As parents we are our children’s first teachers. The moment they are born we are gifted the responsibility of teaching them everything from how to get into a healthy sleep cycle and how to eat with a spoon, to eventually throwing a ball or colouring in and being good human beings. As our children grow the demands on us as parents increase and our responsibilities increase exponentially too. Being a parent can be daunting and the unique challenges grow more difficult to navigate, particularly in a rapidly changing world.
Of course, parenting is also one of the greatest joys in life. Watching your child flourish and thrive must be one of the most rewarding experiences, but it takes a great deal of commitment and commitment takes time. The sad reality is time is a commodity most parents have in precious little supply these days.
Creating a community
So how do parents discover the tricks of the ‘parenting trade’, whilst collaborating with like-minded people? Where do they find answers to difficult questions or support when they feel stressed and alone, without stepping out of their already stretched comfort zones? Virtual events and parenting platforms provide a safe space to come together and connect to a community – and experience tells us that there is great comfort in community. In the past the only way to connect with a community meant physically going somewhere, which is not always practical or possible with small children, particularly babies and toddlers. Nobody enjoys toddler wrangling midway through a very public meltdown.
Similarly, while colic may not have changed in 100 years, the resources to deal with it and other common child-related issues have improved dramatically due to advances in technology, making information and support easily accessible. The downside of all this information that is available online is that it can be overwhelming to decipher without expert input in real time, so having the option of speaking to someone, bouncing ideas and questions off them in a virtual space provides greater clarity and comfort to stressed parents.
A new approach
There are also some challenges parents are faced with today which simply did not exist in past generations. Topics such as gender identification, navigating social media and online safety for kids or support for special needs parents, can all be covered in a virtual community space by experts in their field. So often, access to experts is a devastating limitation parents are faced with whether it be for financial or geographical reasons. Sadly, most parents have at some point in their parenting journey been faced with a problem and are unable to get the help they desperately need. Virtual events address an urgent and widespread need globally and by their very nature, break down the barriers which are presented by in-person events simply because they not limited by geography.
To illustrate this, at this year’s 2022 BabyYumYum.co.za Virtual Parenting Experience during one of our expert-led sessions, we had over 10 000 parents online at one time from around the world, which beat our 2021 record. Whilst our core audience compromised of our SA community, we had parents log in from Finland to Australia and the US. If that is not an indication of the value of the online stage, then I don’t know what is.
The quality of speakers participating in such an event is also vastly improved because the need to travel is removed, meaning speakers who were cost prohibitive in the past, are now less costly to engage for events because they can allocate 30 minutes in their diary as opposed to a full day in the past to allow for travel and mingling. This opens up expert advice and guidance to thousands of parents who would not otherwise be able to attend a seminar for the reasons mentioned above.
A safe space
There is a level of comfort and ease on virtual platforms now too. People have become more accustomed to virtual meetings and the etiquette around them. They have realised that virtual events also allow users to ask questions they would perhaps not be comfortable asking in person – we all have those questions we really want to ask our gynae but are just too shy or embarrassed to ask. Assigned avatars can provide an ‘invisible shield’ or a safe space to ask those questions instead of suffering in silence.
The flexibility of virtual also means that you can add elements such as our commitment this year to the inclusion of SMMEs providing opportunities they would otherwise not have to reach their potential customers – this element has been an enlightening and very fulfilling experience. As a small business owner in the past, the frustration of not having the budgets to reach the masses is alleviated when costs such as building a stand for an expo and travel/resources to man that stand fall away. Costs are minimal to participate in a virtual event which means not only are you providing attendees with a benefit, but you are supporting local industry and economy too. It really is a win/win.
When big corporates start standing behind virtual events and investing in sponsorship because they see the benefits of engaging with people online and creating communities, you cannot deny that the virtual event sector is onto something worthwhile which adds value to people’s lives. Support from the corporate sector goes a long way in creating brand love in a nation and bridges a gap which in the past would have remained a divisive line for the growth of SMMEs. We were blown away when we secured sponsorship from Momentum Medical Scheme this year in what was only the second BabyYumYum Virtual Parenting Experience. It was a vote of confidence which meant thousands of parents had access to information and help and it is impossible to ignore the enormous value in that.
There is a cohesion to virtual events which can literally change lives – the value in that alone cannot be ignored or measured, and the fact is that whether we are in the throes of a pandemic or not, there will always be parents with newborns who need guidance and crave a community connection so that they can be the best possible parents. So, perhaps what we need is more frequent virtual experiences to grow the community and create more opportunities for connection as parents which can only benefit our children and the contribute to the long-term effect of society as a whole.
By Amanda Rogaly, Chief Mommy and Founder of BabyYumYum.co.za and The BabyYumYum.co.za Virtual Parenting Experience powered by Momentum Medical Scheme