💬Outside of family, who does a young mother seek out for support?

Ahana Kumar, a new mother, talks about the role played by her social media family in helping take care of her newborn.

💬Outside of family, who does a young mother seek out for support?

Written by: Tarushi Mohan

New mother to a 3 month old, Ahana Kumar* takes care of her baby without a nanny, relying on her online community for support. Previously working in Bangalore, she moved to Pune (where her family is) for the delivery and post-delivery period. Ahana and her husband divide chores and want to take care of the baby themselves until they have no choice but to get additional help.

Get to know Ahana:
- Works in Bangalore
- Aged between 30 - 39 years
- Lives in a nuclear family

Since she had an easy pregnancy, Ahana decided to not get any help and work till she was almost 8 months along. “I was working, so I used to go to office from 9 to 7 every day. So this routine was till, I started 8 months and then I really went on maternity leave.” A hands-on mother, she wakes up early every morning to take care of her baby, assisted by her husband who is also on paternity leave.

At around 6am every morning, she wakes up and starts her day with breastfeeding and cleaning up her baby. She asks her mother or grandmother in case she has any questions and then proceeds to look up her two WhatsApp groups that are dedicated to new mothers.

WhatsApp for advice

One of the groups is made up of office colleagues who are also mothers. “We keep sharing because offices make 8-9 hours … almost a day we spend together, right? We keep helping each other.” Ahana has formed a bond with these women. Even though she is currently in Pune and her support group is in Bangalore (where she worked), they are constantly connected via WhatsApp.

In addition to her work group, Ahana is also involved in her doctor-led WhatsApp group and another community of new mothers which she came across on Facebook.

“Facebook and also newspaper for the pregnancy sessions...they gave the ID and, I went and logged in.” is how she found them. Since she does not have family elders for immediate support, she has been Googling her way through pregnancy since her early months. “On Facebook, I see events in Bangalore and Pune. They just pop up...events and all. I am part of events on FB groups like Bangalore Women's Power...we keep getting notifications.” She even attended a walk-in seminar on labor pains, in Pune, found simply through a newspaper ad.

After feeding and putting her baby to sleep, Ahana logs into her various groups and posts all her questions around breast-feeding, how to hold the baby into position, how to get the baby to latch on etc. Her groups do not disappoint and soon enough they’re buzzing with responses and suggestions from fellow mothers.

WhatsApp to find a nanny

After many busy mornings taking care of her baby and afternoons spent planning his schedule, Ahana has come to realize she has no time left for herself.

“Yeah, I don’t have a mother-in-law, and I do everything alone, so no time for me at all. Life is too busy and hectic. Now I am on maternity leave, so I still have 2 months leave.”

She eventually needs to get back to work and before that she needs to find and train a nanny who she can trust to leave her new-born baby with. She wants someone who can listen to her and be patient with her baby, along with helping her with tiny household chores as well. She remembers the first nanny she tried out but somehow didn’t work. The previous one would only do baby work and could not provide the additional support that Ahana needs, so this time she is a lot pickier.

Even while picking out a nanny, she relies on online references and her doctor’s WhatsApp group is where she is able to find most of them. In fact she posted her baby’s picture on the group and received a few references which she is going to try out. Coming from her doctor’s group, she feels a sense of the reference being more “vetted” and reliable, as compared to references from an agency (which, she feels, is too expensive a route to take).

Keen on exploring all the insights from this study? Find the data packet with 7 interviews here

Her FB group is for emotional support

At some point of time in her day though, the fatigue and frustration starts to set in. Her child is spitting out food and doesn’t like the khichdi being fed to him. These are the moments when Ahana starts feeling the void of having a family elder or a full-time nanny around the house. On some occasions she calls her grandmother while doubling down on her search for a good nanny.

These are the days when she relies on her Facebook group for emotional support. Her doctor-led WhatsApp group is too noisy for this. It is abuzz with women posing questions to each other and the doctor at hand but no one is really talking about the emotional toll of motherhood … and Ahana does not want to be the first one to mention that.

“Yes, because I was all alone, and the depression came. On the doctor's group I didn't post anything about the frustration, but in the FB group yes,”

She finds it easier to share her feelings on the Facebook group because she can simply vent while scrolling through and there will be other women who she might not know personally but who will relate to her and sympathize. Even though she vents to her husband on the “really bad” days, she still feels the absence of an actual outlet for her emotions.

For Ahana then, the journey of motherhood is propped by a bricolage of online and offline support systems. Each one is a vulnerable experiment demanding time and energy from a mother already doing too much. The solace lies in the fact that these outlets now exist - outside of the support network traditionally provided by family alone - for women like Ahana to discover motherhood on their own terms.

*We anonymize participant names to protect their identities and encourage more honest dialogue.