In 1988, I remember my mother looking up rashes in her home medical journal, trying to decide if my red-spotted chest was worthy of a trip to the doctor. She listened to Barbra Streisand on the record player, and instead of Pinterest, there was an actual bulletin board with interests pinned to it hanging from the wall.
Motherhood before the Internet must have sucked balls.
I’ve never experienced parenting without Google, and I really don’t want to. Aside from the ease of looking up anything and everything, I would be very lonely without my online communities. I haven’t worked outside of the home in almost 6 years, and while I stay very busy keeping up with the kids and the house, it can feel very isolating. Our neighbors are mostly retired couples or dual-income families, which means that the only other adults I see on some days are the white-haired man across the street that waves when he walks out to get the paper.
There are five other women on my street who appear to be in my age bracket, but we are all so busy whipping in and out of our driveways that we’ve never spent time getting to know each other outside of polite, generic “Hello, how are you’s?” Meanwhile, I’m getting messages on my phone from people scattered all over the continental U.S. because I got into an argument with a total stranger online.
Let me repeat: I have never been inside my neighbor’s home, yet I got into a major argument with a total stranger ON THE INTERNET. That happened.
What did women do before they could chat with other people all day, every day, without ever leaving their home? There are so many days when I, feeling trapped and cornered by motherhood, sit on my playroom floor surrounded by Legos and “talk” to women who are also sitting in a sea of Legos. That’s the magical thing about the Internet; it connects us. I’m very grateful for my online support groups, where I can go to ask questions and lots of women from all walks of life can chime in with nuggets of wisdom: That rash looks like strep! The black heels look better with that dress! Your husband should appreciate you more!
They remind me that I’m not alone. We swap recipes, share videos of ourselves doing silly things, trade beauty secrets, and generate ideas for how to raise kind kids. Sometimes, if I bond really closely with someone, they might become an in-real-life friend.
It may seem counterintuitive to wake up in the morning worrying about a person who lives on the other side of the country — a woman I’ve never actually met in real life — because her C-section is scheduled for today, but in many ways, I know my online friends much better than I know my neighbors. (I have already established that I suck at being neighborly.) I know how they feel about their children, their fears, what illness most recently befell their household, and how they prefer to settle arguments. I share things online that I wouldn’t necessarily share in person, because I don’t have anyone to say them to, or because they’re too personal to blurt out to just anyone. After all, I don’t want to be that person who inappropriately overshares — although, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I’m the weird online person who overshares. Dammit.
Mothers need support any way they can get it, but there is something to be said for having a face-to-face conversation with someone, and actually hearing their laughter instead of seeing it typed out. There is something to be said for giving and getting an actual, in-person, hug.
Perhaps it’s time for me to shut down the computer and start FaceTiming the people who live on my street.