It’s our birthday! The Amsterdam Mamas Facebook group is four years old today!  Four years of laughter, surprises, conversation and support. We felt it was time to update our community on what has been going on behind the scenes…

This past weekend we hosted a successful Annual Easter Egg Hunt with beautiful weather and next weekend the whole country will be enjoying Koningsdag (Kings Day) in honour of the king’s birthday. But nestled in between these two weekends is our own special event that I believe deserves recognition as well: Amsterdam Mamas is celebrating its fourth birthday! And in honour of this special occasion, I want to take this opportunity to share with our growing community some of my reflections of the past few years and some of my visions for our future.

Now that we have over 5,200 people in our group and are a stichting, or non-profit organisation, it is easy to forget that Amsterdam Mamas began as a small and informal group of six women who wanted to share information and support each other during pregnancies and parenting in Amsterdam. When I look back at how rapidly we grew, I am astounded.

Within the first year Amsterdam Mamas had around 50 Facebook members – mostly people who heard about the group from friends – and just 18 months later we were over 200 mamas and papas, who were eager to join in the conversation. That was when I realised that Amsterdam Mamas fills a real need within the international parenting community and I decided to make it official by registering us as a formal foundation.

For fun, we began organising community events to bring people together to meet offline. We launched a website to be a resource of interesting and relevant information for our members. And we started circulating newsletters to inform our families on the activities, events and discounts our city had to offer. To keep all of this going, we launched The Village Card discount card program to help fund our efforts (while offering our members discounts around town) and we established a team of volunteers, who dedicate their valuable time and skills to keep the community running. It hasn’t always been the easiest journey and we have faced our fair share of challenges.

We work with a dedicated, but fluid volunteer team and are nearly always understaffed in one or more areas. We have a vocal, engaged community that we would love to do everything for but are often forced to choose based on our resources and finances at any given moment. Nevertheless, I am so proud of everything that we’ve accomplished in just four years and of how beneficial our thriving community has become to the city.

Looking forward, I believe that great are things in store for Amsterdam Mamas and we are already building towards a better community. Last month we began upgrading and improving the Amsterdam Mamas website, so that we can offer our readers a much smoother and more user-friendly experience. We have listened to what you are telling us and we’ve decided to focus our efforts on the information that you are truly searching for. We have vamped up our events strategy and are planning new and better events that will be useful and fun for our community.

Next month, we are hosting our first Ask The Mamas! information fair which will include seminars and workshops on topics surrounding pregnancy, babies, toddlers and even teenagers, and will provide answers to many of the questions that often arise within our community. After that, we will begin planning our autumn and winter events, including our highly anticipated third annual Vintage Tram Ride with Father Christmas.

To continue efforts and help Amsterdam Mamas grow, we have decided that it is time to move towards forming a small core team that will work for the organisation on a regular basis and receive a symbolic compensation for their commitment. In this way, we hope to resolve some of the problems that we face in retaining a consistent team to run the organisation. As a foundation, Amsterdam Mamas is not in a position to hire a complete team, nor can we offer the salaries that our team deserves, but we feel that this is a good first step in the right direction.

To support this team, we will continue to rely heavily on volunteers and I would like to encourage you to consider helping the community out. Volunteering for Amsterdam Mamas is a great way to brush up your professional skills or gain new ones and it is an excellent stepping-stone for parents looking to keep their resumes alive and transition back into the work force. I firmly believe that by implementing these changes, Amsterdam Mamas will be in a stronger position to keep up with the international parenting community’s needs.

I will do my best to communicate with the community and remain as transparent as possible throughout our journey, so that our members understand what we are doing and why. And in the meantime, I sincerely hope that you all enjoy the fruits of our efforts. Despite the changes that we’ve seen over the past few years and the ones that we anticipate for our future, the core of Amsterdam Mamas – an organisation that strives for an informative, reliable, respectful and non-judgemental international parenting community – remains unchanged. We are all parents, doing our best to raise our children and we all understand that even in the city, it takes a village.

photo credit: Kim Faires 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.