The Amsterdam Mamas website is one year old today!  Time to reflect on how it came to be…

How much do you know about Amsterdam Mamas? You may have read a bit About Us, but do you know the whole story?

In April 2010, six friends of a friend got together for a pregnant ladies brunch.  After that brunch, the friend set up a Facebook group so we could all connect and keep in touch during our pregnancies.  We started swapping tips and articles and news and more.  Soon we met other mamas to be and they wanted to join the conversation, they told other mamas and we grew, slowly.

In the summer of 2011, we had about 60 members and then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere there was an influx of people wanting to join.  We’re still not exactly where they all came from but it was clear that something had changed. Amsterdam Mamas was becoming something new. After talking to the other Founding Mamas about what to do, I asked if I could take on the group and see if we could develop it into a lasting resource for English speaking parents in Amsterdam.

In August 2011 I took a deep breath, a not inconsiderable hit to my cash funds and registered Amsterdam Mamas as a stichting (a not for profit foundation). As soon as the ink dried on the paperwork we announced to our group of 178 members that they were now part of a formally registered foundation whose purpose was to provide information and support to English speaking parents in Amsterdam and the surrounding regions.

And then we snowballed! From 200 members in September 2011, the floodgates opened and solely through word of mouth the mamas started to find us.  By December we had a membership of 600, by February 2012 we numbered 1,000 and I had ripped up the woefully inadequate business plan that was projected on the basis of 500 members in our first year of operation. It quickly became apparent that Facebook was the best place to connect each other, but utterly hopeless for being able to re-find all the valuable information being posted all day, every day.  We needed a website.

Rather like our babies, the website took nine months to bring to life.  In that time we endured serious illness, the death of a family member, a staggering amount of hard work and when we launched on the 1st of May 2012 we knew it had been worth it.  The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive and has remained so ever since.  We have welcomed readers from over 180 countries but remain enduringly popular in our home city of Amsterdam.  

We remain true to our original purpose of providing a community voiced resource for international parents in Amsterdam and beyond and we cannot wait to see what year two will bring. I often get asked, why I did it.  How, when we were so small, did I have the forethought to see the potential in Amsterdam Mamas.  The answer to that is always slightly complicated.  Why did I do it?  Because I was that mother-to-be, who really knew no one, who was so lonely and about to have her whole life turned upside down in a foreign country.  I knew that if I could make a difference to even one other mother to be who found herself in the same situation then I had to do it.  I joke that it is an American Military approach “NO MAMA LEFT BEHIND!”

As for the forethought, it is slightly more complicated.  J K Rowling once said that when she started to write the Harry Potter series, the character of Harry walked, fully formed into her head as though he was a real, live boy.  To a certain extent that was my experience of Amsterdam Mamas, I had a crystal clear vision of what it could be and how it could support parents both now and in the future.

Amsterdam Mamas was, for me, always a real thing, not just a concept.  However, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer speed and tenacity with which it built itself from a small Facebook group to a community of real force and influence in Amsterdam.  Keeping one step ahead of the good ship Amsterdam Mamas is a daily challenge! But I love it, every single day of it (ok, most of them!), and I can assure you that a bad day on Amsterdam Mamas is still the very best day at any job I have ever had.  I am proud of the team we have grown to be, that we do it all with no assistance and no funding.  It is all sheer hard work and dedication from the incredible volunteers who make Amsterdam Mamas work on a daily basis.

With the Marvellous Misfits (aka the Management Team) we just cannot wait to show you what we’ve got coming up for Amsterdam Mamas in the next twelve months and we cannot wait to see what you’ve got in store for us because without you, our community, there would be no point to what we do.

So thank you, every last single one of you for being along for the ride.

photo credit: CJ Sorg via Flickr cc

Emmy Coffey McCarthy

Emmy McCarthy was the Director of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas. She is a Mama, Entrepreneur and Connector on a never-ending quest for balance in her life.