By Shravani Prakash, First published on YourStory
I realise that my grandma’s life as a mother was nothing less than heroic if I compare it with my life as a “Digi-Mom”! It is quite agonising to hear her anecdotes of cooking four meals on a firewood stove for her family of seven, while also managing cumbersome daily chores like manually doing all the laundry and shopping for groceries twice a day. She also had to routinely hand-stitch everything from underwear to clothes to bedsheets. On top of that she hardly got a break from nursing babies for several years at a stretch, and didn’t really have the resources or information to focus on her own health and nourishment.
Obviously, she, and all other women of her generation, had no spare time in their day. Which is why building a career, following a vocation or just doing anything much outside of the house weren’t ever even a possibility.
Innovations in technology have, therefore, especially been a boon for us modern, educated and high-aspiration mothers. That’s something I realised after becoming a mother myself, when I stopped taking for granted even my gas stove, fridge, microwave and washing machine! It is only because of these electronic gadgets and the new-age digital technologies that we can today aspire to be “superwomen”, “multi-taskers”, working moms, “mompreneurs” – or even just happy mothers.
That’s the thought that inspired our research team on The Happy Mom Project to dig deeper into the ways by which technology has been benefitting mothers and what kind of future innovations could prevent motherhood from becoming an obstacle to fulfilment of women’s aspirations.
Highlighted here are some of the most interesting facts we noted from the interactions we’ve been having with mothers from around the country.
Some ways by which modern technology is contributing to making mothers happy
- Technology is an effective an antidote to patriarchal ways of living!
This, for me is the best set of findings from our research. Consider these facts:
- In instances where women reported that the family uses online grocery apps to get supplies home-delivered, we found that women also reported spending less than average hours per week on grocery-shopping AND on housework in general, while the men in those households report spending more time on these. Implying that technology adoption can potentially bridge that huge gap in “unpaid work” between men and women!
- This is reinforced by another piece of data – in some “low-tech” middle-class households where there is a conscious decision to not even own a fridge or microwave to make sure the family only consumes fresh food or not have a washing machine so as to ensure good quality of the laundry (Yes, these things do happen!), the women report spending a lot more time on housework while men spend a lot less time on the same.
- We found several to-be fathers and new dads are active users of pregnancy-tracking apps and parenting forums, and many of them reported feeling grateful to the information they get from these sources. This shows that thanks to the tech-enabled support, men are finally “able” to get involved in childcare and in supporting the mothers during a challenging period.
- Many fathers report helping out with the kids’ homework or joining the family at dinner via video calls even when travelling or working late!
- Technology provides great psychological support to new mothers
Social networks as well as parenting apps and forums have helped new and nursing mothers find a way out of the social exclusion and helplessness they tend to experience, particularly during the initial weeks when infants are solely dependent on them. By using these apps, new mothers report-
- feeling less lonely and “alone in the world”, because they get a channel to express feelings, network with women in similar situations and openly discuss intimate issues
- improving their confidence as a mother thanks to the ready access to information and guidance
- feeling less stressed about breastfeeding, which often feels like a burdensome task
- better dealing with post-natal depression
- Technology reduces moments that trigger the “working mothers’ guilt pangs”
Digital communication technologies have not only facilitated mothers to work-from-home when need but seem to have amazing spill over benefits for working mothers:
- Getting regular updates from schools about the kids via apps and email as well as being on WhatsApp groups with other mothers prevents working mothers from feeling “left out”, even if they miss out on the “bus-stop conversations” or miss a few school events
- Watching CCTV feeds from daycares and preschools while sitting in office greatly reduces mothers’ feeling of missing out on “moments” in the child’s growth
- Connecting with the kids on video calls from the workplace or when traveling out of town greatly diminishes the mothers’ chances of feeling disconnected or “not there for the child”.
- Technology acts as the bridge to get out of the “motherhood bubble”
Technology helps women when they need to be more than ‘just’ a mother –
- They highly value the online and digital channels that help them get information about available resources, read stories of role models and network with peers – on issues related to taking career breaks or restarting, freelancing and work-from-home options, starting a business or regarding general professional-personal dilemmas.
- Both working and stay-home mothers feel a boost in their confidence when they can remain updated about current affairs in their limited time (thanks to the mobile phone), especially because they often fret about not getting time to read the newspaper or watch the news.
- Mothers also feel happy that they can share and receive updates with their extended family and friends via social media and WhatsApp, even if they have no time for phone calls or social visits– especially with their own parents who many women feel guilty about paying less attention to.
What tech-innovations do mothers wish for in the future?
- A personal Robot: Several working and stay-home mothers dream of having an obedient and intelligent robot that could be a “wife” to them! They especially want robots to help with keeping the house clean but a nanny who never takes an off-day would be perfect!
- Clones: New moms want a couple of clones who can take turns to breastfeed, stay up at nights, and change diapers – so that they can get to sleep a little more! Working mothers want one clone who can be with the family while they go to work, guiltfree.
- Shopping assistants: Moms now want “relationship managers” to help with shopping for groceries and other essentials! They want someone else to keep track of what’s to be bought, to search around for in-stock items, convenient delivery slots or the best-priced products.
- De-guilt technology: like a device that can auto-release the happiness hormones into the body, just when needed. Or a happiness/ anti-guilt vaccine to be injected into every new mom!
- Tech to make the husbands more efficient: women feel that even if husbands “want” to help out, they can’t do much because it’s just not in their DNA! So, moms have demands like a Father’s self-help app that can step-by-step guide them on housework and childcare. Or a chip that women can insert into the men and remote control them!
- Better pumping tech: breastfeeding mothers want more efficient breast pumps and also more affordable ones. They also want renting and sharing to become easier. But they also want something that helps them “feel good” when they have to pump in unconducive places like office bathrooms.
- Virtual consultations with doctors: on-demand, video consultations with doctors, anytime they want, to consult on those minor ailments for which they have to wait hours at doctors’ clinics.
- A life assistant app: a helpline that understands their moods and requirements at every moment, and automatically intervenes with right solutions just when needed – because moms often just brush their issues under the carpet and don’t even seek help when needed.
- Faster reach of technology to smaller towns: the demands of mothers in smaller towns are simpler. They just want to remain updated with the latest technology and wish that the conveniences and tech-enabled services available in bigger cities (especially ones advertised on TV and social media) get offered in their city as well, and at the same quality levels.
Some of these wishes might be fantasies but there are a lot of ideas that innovative businesses wishing to cater to this consumer segment could cash in on.
What I do see is that the exponential growth in technology, which has already brought unfathomable changes to life of women if compared our grandmothers’ generations, has the highest potential to change the mindsets and remedy the challenges that currently pose barriers to a happy and guilt-free motherhood.