Q+A W/ FOUNDER, ALEXIS BARAD
You may have heard of NYFW but what about NSFMG? Not Safe For Mom’s Group is a stigma-free digital space and IRL community where women can express and explore raw feelings about motherhood without fear of judgement. NSFMG allows women to share “un-safe” thoughts, creating an atmosphere of empathy and support. NSFMG supports many of the same conversations that by CHLOE. fostered during our Beyond Mother’s Day campaign, where our goal was to destigmatize fertility and women’s health and create safe spaces for honest conversations.
We spoke to Alexis Barad, the founder of NSFMG, about her motherhood experience, why she wanted to create this community, and how she leverages social media to create a safe space with serious conversations.
by CHLOE.: Hi Alexis! Thanks for chatting with us. Please introduce yourself.
Alexis Barad-Cutler: Hi! So happy to be here. I’m the founder of Not Safe For Mom Group (NSFMG), and a mom of 2 young boys.
bC: Talk to us about Not Safe For Mom Group (NSFMG), a stigma-free digital and in-real-life community that discusses motherhood without judgement. What motivated you to create this space?
ABC: I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression (PPD) after the birth of my first son, but before the official diagnosis (and before I got help), I would head to play groups, or “mom dates”, and my weekly Mom Group, and feel like a complete outsider. Every day was filled with dread, and I just felt like I was living a waking nightmare. My writing career changed from writing children’s books to churning out essays about my struggle with motherhood. It was like a self-appointed exorcism of sorts. I wrote “the stuff no one talks about in Mom Group” for several years, for many of the popular parenting websites. One day, one of my essays for one such site (which I won’t name) was pulled by the editors for being “too controversial.” I thought that was such B.S. Mothers shouldn’t have to censor their stories just because the narratives make some people uncomfortable. I wanted to start a platform where women could speak their experiences and truths without fear of being told, “No, that’s just too much. You can’t say that here.”
bC: Social media often gets a bad reputation for impeding connections between people, yet it has been essential for NSFMG to create an open and honest dialogue. How have you leveraged social media to create this incredible, non-judgmental community?
ABC: I had no idea that NSFMG would become more about conversation than it is about content. But it is because of social media, that this community has been able to grow and support one another. The anonymity factor that I was able to create via Insta Stories earned people’s trust, and allowed them to say what they wanted to say in the most honest way. Instead of commenting on a post on the grid, where you can see a person’s profile, people are writing to me instead on DM, and I repost it anonymously on their behalf. You get the rawest, most vulnerable side of a person when they know that there is no consequence to putting themselves out there. Vulnerability breeds connection, and that has been one of the foundations of NSFMG. Often, once people see that they’re on the same page, they’ll ask me to connect them offline. Like, “Hey, C. I so hear you. You can contact me any time. – G. ” And then I’ll put “C” and “G” in touch.
bC: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about motherhood? How are you working to destigmatize these issues?
ABC: Where do I start? Here’s one that comes up often: That you’re supposed to take on this enormous job – maybe the biggest job that ever was – to raise another person, and that you should be equipped to do it all by yourself. I find that when women write in about feeling guilty about their “inability to be a good mother,” or that they “just can’t do this motherhood thing”, what they’re really talking about is the way society sets us up for failure in the lack of support we provide to mothers – both prenatal and postnatal. In posting the words of hundreds of other women describing the same feelings, it becomes abundantly clear that the problem is not an individual one but a systemic one.
bC: You have been open about your struggle with Postpartum Depression. Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone suffering from PPD currently?
ABC: A lot of people will try to normalize the symptoms that you are experiencing, or write them off as “baby blues” It is uncomfortable to watch a mother not enjoying what she is supposed to be experiencing as a “blissful time in her life.” These other people – including your significant other – are not living in your body. They do not know the depths of what you are feeling. There is a whole spectrum of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS), and they must be taken extremely seriously. Don’t waste time suffering, or wondering if you “qualify” seeing someone about how you’re feeling. Let a professional be the judge. You don’t need permission to see someone and to get help.
bC: What did our Beyond Mother’s Day campaign throughout May mean to you and your work?
ABC: I was thrilled to see a major brand decide to tell a story about infertility — especially when the brand isn’t necessarily selling anything “mom” related. It felt real. I loved that by CHLOE. made it explicitly clear that the term “mother” has many meanings. So many communities and platforms make this error (I’m sure I’ve slipped) in their language, and fail to be inclusive of everyone’s journeys to motherhood. Campaigns like this mean that motherhood, and women’s healthcare, are slowly taking on greater interest and importance to the wider world, which makes me hopeful. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
Dream dinner guest? My maternal grandmother.
Favorite place on earth? Goldeneye, Jamaica.
Last song you listened to? “King of Shadow” by Kat Cunning.
Secret super power? I read people’s vibes right every time. Every time.
Biggest pet peeve? People who chew with their mouth open. Mouth breathers.
Watcha readin’? Just finished I Must Have You by JoAnna Novack.
Three objects you can’t live without? Something to write on, something to write with, and my pillow (I don’t travel without it!).