Mom groups – often a lifeline for new moms with limited support nearby – are typically populated with complaints about baby sleep, feeding woes, daycare questions and other issues that plague women in this new and confusing phase of life. While these online/offline groups certainly have their place and can offer a sense of community (or at least a sense of not being alone), they often lack conversations about other issues outside of the socially-sanctioned “mommysphere.”
Eloise Tan wanted to be part of a group that would expand on these conversations, so she created one. We chatted with her last week about Mama Stay Woke.
SDTC: What was the impetus behind starting Mama Stay Woke?
ET: I started Mama Stay Woke because I wanted to find a mom group where I could meet moms who also wanted to talk about the type of parenting stuff that’s on my mind – how to raise a feminist boy; good kids books with diverse representation that tackle social justice issues; how to teach your kids about heteronormativity. Except you can’t just turn to the mom next to you at pre-school pick up and say, “Hey, how are you talking to your kids about Canada 150 and teaching them about decolonization at the same time?” So I decided, Screw it, let’s do this. I reached out to the good folks at Tokki who have a great community space in the back of their kids’ consignment shop in the Junction. I knew they had different programs running out of there and they were happy to host my Mama Stay Woke meet-ups on Wednesday mornings.
What sets it apart from other mom groups?
I’m not saying that you’re not going to meet moms at other mom groups and end up talking about anti-Black racism and what to say to that homophobic family member at Thanksgiving. You might. But at Mama Stay Woke, you will definitely have those conversations. It’s the mom group for moms who don’t typically do mom groups. A place where you can have open, blunt conversations about navigating parenting while being woke and try to stay informed about what’s going on in the world around us.
Just because the moms that come are interested in equity, diversity and social justice doesn’t mean that we all have the same views. Some might be super committed to gender-neutral parenting, while others are not. Everyone comes with their own issues that they identify with. That’s fine because we all learn from each other.
It’s my hope that people come to a meet up and leave thinking about something they never thought about before. We tend to think about issues that specifically affect us but hey, it’s 2018 so we all need to learn about intersectionality.
What can moms expect from your meet-ups?
A meet-up looks like a bunch of moms sitting in the back of Tokki’s beautiful store with a few babes crawling around and playing with toys. Super informal, most of us sitting on the playmats, maybe someone is nursing in the rocking chair. What I love about the meet-ups is that so much of connecting while you’re a mom is done online – following mom blogs, liking Instagram posts, but this is people taking time out of their day to come and meet other moms in person to talk about things that are important to them.
Also, it’s important for me that all our meet-ups and events are free and family-friendly because I don’t think moms should have to pay not to be isolated.
What sorts of issues do you tackle in this group?
We tackle whatever issues the people who come want to talk about. I have a loose theme each week to get the conversation going, but the conversation veers inevitably, which is what I want to happen.
We talk about gender neutral clothes/toys, dealing with family members who have different parenting views, teaching kids about [other] cultures, raising mixed kids, heternormativity, raising kids in mixed-faith families, and books! Bookstores, book recommendations, book blogs…it comes up a lot. So much so that I reached out to Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles) and we’re having a special meet-up in their shop on Sunday January 21 at 10:30 a.m. where we can browse through a curated book list for kids 0-5 that focuses on the types of things we talk about in our meet-up.
Why is it important for moms to have this sort of community to gather/exchange ideas?
Just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean your brain is solely occupied with how to get your kid to sleep, where to get them healthy food, and where to send them to school. Motherhood is one dimension of me; I still have the same passions, interests and commitments that were there before and I just need a family-friendly space to express those interests.
How have you benefited personally from being part of this community?
I am so glad that I went ahead and started Mama Stay Woke. Writing posts on the Facebook and Instagram account have invigorated me and every time I get a message from someone saying, “I feel the same way!” or “I never thought about that” or “Have you heard of this book?” I think, Yes this is exactly why I started this. I am learning so much from the moms who join the online and in-person community. They push me to expand my boundaries, think about different perspectives and remind me there’s more than one way to be a woke mom.