I left a workplace full of people who shared my enthusiasm for teaching, writing, and reading. Always someone to bounce ideas off, share materials, or give feedback. My days were full of students, parents, teachers, some of whom became good friends. I collaborated with fellow teachers on curriculum, lessons, and event planning.
Then I went on maternity leave. And as much as everyone means well about keeping in touch, I found my social circle shrank to a speck.
Sure, people dropped by to see the baby at first. Yet, after the newness of the baby’s birth wore off, I found most days suddenly devoid of adult conversation (apart from daily phone calls to my mother and of course, my husband). It’s understandable; coworkers and friends have their own busy lives to attend. Stil, I found myself missing that spirit of collaboration and teamwork.
Motherhood isn’t always a collaborative effort. Often you’re the only one up at night, and you’re often alone with the baby all day. And if you leave the workplace to stay at home, a sense of isolation can quickly sink in.
This is when I found the online mom community and a wealth of information and friends. Soon I was blogging and tweeting and Facebooking with moms from all over the country!In the past year, I’ve made wonderful mom friends online who fill my “friendship gaps,” for which I am deeply grateful. Yet, when I stepped away from the computer, I felt that same sense of alone-ness in my new motherhood.
How could I be getting so connected online, yet still feeling disconnected in real life? Well, there are a few aspects of relationships that (for me) couldn’t be found online.
- A simple touch - when you’re sad, tired, hurting, sometimes a hug, a pat on the back, or supportive touch on the arm can bring restoration.
- A shared experience - the bond of memories formed together is often the glue of a strong relationship.
- A stretch of time - online communication is often quick, on-the-go, or you wait several hours or days for someone to get back to you. In real life, you can spend hours walking, laughing, discoursing with the same person, adding a depth to your relationship.
I wanted a mom friend in-the-flesh. I needed a mom-colleague the same way I had needed professional colleagues. Someone who’d call me to go to the park with our babies. Share a coffee. Or stroll the mall on a rainy day. Or even not talk babies and discuss books, music, or politics.
I had to find ways to meet other moms offline. Sometimes that meant going outside my comfort zone: attending a La Leche League meeting by myself (I called it my “professional development”). Or, I took trips, like to a local cloth diaper store to meet the owner and learn about her business (my “field trip”). I took a music class with baby and loved it (teachers are life-long learners after all). At each of these places, I found mothers going through similar struggles as myself.
And the beautiful part is how my online community has helped me find real-life mom connections. In fact, one mom blogger happens to live about ten minutes from me, and we’ve been collaborating both on our blogs and in real life! So maybe I can have the best of both worlds – mom friends when I connect… and when I don’t!
Although I haven’t found that one kindred spirit that gets my every eye roll and dry humor, I feel less isolated by taking steps to stay as connected offline as I am online!
Did you feel a similar sense of disconnection when you became a new mom? Have you found more support online or offline as a mother?