An unkempt, exhausted woman with crying children clinging to her apron and dirty dishes in the backdrop has long been the picture painted of a new, non-working mother.
It’s an image that rarely accommodates room for a swanky home office, let alone state-of-the-art gadgets. Yet new-age mums are eschewing traditionally restrictive gender roles and turning to the digital world to explore a host of opportunities. And all the while, they’re displaying their motherhood badge with pride.
The 21st century brought with it a rise of career-driven, women who are financially independent women. Many forgo the culturally handed-down marriage-child life plan, instead achieving success and happiness on their own terms.
These women launch businesses or command boardrooms, fight for equal pay and buy their own jewellery. However, there is also a savvy crop of mothers who fit this description to a T; in fact, many use motherhood as a catapult to launch their own businesses. Like their "boss lady" peers, these women, too, have a label of their own: "mumpreneurs".
Mothers on social media
In September, female-focused website Refinery29 found that 82 per cent of mothers mention their parental status on their social profile or have a profile photo featuring their children. Motherhood has become a buzzword for one's social media biography, and women worldwide are reaping the benefits – whether it's sales for their brands, awareness for their businesses or simply more Instagram followers.
The UAE is no exception: the country has the leading smartphone and social media penetration rate in the world, according to a 2019 report by We are Social and Hootsuite.
Many entrepreneurial mothers in the Emirates use Instagram and Facebook to promote their concepts or lifestyles. Cases in point: the Love by JO nursing cover created by Wendy Francis-Best; eco-conscious children's boutique Eggs & Soldiers launched by Sofi Chabowski; the services of infant sleep educator Hayley Bukhamsin, also known as The Gentle Mama; and wholesome children's food brand Slurrp Farm, founded by Meghana Narayan and Shauravi Malik.
For some Instagram-savvy mothers, full-time parenting is their occupation of choice, and this, too, is promoted across carefully curated content on social media.
“There is no shame in being a mum, or ‘just a mum’ as I’ve sadly heard it labelled before. Mums are ready to show the world just how much we do, how strong we are and how much we give. It’s about time,” says Megan Al Marzooqi, a full-time mother of four and co-founder of Real Mums of Dubai on Facebook. “Having a virtual village [of mothers] means that every member can feel validated and confident."
Motherhood is a ‘full-time’ job
Motherhood, as portrayed by many of these women on social media, is an empowering and rewarding job that forms their identities. Zeyna Sanjania knows which side of the fence she stands on in the age-old argument of motherhood being a job in its own right.
"It's actually more than a full-time job, because our hours are not constrained to the traditional nine-to-five," says the British-Indian Dubai resident, who lists "mummy to two boys" in her social media bio. Al Marzooqi points out that unlike other roles, there's no switching off from motherhood. "You don't get lunch breaks or vacation time. You don't get to leave the work in the office, you are literally on call every minute of the day – and night. It's crazy and it's chaotic, but I wouldn't change it for the world."
She says that it's completely natural for women to be branding themselves as mothers on social media, and to post about their experiences with their children, and says that approximately 80 per cent of her own posts illustrate motherhood. "Let's face it, I'm a mum now and my life revolves around my children, so that's what I will talk the most about," she says.
Branding yourself as a mother goes deeper than Instagram trends and followers, though – there are psychological motives, too. Al Marzooqi believes that despite the information now out there about the hard work mothers put in, those who stay at home are often made to feel inferior to working women, even in this digital age.
Feminism and motherhood
Feminism is another concept these savvy mums feel they are on top of. Sanjania, who started her blog, Mummy on my Mind, when her first son was nine months old, says that motherhood in itself can celebrate feminism. "Being a full-time mother is my decision entirely, and that's what feminism is about, right? Women having the right to choose whatever it is that they set their mind to, not being thrust into a 'typical role' if they don't want to be.
"Whether it's smashing glass ceilings in your chosen career field or devoting your time to taking care of your family's needs, you are celebrating feminism as long as the decision is yours to make," she says. Sanjania's blog and Instagram posts are centred on family-friendly locations and activities in the UAE, her sons' milestones, and tried and tested children's products.
The aforementioned Refinery29 survey found that 95 per cent of mothers post photos of their children on social media – one in four upload new photos of them every day. That's not a concept all parents are comfortable with, though. While Instagram is a mainstream platform enabling some mothers to connect, share, inspire and advertise, for others, the pride that comes with motherhood simply doesn't need to be put out on the web.
Gabby Garvey, the interior designer behind Style Me Interiors Dubai, points out the privacy and security risks associated with sharing these details online. "Although being a mother qualifies you as a multitasker, strong leader, good negotiator, et cetera, I don't think it should be a part of my online profile. With all the data collection and exposure on social platforms, access to private, confidential information through third parties is now starting to worry me. I'm even thinking about removing all [prior] photographs or references to my family and kids now."
Textiles writer Anna Van Der Walt from Dubai, too, doesn't identify as a mother on social media. "I can't stand the word 'mumpreneur' – you never hear men refer to themselves as 'dadpreneurs' – it's not a thing. And, kids grow up super-fast. One day you are in the thick of nappies, day care and play dates and the next, they've left the house, and you are just you."