As regular readers know Mom Blogger October is when we meet Indian Mom Bloggers from across the world in an effort to understand their challenges and triumphs as they work on being themselves while juggling motherhood, as well.
Today we meet Vaishali from Amma Today. A Mom who left research behind to pursue teaching and later on decided to take the role of a Stay At Home Mom, till her daughter started formal schooling. Vaishali is popular on Instgram as well as for her honest book reviews and for her posts that detail how she has incorporated Montessori in her home.
Could you tell us about your life before Amma Today?
I am a biotechnology post graduate, who realized that I have no patience for research and drifted back to my first love – teaching. I was happily flitting between classrooms, having discussions on genetics and totally at home with my A2 biology and French classes while simultaneously adjusting to married life in a new city,with a husband who worked off shore when we found out I was pregnant. Well , it only made sense to see my 12 graders through their boards and then resign. It was a conscious decision I made, to be a SAHM until V joins school.
I did a lot of reading when pregnant and although I had clear cut ideas of the type of parenting; once she popped, I found myself struggling to find space to breathe, in between colic, sleepless nights and new parenthood. So, basically, I was (am) a regular parent.
The only difference is that I took longer to finish my work, and the little me time I had was spent sleeping.
What was it that prompted you to create the blog and how did you come up with the name?
By the time she was 6 months old, I found myself itching to give an outlet to all the words within me. There is just so much joy within me, that I want to hold on to, when I see her growing up into a rounded individual of her own, and I thought I must document my experiences with gentle parenting, attachment parenting and Montessori methods at home- for myself to peruse when she is older as a way of memory keeping, as well as for others to find inspiration if possible. So, when she was 10months old, I finally took the plunge and decided to call some space in the virtual world, my own.
I identify myself with different roles, but I never expected I’d love and pride myself on being called an amma this much. I definitely wanted the word ‘amma’ in my blog title. I see myself growing everyday, a much better version of the ‘amma yesterday’ and that is all that matters to me at that moment. As a millennial parent, Amma Today made so much sense.
What were the challenges you faced in setting yourself up as a blogger?
Deciding to take the plunge was what was difficult for me. There are just so many fabulous mom bloggers out there that I look up to, that the thought of “ am I going to add any value?’’ took me the longest time to answer. There was also this period that I went through- to carve out a niche for myself. Being surrounded by mom bloggers of all kinds and values, it is difficult to stay true to yourself. Once I did, it has been pretty smooth.
The biggest challenge I found ( find) though, is to make time for my blog- to keep it alive and thriving. Living in a super nuclear set up with minimal help and a spouse who travels a lot for work; managing to keep my toddler well-fed and rested is what I'd call a successful day. There are times when I do not have the mind space to find inspiration or time to write.
Who was your biggest support while following your passion?
Family. They do not understand completely, what this is about- the blog, my social media calendar, or the stuff I write about. They know that the monetary benefits that I get, if any, are limited; but they do know that this makes me happy and keeps me sane, and hence support it whole-heartedly. The husband wakes up early and cooks for us if I have had a long night. He is also my in-house photographer. My parents are the first people to read my posts and share it feverishly, on whatsapp groups.
What has been the highest point/happiest moment in your journey as a Blogger?
There have been two. I still get a high every time someone comments or pings saying that my work inspired them or helped them in their parenting journey.
But it was only recently, when we were out at an event and socializing when I was asked what I did. Most of the people do not get what blogging is and I comfortably started to say that Im a teacher, currently an SAHM, when my husband said, “She is a mom blogger.”
There was another time, when I met an old friend, who had shown my blog to his folks. His sister, after following my blog, was seriously thinking of a career as a blogger, specifically a mom blogger when she would become pregnant.
Do you think Indian Mom Bloggers are increasingly seen as a useful resource as opposed to just a group of hobbyists?
Oh yes, I think the mindset is changing for the better. There are some amazing mom bloggers I look up to- for early learning, interior decoration, sustainable living, or tips on surviving the daily grind. Not just when Im looking for resources, there are some cool, real accounts I follow for their humorous take on momlife too. And recently, most of them are increasingly Indian mums.
Which has been your most memorable post to date and why?
This has been my most memorable post to date.
Although, not the most personal or thought provoking, this has been the most read post and a neighbour forwarded it to me without knowing that I had written it, saying that it was one of the most helpful posts she had come across.
What has the most memorable comment on your blog been so far?
A long lost college friend had been following my blog since she became a parent and she recently commented saying that I should write a book. The fact that someone would spend time to read what I write is beyond exciting for me, so imagine when someone feels my writing is worth time as well as money! But more than that, I re-connected with this friend and we are back to regular chats, and sharing mom moments, thanks to that comment.
Have you ever been trolled? How did you handle it?
Oh yes. I remember reaching out to you, the first time it happened. I realize that when one puts anything- be it their work or a part of their life on display, one has to be prepared for both positive as well as negative repercussions.
So, it was on a feminist post that I have been called a horrible parent, a parent who is trying too hard or one who is torturing my child. And to be honest, it hurt.
A long conversation with some mom bloggers whom I admire made me realize that everyone has gone through it. It doesn’t mean it is right that people can write mean things behind the canopy of their screens. But it gave me strength to ignore and move on.
We all silently judge whatever we see or read. Some people probably take it a little too far. And some one else’s opinion doesn’t change a single thing about me.
Have you ever started to write a post and then abandoned it? Why?
Almost never. I procrastinate and think things through a million times before I start something. But once I do, I see it through.
Do you stick to a regular posting schedule or do you post whenever inspiration strikes? Do you have a writing routine?
I wish I had a regular routine. I love the familiar cocoon of routine. However, I do not have that luxury and write whenever I have the time and space to. That being said, there have been a lot of ideas that haven’t found the words yet, and are still just titles and bullet points in my diary. I'm looking to change this habit though.
Do you find it hard to get your voice heard in the crowded blogosphere?
I did in the beginning. I was overwhelmed with the information out there, the PRs, the collaborations, follower numbers, site visit numbers, etc. Once I realized what I was here for, and what I wanted, it has been easy- you automatically align yourself to the important stuff.
Many say that blogging is dead thanks to other micro-blogging avenues like Instagram, Twitter and others. As the owner of a traditional blog, how would you respond to that?
I spend more time writing on instagram and facebook than on my website. They are powerful tools to be heard, stay visible, keep writing when you do not have time, connect with lovely people and drive traffic to your blog. That being said, social media is just that- social media and cannot substitute for the good old posts that tell your story.
A blog is like those old Ilayaraja songs that you go back to whenever you need. Although you’ll keep listening to whatever the radio plays on an everyday basis, those songs will always be there.
Bottom line- One needs both.
Do you see your blog as a stepping stone to something else? Do you see yourself wearing the tag of 'blogger' five years down the line?
The short term plan for the blog is to bring together like-minded individuals, specifically parents who share my enthusiasm for gentle parenting, early learning and raising individuals who can bring about change.
I would love to set up a chain of schools which provides inclusive, yet quality education and bridges the economic divide we have in schools in our country. And blogging definitely helps me give a voice to all this and scale up my vision. So, yes, blogging or social communication in more advanced forms in times to come, will definitely continue.
What tips do you have for other Indian Mom bloggers?
Like Dory says, “Just keep writing.” It is so easy to lose heart and motivation midway. It is easier to lose the way. Mom bloggers, as influencers, do have a responsibility towards their readers and to themselves. So, as difficult as it may be, try to write from the heart as much as possible.
You can follow Vaishali on Instagram here.
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Click here for the 2016 and 2017 edition of the Mom Blogger October.