Monday, June 17, 2013

The Ones Who Push You Up

This post is the first in my "from the archives" series. This post was from August 2012 - I'd been blogging just under a month. This one spoke to me lately, because lately I've finally gotten the blogging support that I needed so badly. This post was back when I had no idea about blogging at all and I'm pretty sure about 20 people read it. Amazing what good support from others can do to build you up.

I don't think any mom ever feels totally competent all the time.  I can't speak for everyone, but I NEED support, and lots of it. I have my "real life" support, and it's wonderful. People to talk to, people to spend time with.

My other support comes from Facebook.  Yes, you read that right.  The place where people go to argue incessantly about politics, post humorous cartoons, share the highlights of their day, post baby pictures that are apparently soon going to be replaced with cats, etc.  Because two years into mommyhood, a HUGE part of support for me EVERY SINGLE DAY comes from one particular Facebook group, made up of women who all had babies in July 2010.

Our babies - this was when they were about 10 months old. Madison is on the top - can you find her?

Whenever I mention to people that I have an online mommy group, they sort of make a face and say "Oh, like on WTE or Baby Center?  I went on those message boards a couple of times..."  Then they either trail off or tell me a story about how stupid they found them.

I actually agree.  Those huge message boards aren't great, although I was on one pretty much the whole time I was pregnant with Madison.  I had NO idea what to expect with pregnancy, so it was a nice place to say "umm...the books didn't mention this."  Plus, because it was semi-anonymous, you could ask questions that were a little more...pregnancy detailed than you'd generally discuss with friends, but not quite medical enough to ask your doctor.

Eventually the board I posted on sort of migrated over to Facebook, which I liked a LOT more.  It felt a lot more personal to be talking to Sherilyn or Mandi instead of mommy2be or 2012JulyMom (to show how truly uncreative I am, my username was MereN.  But hey, it wasn't cheesy!)  For a while that group was fabulous.  Instead of what felt like thousands of random screen names, it was about 100 women.  We posted birth stories, asked questions, talked about everything child related.

Then, because Facebook loves to fix things that are totally unbroken, create a new set up, and then change it again, they redid how the groups were set up and suddenly the group swelled to over 500 members.  And like the message boards it became impersonal and catty.  Posts were getting lost and swallowed up.  People would deliberately post controversial topics to get people all worked up.  There were arguments that got NASTY, and nasty very quickly.  All those hot topics in the "mommy wars" (which I really hate...but no digression today...topic for another day) like feeding, car seats, TV, baby food, working moms, blah, blah, blah.  I didn't want to leave, because there were people I really liked, and I had to ask my questions and get my reassurance SOMEWHERE.  But it was getting really...petty.

I was sucked into one particular argument over nursing and was getting really upset and considering leaving more seriously, since I hate conflict so much, when suddenly I got an invite to a different group.  A truly awesome, sweet and drama free girl somehow knew that what we needed was a group of people who had been around and were generally level headed.  A spin off if you will.  This group was (and still is) secret, which means it's unsearchable on Facebook and would be locked in to women who had PROMISED to be anti-drama.  (Aren't you jealous of how exclusive I am?  I was initially shocked I made the cut!)

It. Is. AWESOME.  It's smallish (40-50 of us), so we all sort of "know" each other at this point.  To the point where we actually (gasp) use NAMES instead of the message board short hand that always really annoyed me.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, trot on over to What to Expect and just peek at a birth club message board...LO, DH, DS, DD, TTC, etc.)  But we don't have to because we KNOW the names.  When Madison was going through all her issues last year, they knew all my fears and frustrations - things I didn't want to post publicly when we really didn't know Madison's diagnosis yet.  They probably know way more about autoimmune neutropenia than they ever thought they would.  I can post about her counts, and they know what I'm talking about (at least enough to know whether or not to say YAY or offer prayers!)

It is the perfect blend of anonymity and friendship.  Now that it's a small group, we talk about EVERYTHING - things I might be embarrassed to talk to anyone in person about, but that I would feel weird posting on some huge board in the internet ethos.  We talk about our July kids of course, and we have moved from newborn issues and celebrations to toddler issues and celebrations.  But we also talk about our lives.  Our relationships and families and husbands and boyfriends and jobs and houses and everything else under the sun (ladies, you know some of the "everything else" I'm referring to!).  When I have news, I post it there.  When I need to vent, I post there.  I tell you, it is like therapy for me.  I love getting advice.  I love hearing that I'm not the only one who has a toddler or baby who does certain things!  There have been times where I just pour out why I'm feeling like the worst mom in the world on a specific day.  And whether or not anything gets solved, just knowing that SOMEONE read it, even if no one can offer anything, makes me feel a little better.  Chances are, someone has dealt with whatever you are struggling with and can do or say something to make your feel better.  We share deals, coupons, pictures, cards.  I would truly consider these women FRIENDS, even though chances are I'll never actually meet most of them in person.  We're all so different, made so by ages, locations, situations, beliefs, etc, but that's what can be so great about it!

It's still 50 women, so it's by no means perfect.  We've certainly gotten into some hot topics and argued.  Feelings have been unintentionally hurt.  People flare up, and it IS still the internet.  You can argue like crazy and never have to look into someone's eyes.  People have left over arguments like that and it makes me sad, because that's not what the point was.  People have left simply because it's really easy to get too sucked into technology, and they felt it was better for their families to step away from the temptation to stay up late chatting with ladies from all over the country.  I hate when that happens too, even though I understand.

Ultimately, I know I need this in my life.  I need people I can be totally open with, where I won't feel judged and I can hear what other moms are going through, and I hope I've been as much of a help to some of the others.  We jokingly wonder if we'll still be in touch when we're talking about college applications, and I hope we are.  I never thought I'd have a group of internet friends.  But now that I'm a mommy, I need other mommies around to talk to.  And I love the support!  Like I said...anywhere you can get it!
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