When Shoreline writer and editor Suzanne Griscom first became a mother, she thought she would lose her mind. Prior to marriage and the birth of her kids, now ages 1 and 3, she had a busy life as a school teacher with an avid interest in swing dancing. But Griscom found the transition to motherhood and working from home very challenging and lonely at times. “Last year I came to the conclusion I would lose my mind — I could feel my mind atrophy,” she says. Happily, though, Griscom says, “I have resurrected myself.” And she did it by finding connections on the Internet as a “cybermommy” — an active online community builder and blogger at www.wisewillow.blogspot.com. (See related article, “Blogging about babies.”)
Who are you now?
For other new moms who are feeling lonely, isolated and disconnected from the world at large, Griscom says the key is not only to use the Internet to connect with other moms, but to stay connected with your own self — “who you were before you were a mom and who you continue to be when your children aren’t in the room,” she says. Griscom believes that it is important that moms find ways to connect and nurture themselves early in the parenting journey “so that when your kids grow up, you won’t be lost.”
Griscom explains, “Every common-interest community on the Internet has its moms, whether it is building cars or going to independent film festivals or riding motorcycles.” She says using sites like StumbleUpon are a great way to find online communities; women share not just motherhood, but other interests, as well.
Melissa Benaroya, M.S.W., is a licensed clinical social worker and certified Gottman educator. Prior to having 4-year-old Maya and 2-year-old Shane and moving to the Green Lake area, she was a school counselor in South Central Los Angeles. “We moved to Seattle when my firstborn was 2 weeks old, and I didn’t know a soul,” Benaroya says. A few weeks after moving in 2005, she started a Yahoo list server group called Green Lake Moms (GLM). These days, the group has more than 600 members. “I feel it is so necessary to help create community and connection for moms, especially new moms. It can be very isolating when you have a baby at home. I cannot tell you what amazing resources and support I have received from the women in the group.”
Building a group
Benaroya used Yahoo to build her group, but there are other Web sites that allow moms to easily connect to other moms in their neighborhood or to moms who share a significant interest.
One such site is Meetup. Andres Glusman, the company’s vice president of insights and strategy, describes the process for a mom who wants to use the site to find a neighborhood playgroup. “She comes to Meetup.com, enters “moms” and her ZIP code. Meetup shows her all the local “Moms Meetup” groups that other members have already started in her area.
“If she sees one she likes, she joins the group and can start interacting with fellow moms nearby. While she can engage online through e-mail and message boards, the whole point of Meetup is to unplug, get offline and meet face to face,” Glusman says. They do that by attending Meetup group meetings. “She goes, meets like-minded moms and feels invigorated,” Glusman says.
If there is no Meetup group for her, she can start one — for a fee of $12–$19 a month. Meetup will email other moms nearby who have asked to be notified.
Claudia Pettis is a member of Green Lake Moms. She is a stay-at-home mom to 5-year-old Emma and 2-and-a-half-year-old Madeline. She says that GLM members share advice and provide assistance on a wide range of topics, including flying with children, where to buy certain birthday gifts, contractors, good restaurants, kid-friendly restaurants, places to meet new friends, running and exercise partners, play dates, costume swaps, clothing exchanges, charity drives and more.
Pettis also meets her GLM friends in person. “One of the best things I’ve received from GLMs is my running partners,” she says. “We run three times a week, superearly in the morning, and we talk the entire time. We are up at the crack of dawn and hold each other accountable for exercising, which in turn helps us lead healthier lives and be better moms.”
Pettis says that she finds e-mail fits her “mom lifestyle” well. “As a busy mom, I find e-mail the easiest form of communication. This listserv is like having over 500 friends helping you make decisions, giving advice and supporting one another.”
Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer and the mother of two. She considers herself an uber-cybermommy, and some of her friends even complain she should stop using e-mail so much and call them instead.