social network for mothers
FEELINGS

The social network for mothers

The online world has become a key social network for mothers in Ireland, where women come together to create friendships and bonds that would have otherwise never existed. And it’s a mecca for making new friends, writes Tracey Quinn.

It started with an online screen name. A private one so that I could post about personal things without the fear of it being seen by someone I personally know. There were a couple of different websites to chose from. I joined two and ended up predominantly using one of them. A lot of the screen names were pregnancy or parenthood related. I read about women TTC and the TWW – acronyms I would soon become very familiar with (Trying To Conceive and Two Week Wait, for your interest).

Forums and threads

There were forums and threads specifically for women who were trying to get pregnant, women who had experienced grief during the process and finally “bump clubs”. This is what brought me to the website. I had heard from a friend that it would be a good idea to join one of these forums. She spoke about the designated threads where women could share the ups and downs of pregnancy right through to giving birth, parenthood and beyond.

The best part was that each thread was specific to your due date. Each woman in your ‘bump club’ was due her baby in or around the same time as you. I thought it sounded brilliant. Pregnancy can be a lonely time and particularly in those first few months when you are most likely to be keeping it a secret from the world. It can be a very long couple of weeks for a lot of women.

I joined the website and downloaded the app. Before I knew it I was taking comfort in sharing my symptoms and feelings with other women. It amazed me that we all experienced pregnancy so differently and that our roads to becoming pregnant varied greatly too. We were united in one thing though – we were soon to become mothers. Soon our lives would be changing for the better. The biggest life change we could ever imagine. Some of the mothers were not first time mothers but about 80% of them were. I can imagine that during a second or subsequent pregnancy there is less time to scroll through internet threads when you get in from work.

Exclusive club

It was very early on in the experience that I began to really notice the value of this online community. I almost felt like I had a place in some kind of exclusive club. A club where there was always someone on-hand for support, advice or an opinion. Our tastes and preferences differed but the tone was always one of respect. On the rare occasion that things got a bit icy the moderator would always ‘step in’ and state that this was a place for support, healthy discussion and friendship. Rudeness or bullying was never tolerated.

social network for mothers

One by one we all gave birth to our babies. These were the weeks where I was glued to my computer and phone. I spent hours each day scrolling through the threads populated by women who were all due to give birth very soon. I was one of them. Some women went in to labour prematurely. Others were induced ten days late. Long birth stories were beginning to be posted. It was scary and amazing all at the same time. It wasn’t coming from a book or a hospital leaflet. It was straight from the horses’ mouth.

I was particularly fascinated by the stories from the women who were attending the same maternity hospital as me. It was hard to believe that any day now I too would be writing about walking those corridors. I too would be mentioning the midwife that I did or did not like. I’d mention pain relief or lack thereof. I’d share the happy news of gender, name and weight. I couldn’t wait to experience it all and share it with my new found friends. My online mammy community.

The day finally came and I proudly typed up my birth story. Congratulations were given in plentiful supply. Some of us were breastfeeding while others were bottle-feeding. Some of us had partners while others were going it alone. There were babies with complications and women experiencing post natal anxiety and depression. It wouldn’t have been strange for us to be talking online at 4am. During those often lonely night-time feeds. No matter what the time was, we always had our online community. Our source of support. Our new friendships.

Putting names to faces

Someone suggested moving the ‘group’ to Facebook. We discussed the possibility of creating a private group where we could take the next step and start to go by our actual names. Profile photos would put a face to the name. It was a big step for a lot of people. Before we knew it we had created such a group. Thirty of us had joined and were happily posting photographs of our little ones. Safe in the private Facebook bubble with the people we had grown to know for the past year. It felt really natural.

This Facebook group has come to be one of the most valuable sources of friendship and support for me. My son is now two and I post on the group every single day. Sometimes it’s photos of my son, other times it’s asking for an opinion about a new dress I picked up. In between the posting, I am commenting, liking and contributing to everyone else’s posts.

social network for mothers

There is always a conversation going. It could be about someone’s relationship, weight loss, depression or food. We talk about everything now. Everything that concerns us as women, mothers, caregivers, partners and individuals. Our parenting styles differ greatly from each other yet somehow we have found a really respectful tone. We support each other and appreciate that we are all different. We truly value each person’s opinion because of this. It’s never judgemental.

Real friendships have grown and blossomed from this group. In 2015 we all made a plan to meet up. We travelled from all corners of Ireland and met in Galway one day. We booked a lovely dinner in a restaurant, had wine and chats until the early hours. A large group of us stayed in the hotel overnight.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. For the past two years myself and two of the girls have even holidayed together. Yes, you heard me right. From private online screen name right through to flying from Dublin to Fuerteventura with our respective families. This is the Mammy social network. This is the future.

More like this:

11 great things about being a mom
Welcome to parenthood
A letter to a first time mother

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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ASK JESSICA

Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.