RESHMA KRISHNAMURTHY, an independent writer, blogger and a storyteller initiated an online platform “Mums and Stories” to connect mums with engaging real stories. She talks to Teresa Rehman on how this platform helped her discover intriguing stories about different kind of mothers and breaking stereotypes about mothers and their lives
1. Please tell us about the journey of ‘Mums and Stories’.
It began as a social experiment in October 2015 and it soon culminated to a space on social media where I felt this could become my identity. I was going through a rough phase as I wanted to establish my professional identity again, post motherhood but somehow couldn’t finalize on anything and begin my work. This began just as I was thinking I was good at featuring people on radio (one of my earlier careers) and let me do that for moms. Initial stories are indeed of moms who are my son’s friends. Slowly I realized I could reach out to others, outside my friend circle. And luckily it worked. I was reluctant but still gave it a shot.
But after 100 stories too we hadn’t figured out how to sustain this project in long term without having to monetize the stories. We did organize a few meets to celebrate the success of 100 stories and did a few events for kids too. This was the time when it became evident that meeting mums and kids was much required and they wanted outlets to have fun, discuss something interesting and have a good time. Today we have two spaces, content where we feature stories on moms and the other is events for mothers and children. We have built a brand through stories and events that are monetized and through brand collaborations.
Over 270 stories have been published on single moms, moms battling a health condition, mums raising physically or mentally challenged children, mums who are entrepreneurs, celebrity mum stories, travel freaks, mums with varied interests that have impacted the society, mums who are stay at home individuals, successful individuals talking of their moms etc. We also do a lot of events like storytelling, games for kids, fitness and dance events, bloggers meets, social initiatives like Hug a Tree, breakfast meet ups for moms, Mum Talks where hugely inspiring mums come and address a live audience. We have had three editions and we will be planning another one for January 2018. We have organized over 35 events since the last one year – 3 months.
2. What kind of stories do you look for?
I love looking for all kinds of stories. In fact I have been most thrilled on editing a story or from a telecon conversation that hasn’t been of a usual mom. We had one story where a daughter spoke on her mom, how she was proud of her and also that her mom was a prostitute earlier. It takes immense courage to talk about it and be confident of the people we are. So yes again I realized that it is not necessary to be a happy career-oriented working mum. There can be ones who love being stay at home mums. And thanks to the journey, a few of my own myths and perceptions of people have changed. This does help me when I talk to people collectively on moms.
3. Which has been the most inspiring/challenging story you have done till date?
There have been a few but one that strikes again and again as to how a mum from Assam, now living in a metropolitan city chose to speak on two failed relationships, an earlier marriage, a failed live-in-relationship and she was married again – with her daughter witnessing the marriage. She was confident and bold. But the amount of hate that came, once the story was published was making me think on the story. There were people who said she was lying as she had also spoken of a serious health condition being overcome, strangers trolling her mercilessly. We had to see to it that we maintained a stand that it was a story on a mum more than anything else. We hadn’t even named anyone, yet there were accusations. We believed in her story and from then on we see to it that primarily a story gets more highlighted as a mum than anything else.
There was another instance where we couldn’t take the story even after this mum mailed us multiple times as it was a legal case where she claimed her child was forcibly taken by her spouse and family. Unfortunately we can’t verify these stories and hence it becomes a challenge to publish them. While we do look for happy stories as that has been the main criteria to give due respect to mums who have varied interests. We do simultaneously look for stories that can challenge a common perception and give that positive vibe in the story.
4. What about dads and stories? Don’t you think fathers have a role in ‘mums and stories’?
In face we began with dads and stories in our website. We do have a few stories as we found a few dads were really good in parenting. But to have a better focus on what we do, we have stuck to mums. We never say dads aren’t important.
5. Do you think there are stereotypes of being a ‘good mother’?
Yes most of all by the media like the advertising industry of projecting a mum being a multi-tasker. She has to keep the home looking good, then be efficient in her work in her office, then be good at cooking and most of all look good and look young forever. Is this really possible for most of us? Why should mums be subjected to judgments? Also the traditional mindset of men, people from earlier generations on how a mum is not good if she travels often due to work or is someone who doesn’t like cooking and so on. Each family has their own way of dealing with situations, so if they have figured out the solution how can others judge them?
6. Who do you think is a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ mother?
Am not sure of this response but maybe a bad mom exists in the eye of the child. On one occasion, I have had this story where a very successful mum well in her 50’s wanted to talk of her mom whom she felt neglected and had accused her mom in the story of completely not fulfilling any of her parenting duties and was aloof all the time. We didn’t mention it as it was very a sensitive subject but took a more positive story angle.
Coming to the concept of good moms, yes I think most of us are in that category. It is just that we don’t’ want to be categorized to ‘perfect moms’. Being human is all about imperfection so why make moms the sacrificial individual in the house or the multi tasker or anything else that doesn’t go with imperfection. We are just human as anyone else in the world is and this is what we would like to tell our kids too, to imbibe in their lives. Being happy too is very important – this seems to have lost its importance in our lives. If one makes an attempt to be happy, they can be. Mums need to understand this too as they will be passing this emotion to their kids.
To end, yes I do feel happy I made a small attempt in creating that impact on moms. I know we can do much better. Hopefully I will never ever regret taking this decision of beginning Mums and stories as it has meant a lot to me.