Laura de Medici-Bentley: Online mom forums offer place to vent, get advice
I have two “categories” of friends: my “regular friends” and my “mom friends.” My regular friends are ones I had well before getting married and becoming a parent. My mom friends are friends I typically meet at story time, the playground or Mommy & Me-style classes. We come from many different backgrounds, but we are brought together by the fact that we are moms. Unlike my regular friends, who I spend some ‘kid-free’ time with, when I meet up with my mom friends, the outing is just as much for the children as it is for us.
There are days when all of my friends are busy, and it can feel a little isolating when I haven’t had an adult conversation all day. Now, I’ve discovered that there is another type of mom friend: the online mom friend. There are online communities or forums for people who share similar interests, careers and lifestyles. There are forums for video game aficionados, teachers, military families, people who love to travel, etc. People post on the message boards to ask for advice, share their experiences, and, sometimes, just to vent.
I belong to a mom forum. Within this online community, there are tons of little sub-communities that connect you with like-minded people or people who want to have specific discussions. There are groups like Advice For Mom, Special Needs Moms, Single Moms and the popular Venting Room.
I never saw myself being a member of an online forum. Frankly, I thought it was weird. There are some people who you can tell spend a lot of time on there. But there is something to be said about a “place” where most people are willing to lend a (virtual) ear to a complete stranger, console them and give helpful advice.
When someone posts asking for advice with their spirited 3-year-old, I like helping by sharing a few strategies I used in the classroom. And in return, when I’m having a tough day and decide to post in the Venting Room, it’s always nice to read reassuring messages like “I’ve been there! Tomorrow’s a new day!”
Although I’ve only had positive experiences, there are certain precautions I take. It’s the Internet, and you never know who may really be on the other side of the screen. Some groups have contests, for example, “Post a Cute Picture Of Your Kid!” I don’t participate in them. Posting a picture on an open forum where anyone could join and save the picture to their own computer isn’t savvy. There are many other mom forum websites, and it isn’t unheard of for a stranger to re-post another user’s picture somewhere else without permission. It’s creepy, but it happens.
I also refrain from filling out my entire profile page. I list a few of my hobbies and a short blurb about myself, but I don’t see a reason to post detailed information like my child’s name, date of birth and our hometown. Lastly, I don’t get online too often. It’s surprisingly easy to get sucked into debates about “hot topics,” and there are many users who I can tell spend a lot of time online.
While I’ll always prefer the company of my “real life” friends, it’s fun to interact with a diverse group of moms from places I may never visit.
Laura de Medici-Bentley, of Winchester, is a former early childhood educator who currently enjoys staying home with her 2-year-old daughter. She is an author of a personal blog, CiaoMommy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.