I first dipped my toe into the waters of online communities when I was thinking about getting pregnant with B. That would be about 3 years ago now. It was on Craigslist, in one of their online discussion forums. I learned quite a bit about human nature on that board, and was schooled quite quickly in the competitive nature of women when it comes to trying to get pregnant/being pregnant/ and parenting. Let's just say that being a member and posting/responding/commenting isn't for the faint of heart.
Somehow- I got lucky. I mean REALLY lucky. I went from the TTC board to the pregnancy board, and eventually an off shoot to a newborn board with the same group of women. And to fast forward this tale- these women and I are still friends. Over 3 years later. And we get along. And we don't judge. And we genuinely LIKE one another. Crazy huh? Here's more....we all have varying economic backgrounds, marital status, number of children, parenting philospohies etc. As a group we started out around 35-40, and today our number stands at 33. Thirty three of us have clung together through some of the most insane days a new parent can have- and kept our sanity through it all with the help of each other. We have shared divorce, death, birth, miscarriage, difficult pregnancies, difficult labors- difficult mothers and mothers in law- you name it. I think we have pretty much seen everything- and still- we remain together as much as we can even though we are separated by geography.
There is a small group that lives on the east coast- but there are also members in the midwest, south and west coast. We have even gone international! Some of us have met- some haven't met at all. But still, we remain a very tight knit group. I read on Facebook daily posts from other friends of mine (that do not have such a group) questions to things like 'What do I feed my child now that we're on solids?' or 'How do you transition to a big boy bed?' And I see these pleas with a mixture of gratitude and pity. Gratitude because I have a go-to resource that I know will give me their take (good/bad and ugly) and pity because they do not have a group like I do- with ALL of us having a child the exact same age (give or take a few months) as mine- and going through the exact same thing at the same time. We fumble through it together.
I don't mean to sound superior by using the word 'pity' as it almost comes off as condescending- and I really do not mean it to sound so. There just really isn't a word that I have to replace it. Sure you can have your moms group that meets once a week at the park- or McD's or whatever. That's great. But don't tell me that there isn't the slightest bit of competitiveness, smugness, or SOMETHING lurking in there with at least ONE of them. The reason I have this belief is because of what I read and hear from friends. I read on blogs all the time about the competitive nature of other moms- whether it's on a Facebook page or even Twitter. I have 'unliked' SEVERAL pages due to this crazy 'I am better than you' sort of tone by some posters. Being a mom is hard enough, I don't need to be made to feel inferior to someone else. Which brings me back to my group.
How then, can a group of 33 women remain so genuinely supportive, empathetic, and sincere? We have differing opinions- we aren't the same people- and to be honest, we don't have spats or arguments. What amuses me about this also is how things have evolved. For example, I used to be hesitant to talk about my 'moms group' (I thought it sounded weird to say they were people I 'met' on the Internet-not to mention talk about them with my husband). I've met many, but really we all desire a group gathering. Someday........Anyhow-today, when I talk about these women with other friends- they a) are familiar with many of them as I have been talking about them for years, and b) I say my 'online moms group' with pride as now I realize it's a rare gem that I possess. A moms group with real people, real friends, and a really safe place for all of us. How cool is that?