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If you are a mom living in Mumbai or Navi Mumbai, there are high chances that you are a part of one of the 24 JAMM (Journey about Mast Moms) WhatsApp groups. It is the only mom support group that has organically grown to a strength of 6000 moms. I am a part of three different JAMM WhatsApp groups and can vouch that it totally stands by the mantra 'a no nonsense & complete Momsense' support group. It is one group that you sign up with for anything mommy related. You will not be bombarded with useless forwards, random messages wishing you good mornings or good nights, nor is it a place where you will find entrepreneurs trying to sell their products. Also, the interaction timing is strictly 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. with no activity on Sundays now who wouldn't love to be a part of such a clear-cut group!
And the mastermind behind it? Ritu Gorai, a vivacious woman who is driven by the thought that 'if you can't do great things, do small things in a great way -- Napolean Hill'. She holds a degree in business management and has worked extensively as a soft skills instructor. She is also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and was a part of Shiamak Davar's troop at a very young age. Having decided that she would focus only on her child for the first five years, she quit working when her daughter, Sara, was born in the year 2010. In a conversation with her, she spoke about how she started JAMM and why issues related to parenting are so close to her heart.
How did you start JAMM and how did it grow?
I started the first JAMM Whatsapp group in 2014 with just 25 moms, who were either relatives or friends. Since the beginning, our agenda was clear the group was strictly for mommy talk. We discussed study issues, hobby classes, activities and issues one faces with kids. No forwards, no gossip or online selling was allowed in the group. Gradually, the members started adding more and more like-minded moms who wanted to be part of such a no-nonsense group. And that is how we organically grew to 6000 mommies connected through various JAMM groups and a secret Facebook group. We do not have any vision or mission as such, but just wish to facilitate informed parenting. All we ask from the members is to maintain the etiquettes of interacting in the group.
There are 24 groups, and you have different themes for each day of the week. Not to mention, all the content moderating that goes into these groups. How much time do you dedicate to curating all the content?
Surprisingly, not much! I do not use wi-fi at home and use a limited amount of data on my phone. I have a strict policy of not having any screen time when my daughter is around. She's in school from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., so that's the only time I catch up with what's going on online and also attend to my other engagements and meetings. The JAMM admin team has 13 other moms, and between us, we take care of whatever's needed to be done, without compromising on our personal lives. Having quality family and personal time is very important for me.
Why are the issues related to parenting, especially motherhood, so close to your heart?
I firmly believe that moms are the crux of a family. Whether a stay at home mom or a working mom, there is a lot to achieve for us and we tend to get overwhelmed at times. It is nice to have a place to vent out your frustration, air your views and share your problems with like-minded women who can help you out and understand you. Of late, with such exposure to all sorts of information and wisdom, parenting has become a competition to mould your child 'perfectly'. Through these groups, I aim to promote focussed and invested parenting, without pressurising yourself or your children. That's why we have categorised the groups based on the child's age.
Another thing I firmly believe in is that between all the hullaballoo of family life and commitments, moms need to make time for themselves. That's why the groups based on interests and hobbies. Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in neighbourhoods where we find like-minded people, and JAMM whatsapp groups aim at bridging that gap. Apart from the online activities, we have meet-ups and workshops offline too where moms can interact and share ideas. Moms get so lost in developing and helping others that sometimes they lose their own identities I strongly believe that one needs to keep upgrading and exploring themselves.
JAMM's is also involved in many social initiatives, please elaborate on that.
We organise regular workshops -- complimentary and paid -- on myriad topics ranging from cooking, dancing to understanding your rights and self-defence. We also have had workshops on finance, where we help the participants understand how to manage their money and also hone their entrepreneurial streak. The idea is to help mothers connect, de-stress and learn new skills.
Here's the number one question -- any tips for mommies to improve their game?
Understand that parenting and raising a child is not a competition about which child learns the poem first and who is a gifted artist. It is an enriching experience, so make it a pleasant one. Do not take shortcuts -- don't let your child be glued to tablets and smartphones. Take them to parks, take them to a circus, museum, a beach or even to a nursey so they can marvel at the plants and flowers. Read with them and weave stories. No gadget, toy or gift can ever teach your child what two hours of quality time with you can. Do not bow down to the pressure of being perfect. Be attentive to your child. Teach them the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Help them enhance their social skills and manners -- these are the things you child will thank you forever.
Whoever is interested in joining JAMM's WhatsApp group (I wonder why you haven't already!), ask your mommy friends, one or the other is bound to be there!
Image source: Ritu Gorai
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