Here’s introducing Host #2 for our July 2018. But before that, if you haven’t met Host #1, check out Anjana from The Lazy Parent and her interview, here.
If you are new, Life of Real Moms is a fortnight long, prompt based Photo Challenge that happens every month on Instagram with the objective of building a community, and you can read all about how it started and how you can play along, by clicking here. As a part of this challenge, every month two or more Insta-Moms will bring to you a lovely theme-based photo contest with exciting prizes and fun games.
Ans now, let’s say hello to
Mahak is a full-time mom, part-time Consultant and leisure-time writer. She has chronicled the first 2 years of her parenting escapades in her book “Diary of a Baby” and shares snapshots of her manic life as a toddler-mom on her blog babyandbeyond.in.
Let’s get to know Mahak little better.
Tell us all about Baby & Beyond and how it began. What inspired you to start blogging?
Mahak says, “Way back in 2014, I was attending a Digital Marketing conference and had an hour to kill. With nothing better to do, I ended up entering a Speed Blogging Contest (we had to publish 5 blog posts and 5 social media posts in 90 minutes, a new prompt was given approximately every 9 minutes). Much to my surprise, I ended up winning the contest and getting quite a few encouraging comments on my posts. That planted a tiny seed in my mind about taking up blogging seriously.
I didn’t entertain that thought again till 2016 when I quit my full-time job after becoming a mother. The initial few months of motherhood were very isolating for me, spending most of my time alone with my baby and not really stepping out and meeting anyone. It struck me that there must be other moms out there feeling the same way. I felt the need to write as a medium to communicate and reach out to them and ended up starting a blog. I owe it all to that random unplanned event 4 years ago, and to the encouragement from my husband and sister. The name “Baby & Beyond” was my sister’s idea by the way!
What many people don’t know is that I was also running a business by the same name – a marketplace for vendors selling baby products. Once the blog took off, I had to choose between the business and the blog (since I also work part-time). Since I was really enjoying writing and connecting with other moms with my writing, I decided to close the business and take up blogging professionally.”
You’ve successfully participated in various blogging challenges – Write Tribe’s “Festival of Words” and Blogchatter’s “My Friend Alexa” in 2017 and then Blogchatter’s “A-Z” in April this year. How do you keep yourself motivated to write? And how do you balance work, blog, and baby?
Mahak says, “I work part-time – 4 hours in the morning when my son goes to daycare. My evenings are dedicated to spending quality time with him. In the afternoon when he naps and after he goes to sleep at night is when I spend time on my blog.
Although having said that, writing is a creative process and it is difficult to set a fixed schedule to when inspiration will strike. I rely heavily on Google Docs. So whenever I get an idea, I quickly make a note of it in a document on my phone. Then I can use my scheduled writing time to refine and work on that idea. I also use this time to update and engage on social media.
I have found that blogging challenges are a great way to bring some discipline and fun into blogging. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? The discipline comes from having to maintain a regular schedule and committing to writing a fixed number of posts per week. The fun comes from the interesting prompts which challenge you to think outside your comfort zone. I have written my first fictional short story, my first poem, and my first book, all as part of a writing challenge.
Writing can be a lonely process. When you participate in challenges like these, you become a part of a community where you support, cheer and understand each other and together work towards your individual goals. That is the best part of any writing challenge for me.”
Speaking of successful challenges, your entries from the A-Z challenge are now an E-book! Tell us more about that.
Mahak says, “Yes! I still find it hard to believe at times, but I am a published author now! My book is a culmination of 26 posts I had written as part of the Blogchatter A to Z Challenge. It is called “Diary of a Baby – Candid confessions of a baby from 0 to 2 years” (Click the link to view and dowbload the e-book) and is all about looking at life from the eyes of a baby. I am sure as new parents, at some point or the other we have all wondered what exactly is going on inside our baby’s mind. What must the baby really be thinking about during all those colicky nights, teething, crawling for the first time, first day of playschool etc.?
In my book, I have tried to present a candid and witty take on life from a baby’s perspective written in the form of diary entries. Each entry is followed by an interpretation of that phase of the baby’s life with anecdotes from my own parenting experiences.
My book is honest and from-the-heart, sharing my own experiences as a mother. The response has been overwhelming. We crossed 600 downloads in just 10 days and it is currently rated 4.8 on Goodreads. I am really touched to know that so many parents out there could resonate with my experiences as a mother.”
Last year you hosted a fitness challenge called “Kickstart Fitness with Baby & Beyond”. Tell us about it all came about. What was the biggest takeaway from the experience – yours and the participants’?
Mahak says, “It all started when my son was about 20 months old. I had taken him out on his new cycle while I was running behind him and in 15 minutes, I was completely out of breath and dizzy. This was a real eye opener for me. At that point, I was probably at the worst fitness level I had been at in my entire life.
I had practiced yoga for 3 years before I conceived and all through my pregnancy as well, but after my baby was born, I had completely let myself go. Though I had lost all my pregnancy weight, I was always lethargic, low on strength and stamina. I couldn’t even keep up with a 1 year old. I knew I had to get my health back for the sake of my son and for myself.
Just as with blogging goals, I thought the best way to achieve my fitness goals would be to do it along with my tribe. I put up a poll on my Instagram asking moms if they would be interested in a month-long fitness challenge in which we would all commit to a personal goal and help each other stick to the plan. The response was overwhelmingly positive and that’s how the #kickstartfitnesswithbandb challenge came about. Every participant committed to a goal as simple as going for a walk thrice a week, practicing yoga for at least 30 minutes a day, mastering the headstand, or eating clean every day for a month.
Each Friday we posted about how our week had gone, our achievements and the challenges we faced and together the community helped each other overcome these challenges and stay motivated and on track (the prizes from our generous sponsors helped with the motivation too 😉 )
It was truly empowering and I was blown away by the results. Other than dropping weight and dress sizes (which are just numbers in my opinion), we had participants coming back with improved health, stamina, self-confidence and body image. The highlight for me was was when one of the participants who is diabetic and had been on insulin for 4 years, was able to keep her sugar levels in check thanks to regular exercise and clean eating.
We were all moms of different ages, from across the country, never having met each other, with different goals for ourselves. Yet together we were able help each other get there. The biggest takeaway from whole experience was that when we moms stand together and support each other, there is nothing we cannot achieve!”
You often share about the activities you do with Baby N. They seem to be so creative and yet so easy to organise. Tell us a little bit more about these activities?
Mahak says, “If you are a toddler parent, I’m sure you will agree that one of the biggest challenges we have daily is keeping our kids constructively engaged. Toddlers have a short attention span and get easily distracted. Unstructured play is great, but they also need some structured activities to be able to focus and put all that energy to productive use.
I am not a very DIY person myself. I spend hours scrolling through Pinterest looking at post after post of perfectly executed activities, but when it comes to me, I find that the time required for me to plan and prepare the activity is far more than the time my restless toddler spends in doing the activity itself. So instead I prefer to keep it simple. I look for everyday objects that can be fun and also provide learning and skills development – clothespins, ribbons, old envelopes and magazines. Even just cubes of ice can be so much fun while aiding sensory and fine motor development.
You can follow the hashtag #babyandbeyondin_activities on Instagram where I share simple, skill-based activities that you can do easily at home with little to no pre-planning.”
Is there anything you miss from your life before you became a mom?
Mahak says, “Oh so many things! Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom more than anything else and this is the best phase of my life so far. But it’s the little things I miss. Being able to have a nice warm cup of tea in a single go while lazing around in my favourite armchair reading a book or watching the rain outside. Or being spontaneous – going out to dinner just because we feel like going out, without having to worry about whether should we take our son along or not, will it interfere with his sleep schedule, will it be too loud, will they have something for him to eat, who will look after him if we leave him behind, and on and on it goes.
Probably the thing I miss most is the “us” time I had with my husband. We rarely get any time for just the two of us anymore and even when we do, every conversation inevitably revolves around our son. I think once you become parents, it is really hard to let that aspect of your life out of your mind even for a little while and just be a couple.”
If there was one thing you could change about your motherhood journey or one thing you wish you could have done differently, what would it be?
Mahak says, “Well it’s not easy to admit this, but I guess acceptance is the first step towards making amends. During the first year of motherhood, I was very attached to labels. I had to be the “exclusively breastfeeding mom”, the “cloth-diapering mom”, the “gentle parenting mom”, the “working mom”, the “never-offering-processed-food mom”. I guess there is a lot of pressure on new moms and I succumbed to it. It was all black and white for me. I just had to fit into each label and I was really hard on myself and others around me who tried to help me.
If I could, I would like to go back and tell myself that it is really ok to be the “sometimes bottle-feeding mom” or the “partially disposable-diapering mom” or the “occasionally sharing-a-cookie-with-her-kid mom” or the “once-in-a-way losing her s*** mom”. Once I starting accepting the greys, I could really loosen up and enjoy the motherhood experience.”
How has connecting with other people on social media been for you (moms in particular)? Would you recommend it to others? Why? Or why not?
Mahak says, “I think it was one of the biggest reasons I managed to stay sane in the first year of motherhood and I whole-heartedly recommend it to every new mom. As I mentioned, connecting with other moms was the driving factor for me to start my blog too.
One of the first things I realized as a new mom was that motherhood can be lonely. Of course, I have a really strong support system in my family and they are always there for me. But as a new mom, my interactions outside home and family had come to a complete halt. I felt disconnected from the outside world. Connecting with other moms who were going through the same phase as I was made me feel like I wasn’t alone. This is truly the power of the “social” in “social media”.
These moms I have met on social media (and never even met in person) have become my lifeline for all my small and big parenting concerns. Of course these days you can get every answer by just Googling, but on all those tough initial days and nights, it is was so much more therapeutic for me to interact with real people and have real conversations; real moms who had faced the same situations before, who could resonate with me through my ups and downs of motherhood.
And it is not just about parenting, mind you. We discuss everything from family, friendships, work, hobbies, all of life’s highs and lows. We celebrate each other’s successes, lend a shoulder to cry on or an ear if someone just needs to rant. These are friendships I will value for life.”
How do you manage to keep it real when you look at others’ seemingly perfect lives on Instagram?
Mahak says, “You have to remember one thing – Instagram is a visual medium. What works is what looks visually appealing. Everyone (myself included) wants to show their best side on social media. You need to take whatever you see with a grain of salt. Know that behind every perfect photo, there are probably a dozen more in which the lighting, the angle, the expressions, the background or the poses were not flattering enough to be shared on Instagram. In the picture-perfect house, there is probably a corner where all the clutter has been temporarily pushed into just before clicking the picture.
Having said that, I don’t do staged photos. That is just not me. What you see is what it is. If my room is cluttered or my hair is messy or I am still in pajamas at mid-day, you will see that in my photos because that is honest mom life. In fact I have noticed that my posts that have done the best in terms of statistics are those in which I shared my honest motherhood experience – the time I faced epidural-shaming, the time I was simultaneously nursing, pumping and cleaning up the house or the time I dropped my kid to school in my pajamas without even slippers on because it was just one of those crazy days. It just goes to show that people are in fact looking beyond the glamorous pictures and looking for real, honest stories that they can relate to.”
If someone were to visit your blog for the first time, what would you like them to read first?
Mahak says, “I’d love it if you could start with these:
- Toddler Activities: 8 Things I Do With My Toddler Every Day (and every busy mom can too!)
- Dealing with a Toddler Tantrum Gently- One Tip that is Actually Working for Me
- Boss Baby! – Diary of a 2 Weeks Old BabyBoss Baby! – Diary of a 2 Weeks Old Baby
Thank you for taking the time out to do this, Mahak. It’s so good to get to know you a little better! We are so happy to have you as a part of the LORM family.
Details of LORM July 2018 will be up soon on LORM’s Instagram! But not before we introduce you to two more hosts! Stay tuned.
for Life of Real Moms