Mums on the run
Parenthood, if you are new to it, can be a challenging time... Discuss this article
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You’ve just given birth, moved to a country you have never set foot in before and been given the responsibility of transforming a screaming baby into a well-rounded and successful adult. What do you do?
Claire Willats, the co-founder of Mums in Bahrain, could point you in the right direction. Having arrived on the island late in 2008, rather than panicking at the lack of information available, passing her child off to a nanny and having a nervous breakdown, Claire took a rather different, more proactive approach. ‘I found a few groups through accosting other parents I saw in supermarkets and shopping malls and asking them where they took their children. Fortunately they were kind enough to point me in the right direction. But when I got to these groups it was an absolute horror: no street names, no maps, no names, and when I got there I found it was either Arab groups or European groups and nothing in between and I felt uncomfortable with that.’
So she took it upon herself to become an expert in parental resources in Bahrain. She taught herself basic web design and set up a website that ran to three pages of text. After three months it had received 25,000 hits. The hunger for information was obvious. ‘And then in January I bumped into Ghada Salem who is a technical whizz at playgroup, and she was able to properly do the website.’ The two teamed together, revolutionised the website and have become one of the Gulf’s leading parental site.
Today mumsinbahrain.com gets on average 15,000 hits each month, has 5,000 members in Bahrain, and is the only site of its kind to be dual language, English and Arabic. What began as a service to Bahraini parents has become a successful business and after a year is already turning a profit. ‘We never set this up to make money, it is not what we are about at all, but it does mean that we can cover our costs and make a little bit on top.’
While membership is completely free, Mums In Bahrain carries out marketing for companies that are keen to tap into the lucrative Bahraini mother market, by holding events for parents and children they think their membership base might be interested in. ‘The attendance rate is much higher when it comes from Mums in Bahrain because they know us, they know that we will have vetted the place, they know that there will be no mystery charge, and for the mums that are either nervous or perhaps a little stricter about what they do and don’t do with their children, they know that they can come to our house and go with us to the event.’
The core of the business, however, remains the sharing of information that makes life easier for parents. ‘The best thing about us is that you join a community and a very supportive network of families, and you get information from people who have lived here for a long time.’ The information doesn’t just run to where to find the best nappies and how to get a dependable nanny. ‘We have professionals at home with their children, and there is very little part time work here. So there are mums that are doctors, journalists, solicitors all sitting at home doing nothing. They are kind enough to volunteer for us, to write articles and do scientific research, and so instead of going to a paediatrician, for example, you can go online to another mother who lives in the next block who happens to be a surgeon.’
Claire receives on average 100 emails a week from desperate parents, and not just mothers. ‘We have a lot of male members, and I sometimes get husbands emailing me saying, “What on earth is wrong with my wife this week?” or “My wife has gone to visit her sick mother and the kids are driving me insane, what do I do?” You tend to get stranger questions from the fathers.’
The website has been so successful, Claire and Ghada recently set up Mums in Doha and own the domain names for seven other countries in the Gulf. ‘The reason we are so successful is because mothers know us personally and they see us every week. The bottom line is we are all exactly the same, we all have the same worries about our kids and our families and our nanny.’ Indeed, we all, at some time or another, want to know what on earth is wrong with our wife.
Mums in Bahrain can help with most parental panics, and run a packed schedule of social events and trials in Bahrain for fathers, mothers and children. Best of all, membership and events are absolutely free. For more information, visit www.mumsinbahrain.net.
Time Out Bahrain,
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