Social Networking: Getting an online life can be exactly what a new mom needs

When Amy Boughner felt depressed in the months after the birth of her daughter Maggie, she blogged about it.

When Melany Gallant was having trouble breastfeeding daughter Alison, she turned to Twitter. It’s a sign of the times.

Issues that once drove women to their doctors’ offices in tears or left them curled in the fetal position in their bedrooms have become trending topics and status lines on public social media sites. As a result, women are finding comfort and support online through blogs, online communities, Facebook and Twitter.

“I discovered this great community of moms,” says Amy, 29. “You meet them on
Twitter and then you start reading their blogs and you discover all the things you’ve got in common.”

Melany agrees. After having to supplement breastfeeding with formula once in a while, Melany went from feeling judgement every time she put a bottle to her baby’s lips, to having a network of women who knew exactly how she felt. “Going online and reading blogs from other moms who had similar experiences… it just made me feel ok about it.”

It’s exactly why Maureen Dennis started Wee Welcome – an online community aimed primarily at moms with children under the age of three. The company
was born out of Dennis’s own experiences trying to keep up with her pre-pregnancy social circles. When she found herself changing her week-old son on a restaurant’s bathroom floor during a lunch with girlfriends because there wasn’t an appropriate change table, she decided to find a way for moms to share information that would help to keep them socializing.

One hundred fifty women showed up to her first event and, six years later, more than 30,000 visitors a month turn to her site for tips and advice. The trend isn’t unique to Wee Welcome

According to Dr. Sidney Eve Matrix, an assistant professor in mass communications at Queens University, recent surveys show that 80 percent of Canadian women are online regularly and 40 percent of them are mothers.

Millenial mothers – those born between 1977 and 1996 – are even more likely to be engaged online. And, according to Matrix, those mothers are 60 percent more likely than average adults to use Facebook and Twitter.

EASY ACCESS

Part of the attraction for Amy was ease of access (right from her home computer) and variety of information (she could talk to moms who were going through post partum depression and moms who’d survived it). And with a new baby in hand or underfoot, it can be tough to try to negotiate more traditional social channels. That’s not to say that the relationships stay online.

“It’s great to meet online and it’s awesome to have that support, but it doesn’t beat someone to go out to coffee with,” she points out. Amy, who now attends a weekly mom’s group in Ottawa, says she would have never gone
had she not been coaxed out by Twitter friends.

“I was terrified at the first one I went to and now I go every week,” she says. “It’s one of the things I’m going to miss the most when I go back to work. It was good for my daughter and it’s really good for me.”

Melany, 37, was surprised at how quickly she began to develop meaningful relationships. “Sometimes you just want to vent because your kid won’t stop
screaming and you don’t know why,” she offers. “ To be able to connect with other moms who are going through the exact same thing at the exact same time as you and then to be able to laugh about it is invaluable.”

Having access to the inspiration of moms who’ve been there, done that (and survived) is a bonus. “Instead of just talking to my doctor, or waiting until I can talk to a friend on the phone or in person, it’s another resource,” Melany says. “I can just quickly go on to Twitter or Facebook, or my blog, post my question and get some really valuable feedback in seconds.”

FIRST TIMER TIPS

Start where you’re most comfortable: If it’s on Facebook with a few close friends, that’s fine. Share what you are comfortable with and follow groups that offer
you information on the areas you care about.

Google: Find the blogs that you can relate to. Seek out the online community that best fits your personality and style of parenting.

Sample Twitter: With it’s own language to learn and the possibility of following millions of people, it can be an overwhelming jump. Eavesdrop instead. Follow the people, experts, magazines and news agencies you trust and then see who they are following.

Stop thinking of social media as something new: It’s a community just like any other community. The bonus: You don’t even have to get dressed, and if your baby cries, no one complains.

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