We all get by with a little help from our friends…
On a Friday in January 2017, my husband, our baby daughter (then 6 months old) and I arrived in Hong Kong. We moved here from the UK for my husband’s job and within hours of landing, he had to attend his first meeting. We had just the weekend together to get over the jetlag and settle in before he started his new full-time job on Monday morning. This in itself did not faze me because three months prior to our move to Hong Kong we had already moved to a new city (within the UK) where we barely knew anyone. So I thought I was well prepared for the big move and ready to build my Hong Kong mum network for friends and future work opportunities.
New Mum Networking Plan A: Search For Other Mothers And Babies
Based on my recent relocation experience, I decided to take the same approach I took then to try to meet people. To start building my Hong Kong mum network, I searched the internet for mother-baby groups and activities. I was astounded to discover that many of the groups that I came across charged multiple times the amount I used to pay for similar groups in the UK. I just could not understand why such astronomical charges were applied to these classes so I quickly gave up on this approach. Having discovered a play area where many of the children in our neighbourhood and their respective domestic workers would meet, I took my daughter there a few times. My daughter was way too young to really play with the other kids and most of the domestic workers seemed too shy to talk to me.
As the weeks went by I really started to feel the strain of spending so much time indoors and having my days structured around nursing, weaning my daughter, cleaning, and doing it all over and over again.
New Mum Networking Plan B: Reach Out To Make Connections
Being in desperate need of making connections and creating a support network, I decided to “lean into” my vulnerability. My husband and I only knew a handful of people in Hong Kong (besides his new colleagues) so I started to reach out. One of the people I contacted was the wife of the best friend of the brother of an old friend of mine (distant connections, but still within six degrees of separation!) who I had a few brief encounters with 10 years earlier. I remembered seeing on Facebook that she and her husband had moved to Hong Kong. Of course, I risked the embarrassment that she would neither remember me nor respond to my message to her. Luckily she did remember me, and she wrote back!
She introduced me to a friend of hers (who was working full-time and didn’t have children) who happened to live and work close to where I live. We ended up having loads in common including having both recently moved to Hong Kong from the UK. Fast forward to today and I can trace back a large part of my diverse and ever-growing personal and professional network to her and the events that she told me about.
What Friends Are For: Why It’s Important To Find Your Hong Kong Mum Network
Looking back, I am happy that I did not limit my search for connections to places where I could meet other mothers with babies of a similar age to my daughter. Had I done this I may have unnecessarily missed out on the benefits of the new friendships which I have forged. These friendships really helped me get through the challenging first months of settling into my new life in Hong Kong. Considering the findings of the research (2017) by Dr Rebecca Graber from the University of Brighton, this is not surprising. She found that having good quality friendships (as opposed to quantity) can be crucial in helping us get through difficult times.
Having coffees with a full-time working professional and a good friend helped bring back my professional identity. Often at mother-baby groups, this would be overshadowed by my mummy identity. As it had always been my intention to start working once childcare had been arranged, it was really beneficial that I had already started growing my professional network whilst I was still a full-time new mother. At the same time, once our domestic worker started working with us, she and my daughter had no difficulty making friends with other children and other domestic workers in our neighbourhood. In other words, things just started to work themselves out.
The main take-away from my experiences of relocating twice as a new mother has been that it is only by trying different approaches that you will find people that you really connect with. Of course, the kind of things that you try – and what you might (or might not) get out of them – will be determined by your own personality, priorities and the resources you have available.
Where To Start Building Your Mum Networks
Whether you want to connect with other mothers with young children, grow your professional network or just grow your network of people to hang out with, Hong Kong offers plenty of options to do this. Below, you can find a list of different activities and opportunities – some I have tried, some I have just heard of. Please note, however, that these COVID times may well affect the operation of these organisations, so be sure to check their websites for up-to-date information.
Editor’s Note: The situation in Hong Kong regarding closures and restrictions on opening hours due to the coronavirus is constantly evolving. Many businesses are taking extra precautions, but please make sure you follow the latest government advice and stay home if you have recently travelled overseas, have interacted with anyone who has been away, or display any symptoms.
Places To Build Your Mum-baby Squad
This group is run by volunteers and offers a very relaxed environment for kids (0 to 2 yrs old) to play with their parents and other children but also for parents to meet and mingle with each other.
St John’s Cathedral Playgroup, Fanny Li Hall, St John’s Cathedral, 4-8 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong, www.stjohnscathedral.org.hk
A resource sharing and support community primarily for kids of African descent under the age of 17. Kids of all ethnicities are welcome for a day of fun and learning. Activities include African crafts, African drum jam, African games, Storytime, Africa 101, Talent show, etc.
Mums & Bubs is a casual meet up for international and local mums to chat and socialise while their little ones learn and play (dads are welcome too!).
Mums & Bubs, 2/F, Hub 8, 239 Temple Street, Jordan, Hong Kong, www.facebook.com/mumsandbubshk
This community-led initiative was started by two mums who were tired of walking around in the heat and the humidity of Hong Kong with no place to go with their little ones. They worked together with the pub and organised a healthy menu for kids and organised an indoor drop-in soft play area in Sai Kung where mums can catch up over a coffee and toddlers to let off some steam.
Bubs in Pubs, G/F, 66 Yi Chun Street, Sai Kung, New Territories, Hong Kong, www.facebook.com/groups/bubsinpubs
Places To Meet Working Mums
This is the first non-profit organisation in Hong Kong supporting mothers to be empowered in continuing with a well-balanced life of career, family and community. HKM strives to support mothers of all walks of life to be the role models for the children by providing the training (including online) and opportunities to support their ventures.
This is a Hong Kong mum network that brings small business vendors (mumtrepreneurs in particular) together. These women usually run small businesses mostly from home, so the platform offers them an opportunity to talk about their products or services through bazaars, and empowers them through workshops that are based on various topics related to managing their businesses.
Facebook Groups For Mums
It’s easy to find Facebook groups for mums based on where you live, your country of origin or areas of interest. Many of these groups are private and mums willing to offer advice and have discussions regarding homes, children, buying, selling, helpers, pets, schools, playdates or other topics that are useful for new families. HK Mid Levels and Central Moms, Sai Kung Mummies, Southside Mums, Hong Kong Moms and Moms in Hong Kong are some of the groups you could join. While these online forums are often best used for discussions and advice as and when required, it is possible to meet connect with another mum and develop a deeper and long-lasting friendship offline. If you’re pregnant and want to get a headstart to building your Hong Kong mum network, join a due date club.
MUMZ markets itself as Tinder for Mums. It helps you find friends based on area, similar kids age, common interests and favourite times to meet. You can connect with others and find activities and events happening nearby, create and join playdates. You can also enjoy discounts and deals offered by other mum entrepreneurs and organisations. You can download the app (on iOS or Android) or join the Facebook group online.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images, image 1 courtesy of August de Richelieu via Pexels, image 2 courtesy of mentatdgt via Pexels, image 3 courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels, image 4 courtesy of Retha Ferguson via Pexels, image 5 courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels, image 6 courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels.