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.
The Indian Parent is one of my favourite parenting blogs, as it is one of the few that specifies itself as a 'Parenting Blog' and not a 'Mom Blog'. It is one where I regularly see Archana refer to the other parent in the equation - her husband, as an equal caregiver and not just a 'hands-on dad'. Archana, who I'll be focusing on for the scope of this interview, has a strong societal conscience that I had the good fortune to see put into action, as a group of us started working together to mobilize action and funds when Kerala faced catastrophic floods in August 2018. Archana is also an extremely creative writer. It is my pleasure to feature her on the Times of Amma.
Could you tell us about your life before The Indian Parent?
I am a journalist by training, professionally, I have been involved in heading/running an NGO called ' Leaders For Tomorrow Foundation', I have also been involved in providing life skills and personality development classes to young adults. I got married in 2013, moved to a new city soon after. This is when I felt I needed to give my marriage and personal life some more importance, planning and indulgence.
What was it that prompted you to create the blog and how did you come up with the name?
By the time we started our blog, we were already 1 year into parenting...it felt like we have something to share. It felt like there were things that we knew then, that we hoped we knew earlier. We realised that our way of doing things was uncommon. It still gets questioned a lot. But equal parenting, really works for us. In all seriousness we feel more of us could take it up and really see a big change in their life. So, on our personal Instagram space we started a series on our 1st year as a parent. As the algorithms work, we got flooded with 'follow requests' and that is how we came across the world of mom bloggers. Then I read a lot of the posts on these instablogs and their full fledged blogs, and I felt there was a space somewhere in all that to speak about our thoughts and ideas. Another big push came from the fact that we have a very limited circle of friends who are parents. So, we really wanted to find a community where we fit in.
The name comes from the fact that we feel the Indian culture, geography and sociological set up provides for an environment that is very unique in its impact on parenting. We also face a lot resistance on a daily basis on our way of raising our child which is very specific to where we come from and where our thoughts lie as a nation today.
What were the challenges you faced in setting yourself up as a blogger?
Technical know - how -I didn't know I could add filters to my Instagram stories till I was in month 3.
Writing continuously - We are more of wordpress type bloggers than the instagram blogger, but I find it hard to be steady with my content in wordpress, while instagram feels less difficult to maintain.
Finding our voice - at first we felt we are sharing our stories, then it became product reviews, now it has become more about thought provoking.
The numbers game - I have zero information till date on how I can actually maintain steady organic growth in terms of our followers. I didn't know much about bots or PODs back then.
I didn't get into this with a 3 yr or 5 yrs plan. I have never plunged into something so spontaneously. So I had a hard time coping when it was not as easy as I thought it will be.
Initially we had a hard time networking because the dad was also blogging on the same space so people generally just kept their distance.
In a world populated by Indian Mom Bloggers, The Indian Parent consciously positions itself as a parenting blog with the top billing shared by you and Abhilash. How much of a partnership is the actual blog? Who does what in The Indian Parent?
I do most of the writing now, though that was not the initial plan. We are planning a big comeback for Abhilash with a series of videos ( a medium he is more comfortable with). But the back-end stuff is all done together: photo shoots/plans/ideas. The topics and themes we talk about. The stand we take at times. He is up-to-date with every minute thing that happens on the blog. Every comment, every like, every post EVER. Our friend (Abhilash's colleague)helps us execute our photos especially for collabs.
I can't call our space a mom blog space, because it doesn't talk about my journey as a mother most of the time. It talks about parenting practices as a whole. I do feel the need to build a platform where dads and moms share their experiences and thoughts together because they are both in this parenting gig together.
What has been the highest point/happiest moment in your journey as a Blogger?
Every blogger feels good when something they recommend works for someone and they get back to you about it. For us it was when, one dear follower of ours, spoke to us about how great it was that the father is as involved as the mother in our case. We gave some practical suggestions to her and she actually made the effort to come back to us and tell us how she was able to talk to her husband and involve him more in raising their child.
She still comes back to us when she picks up a book we recommend etc, it feels like with a very minute effort from our end, we have been able to touch someone's life positively. That feels great. Inexplicably so.
Do you think Indian Mom Bloggers are increasingly seen as a useful resource as opposed to just a group of hobbyists?
Yes, not just useful also reliable, more engaging (timely response to queries) and relevant. Above all they are a coping mechanism. This community of bloggers gives you a feeling that you are not in it alone. You get to share stuff you might shy from expressing in the real world. You also get to know about a lot of new products and hacks.
Which has been your most memorable post to date and why?
We did a series of posts for SoulSlings India, as a part of their Traveling Carrier Group. Best decision ever, first ever thought out photo session and we eventually took up babywearing/toddlerwearing because we enjoyed the experience thoroughly.
Have you ever started to write a post and then abandoned it? Why?
Yeah! It happens a lot. There is so much that we feel we must express, but we think it is impossible to phrase it in a way that won't offend some segment of our viewers and readers. Or we feel it maybe too different for them to digest it. You also have to think about how relevant the post is for those reading it. If my mind is on some such thought, I usually end up first having a talk with Abhilash on how he feels about it and then I observe life around me some more.. and then figure out whether what I think needs to be written about...really needs to be written about.
The most recently abandoned post is on life with a nanny.
Do you stick to a regular posting schedule or do you post whenever inspiration strikes? Do you have a writing routine?
My analytics tell me to post early morning or late evening. But I end up posting during my little one's naptimes. I usually think about something a night before..and write what I feel while I am making the post. I type straight into the instagram description section to keep myself from overly 'white-washing' my thoughts.
Do you find it hard to get your voice heard in the crowded blogosphere?
In the perspective of our full fledged blog, I would say it feels crowded only when you think of it commercially. Since we haven't gotten there, or we almost went there and took a U-turn.. because we are not ready..we feel quite comfortable. But if I were to look at our micro blog: yes, I strongly feel we are the slowest growing space in our league. We both are not sure why yet.I think there many things being said all over the place...and some blogs don't say anything at all! But they are all growing and doing very well for themselves. We are going to keep at it though, we know we are in the process of carving a space for ourselves and we are pretty happy with the attention we have been getting from the non-blogging parents on the gram...and the non-parents too!! We also have a strong group of friends who are mom bloggers and they support us and give us an extra push when we need it.
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 think blogging is becoming more multi-dimensional. People use one space to get more eyeballs on another. It also makes it possible for you to organise your topics and do different kinds of writing.
In this world of Internet, I don't think old school blogging can be truly extinct. I think it will just keep evolving. As our devices get smaller, we will probably be typing less and clicking and recording more..but why should that mean blogging should die...when all that (recording, clicking, writing) can now be brought into the umbrella of blogging. Also, marketing products, services and ideas through blogs is more economical and effective than most traditional avenues of marketing, so there seems to be some business potential here..it can become an industry in itself (is it already one?), which means there will be influences to keep this space thriving for a while longer! Another reason why it will not be extinct that fast.
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?
Yes, it is an effort to write regularly so that one day I might be able to pen a book. I will be very proud of myself if I get to wear that tag 5 years down the line. I will be even more proud if by that time I get to start some more important conversations about the issues related to parenting in India.
What tips do you have for other Indian Mom bloggers?
- Honesty is the best policy
- Don't judge or compare
- Content is king
- Don't be afraid to try new things
You can follow Archana and Abhilash here.
If you are an Indian Mom Who Blogs, follow the Times of Amma on Instagram and Facebook for more features with Indian Mom Bloggers and live interactive sessions for Aspiring Mom Bloggers.
If you are new to the world of Indian Mom Blogging, don't forget to get your copy of 'The Beginner's Guide to the Indian Mom Blogger Universe' here.
Click here for the 2016 and 2017 edition of the Mom Blogger October.