Saturday, 7 May 2016

Ruchita Dar Shah - Founder, First Mom's Club

Today on Mother’s Day one thought comes to mind “God couldn’t be everywhere, so he created mother” and similarly “Google couldn’t give answers to our specific problems, so Ruchita created First Mom Club” Today most of the mom’s across the world are aware of FMC group on Facebook and Ruchita Dar Shah, Chief Mommy Office created this community where like-minded mommies came together and shared their experiences about motherhood and help new mothers who were grappling with the concept of motherhood. Recently we got in conversation with Ruchita and she shared her thoughts and future plans for FMC

Tell us about yourself, your family: education and experience
I grew up in Mumbai, went to Xavier’s and Sophia Polytechnic. In my first avatar, I was an advertising professional, married to a banker (now ex-banker but still current husband!). I worked with agencies such as Preeti Vyas Giannetti, RK Swamy BBDO and Mudra on brands like Sony, HBO, Nestle, Dabur, Aditya Birla Group and The Taj. Two kids, three countries, and four cities later, I finally found work-life balance as I began freelancing as a graphic designer. Around the same time, in 2010 I founded First Moms Club.

Today First Mom Club connects so many woman and it is a totally unique concept, what motivated you to start this forum on Moms?
Initially I started First Moms Club (FMC) to connect with my girlfriends. Facebook allowed us to share our experiences after having become mothers. Some continued with their careers, while some others became stay-at-home moms. While we were different in many ways – be it our education, our career choices, where in the world we lived, the one thing common to all of us was that we were also grappling with this thing called motherhood and needed to reach out and figure it out together without worrying about being judged or being labeled ‘not good enough’.

Over the years, my friends invited their friends who then invited other like-minded women onto the group and slowly but surely, we’re now a 50,000+ strong community connecting on our various social media platforms like the FMC FB Page, FB Group, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest , Website and now the latest baby our own mobile app, which will be our main focus and at the centre of all our future efforts.

Seeing mothers connecting and communicating with one another from all over the world is very rewarding, because this is why it was created to begin with.
Ruchita with her kids
Today there are so many groups on FB and some of them are running these as business so how do you manage to keep the integrity alive of the group without getting distracted for quick short term gains.
The biggest challenge and I dare say opportunity for FMC and platforms like it is to ensure the essence and relevance of the community is maintained even as it scales. It’s a lot easier to be useful and meaningful for 1000 members, it’s quite another to be so, without quality dilution for 50,000 and beyond. You see several examples of large brands that weren’t able to go beyond the basic mentality of selling more of their product and therefore despite putting plenty of resources behind their efforts, weren’t able to build communities that are meaningful. Staying true to why I started it in the first place whilst still growing it is the biggest challenge but also FMC’s USP!

FMC has been built and grown organically. While most websites or platforms address only parenting concerns, FMC is completely dedicated to the woman behind the mother, who is often forgotten in this rollercoaster journey called Motherhood. As against most parenting sites or expert pages, FMC is powered by us mommy members ourselves. It’s not a one-way ‘gyan’ giving platform, but one where every woman/mom can voice her opinion and bond over common issues. It’s almost like each mom has a megaphone in her hand and she is not afraid to voice her opinion on this platform. FMC members on our App have to adhere to certain rules, that they are reminded about every now and then, like no advertising their personal businesses, no posting 'Cute Baby Contests', no posting personal photos, or sharing their numbers or email IDs on the community, and most importantly, strictly no judging or demeaning another mother, therefore, I keep a constant eye on conversation threads.

This is so that FMC continues to remain meaningful as it was in its early days and yet is a space for moms to hang out.

How difficult is it to manage an online community where people post their comments etc. anytime during the day including odd hours? And how do you manage to filter contents which are against the group's rules?
Over the years, FMC’s core goal that is to ensure its members have a non-judgmental, meaningful platform to share with and help each other lead more fulfilling lives has been imbibed as a sort of code. While there are always exceptions FMC’s blessed to have fellow mommies like myself who highlight anything out of whack and so I’d say it’s mostly self regulated along with a healthy dose of vigilance from myself. To make things easier we’ve moved all group conversations to the App while the FB group is now only for announcements from FMC. Within the App, members can either post like they do on FB or have an option to do so anonymously for more sensitive issues.

How do you strike a balance between your work life and personal life considering FMC is 24*7 job?
I think just like every other person on this planet wants to achieve this balance, I too want to achieve it but I am not sure I am very good at it. I think some days I am successful and some days I am not. I work from home and FMC doesn’t require me to travel often. So it’s not very stressful and I am always there for my family. Though there are several occasions where I miss out on catching up with friends and extended family, I continuously trade off one thing for another. I guess I’m no different from any man or woman focused on building something.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?
It’s almost like my day never ends. FMC, with all its members across all its social media platforms is always buzzing with activity and I like to be involved. Doodling, swimming with my kids, cuddling and troubling them, reading and chatting on the phone with friends
Ruchita with her kids
What is that one advice you would like to give to all the working women and especially working moms?
Motherhood is a wonderful thing. It’s also a very difficult role to play. To borrow from my FMC introduction on the group “I’ve found that even the toughest of challenges can be fun if handled with a sense of humour and an ability to laugh at oneself. After all, motherhood is tough enough without having to take it more seriously than necessary.

While there are several things that come to mind, the one thing that I would highlight here is that motherhood truly opens up a whole bunch of opportunities. It’s a great time to rethink and reboot.

In India since many of us have strong support systems at home, it’s a great opportunity to do what you really love and not what others expect you to do. I know several women who used this opportunity (having had time off when they had children) to branch out into something altogether different from what they were doing before they had kids and ended up being a lot happier and far more successful than they were likely to have been doing jobs they started out with, given the new opportunity and circumstances. Many of us find ourselves in jobs that we may or may not be thrilled doing. Motherhood is a great reason for us to relook at our priorities and our lives.

Get your family on board. Do make sure they understand that it’s one for the long haul and they need to be your allies in this. More than just flexi hours, what I’ve learnt from most women like myself is the need for families to understand that your work is no less important than the husband’s and it’s really no big deal if both partners ‘share the load’.

Lastly, make sure you choose something you love doing. Having fun is an important part of work, especially if you are starting up and it will require many many hours of your day and loads of setbacks along the way.

Ruchita with her family