Sharing Their Stories as Asian-American Moms: Interview with Ajuma Squad
Referring to themselves as “East Coast-bred, West Coast-living Asian ladies, but not the status quo,” The Universal Asian spoke with Joan and Esther. They are the duo behind "Ajuma Squad," which is a YouTube channel and Instagram TV series that sheds light on their stories of motherhood and being second-generation Asian-Americans. We learned more about their channel, the origins of "Ajuma Squad," and their views on Asian-American representation.
Friends for over 10 years now, Joan and Esther first met in New York and reconnected, both as mothers, in California where they now reside. It was from there that their friendship blossomed and grew into "Ajuma Squad"—two good friends vlogging as mothers. The idea “spawned from us just having funny conversations,” explained Esther, “We used to joke around and say ‘we should post that somewhere’ or ‘I wish we could make a video out of this’.” This conversation sparked the start of Ajuma Squad, which came to realization in October last year. The term ajuma is Korean for a married, middle-aged woman and is sometimes used to call someone “aunt.” However, the duo decided to go with this name because, as Joan said, they “wanted to play on that word and make it like we’re not just washed up ajumas; we have things to talk about too.”
Their channel appears to be the first of its kind and made Joan question “why we didn’t do this earlier.” Esther also went onto explain: “We did a deep dive to see if there was anybody else who was Asian-American and who are moms and who are out there representing and talking about these issues, and there really weren’t a lot of people.”
Now, with over 250 followers and 17 IGTV episodes (and counting!), the pair are no strangers to delving into a range of different topics, such as dating, self-care, and Asian-American representation in the media. Joan admits that “we have a calendar of all the topics we want to do, but we never stick to it because it just so happens that all these issues are just coming up naturally, so our conversations are always going to shift to what’s relevant.”
Their conversations are on-the-fly and organic, which seems to be a central theme in their videos. “I think we just want to be real. We wanted to show that there is another side of motherhood that isn’t represented by what people think Asian American women are,” said Esther.
They reiterate not being the status quo, as Esther explained: “The reason why we are kind of against the grain is that motherhood is not something that comes with a handbook and you kind of have to roll with the punches.” They also started "Ajuma Squad" to have their voices, as Asian-American moms, heard. “I feel like there hasn’t been much representation of Asian moms,” said Joan, adding, “It is really important for us because we want our kids to be able to grow up with being able to see the different sides of being Asian-American.”
But why is it that Asian-American moms are not being heard? Is there another barrier or layer to being a mother and Asian-American?
“I think it’s because people generally don’t care for what Asian moms really talk about,” said Joan. Esther added: “We are a lost demographic and we don’t have the time or skills to really go out there and tout things that millennials might.”
Yet, this has not stopped them from delving into the nitty gritty of motherhood, rather it has become a way for them to create a sense of community for other Asian-American moms.
“I think we have a sense of relatability that a lot of Asian-American women have not had,” Esther mused. Acknowledging that the struggles of the pandemic has meant many individuals have not been able to communicate with friends or family, she hopes to “provide a little sense of community and bring a little joy into their homes for a few minutes [and give them] that sense of ‘this is my squad’.”
As well as building a community, they also look ahead to the type of representation they both want to see for their children. Wishing that they had seen other Asians in the media and on TV screens Joan shared: “It’s very important for my kids to see and recognize themselves and identify with and find someone that they could look up to.” One of the reasons they started "Ajuma Squad" was because, as Joan put it: “We want to have these conversations and maybe push that needle so that we can get more Asian-Americans in the media.” Esther expressed similar concerns and made the point that she does not want future generations of Asian-Americans “to feel they don’t fit the status quo, like they don’t belong. They belong here just like anybody else does.”
Creating positive representation of Asian-American mothers has become the forefront of their channel. Many of their conversations around this serve as passing on knowledge to raise the next generation of Asian-Americans. “Moms are the ones that shape the kids…we are raising a generation,” Joan stated.
After experiencing a recent racist incident, Esther shared some wisdom with her daughters. Wisdom that can be passed onto Asian-Americans of all ages: “Sometimes people treat others unkindly because we are a little bit different; that doesn’t make you any less of a human. We are Asian-American. We are Korean-American and that is perfectly okay.”
Follow Ajuma Squad here: Instagram (@ajuma_squad)