that inspired me to start FirstMomsClub. In FMC, our endeavour has always been to motivate moms and share the inspiring stories of women who have fought challenges and are doing something great. It may not be something extraordinary but they are women who don’t give up and serve as an inspiration. Even if our platform inspires one woman, that is an achievement in itself.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I work mostly from home and have involved my husband and children in whatever I do. When you run an online community, it’s not a 9-5 hour job. I could be working at any hour and I think my family has understood that and respect what I do.
I have also made it a point to do a complete digital detox once in a while. For instance, I remove all the apps from my phone when on a holiday and follow the policy of no gadgets on the dinner table. Since it is work from home, I may not be with my children 100 percent mentally but I’m there physically, which is an advantage.
As a woman, what are the challenges you faced while growing up/the liberties you enjoyed as a woman?
My mother is a working mom and it helped me define who I am. Mothers are very important role models. As a child, I was never exposed to the idea that father is superior to mother. They were always equal. I had a lot of freedom to do whatever I wanted. Your child is watching what you do as a mother and if you are respected at home, your daughter will also demand the same and your son will also respect his future partner.
In fact, since my mom is a doctor, most of the people around me thought I will become one too but my mom never put pressure on me since she knew my interest lies somewhere else. There were no major dos and don’ts as a girl child.
What according to you is feminism? As a woman, where do you think we are lagging behind? And how can we address them?
It’s such a broad question but to put it simply, feminism is recognising that a woman is capable of being whoever she wants to be. She should not be dictated by the men in her life as such. India is a patriarchal society, so it’s going to take a lot of time as everything is seen from a man’s point of view unfortunately – right from marriage to how a woman should dress to even paying equally when going on a dinner date.
And it’s not only men, but a lot of women also believe in patriarchy. It’s how they are brought up and conditioned. They are taught to be adjusting, not to question and pamper to the male ego.
When someone calls a girl a tomboy, it is like she is being appreciated but if a boy has a feminine quality, people don’t appreciate it. People need to appreciate that as well. It’s always derogatory. Boys are brought up by saying you cannot cry, you are not a girl. Anything that is looked upon as being feminine is supposed to be a woman. Even if a man is vulnerable, he is not supposed to be girlish.
I have two boys and I try to make them think equally of both their parents. Nothing is just a mother’s or father’s job. There are some things that mothers are good at and some things that fathers are good at. At my home, I am the one changing bulbs and fixing computers. I tell my children that even if they don’t like cooking or doing laundry, they should know how to as it is a basic lifestyle to survive. It’s a human thing to do and cannot be defined by any particular any gender. Terms such as gender-fluid have come up now. People can no longer be judged by their gender.
Your message to mompreneurs on Women’s Day?
As moms, we give in to family pressure, and we have to do what works best for us. Another thing is that we feel guilty about leaving our children and going to work. But it is a natural thing and you should be able to control it and feel less guilty. Eventually, kids will move out and will do their own thing. We will be the only ones left doing nothing.
We are expected to be perfect like be a good cook, a great mother, the perfect bahu but we can let go of perfection. You can’t do everything. It’s okay to embrace imperfection. At the end of the day, if you are happy and sorted, then your kids will be the same.International, News