Find Your Own Mummy Network

By Jo Middleton

It’s a typical school night. The kids are in bed and I’m home alone. Except I’m not alone… I check facebook and a friend’s status makes me laugh – “I suspect I may like the IDEA of children more than the REALITY of them,” she writes, “can you tell I’ve just been on a play date?” It’s very reassuring to know I’m not the only one that thinks like that sometimes.

I flick to twitter, where I follow a mix of friends, journalists and parent bloggers, plus a handful of comedians that I have crushes on. Some of my favourite twitter mummy friends have left me messages. “Bad mummy confession,” says one, “we didn’t wake up until 9am this morning! Kids were a tad late for school…” Another reassures me that the winter evenings that are to blame for my having eaten far too much Green & Black. It’s apparently nothing at all to do with greed or lack of self control. Excellent.

Before I started blogging at the end of 2009, I was pretty much oblivious to the world of social networking. Sure, I was on facebook, but it was really just a place for me to share a few pictures of my latest exploits. I was sceptical about what purpose things like twitter could serve – I’ve got friends thanks, I would think to myself, I don’t need any pretend ones online.

And then I was plunged headfirst into the world of ‘mummy blogging’…

I started my blog on a bit of a whim, but before I knew it, other parents were reading it, actually reading it! And commenting! It was intoxicating. Within weeks I was hooked. The online mummy community has grown massively over the last couple of years, and is growing rapidly all the time. It was a whole community of parents offering support than I hadn’t even known existed.

The theory behind its popularity is simple really – being a parent of small children can be incredibly isolating, and the internet opens up a whole new world of connections and information. It’s a community, a veritable feast of friendships, a place to go for support, information, advice and more than the odd laugh. You can chat, swap tips, win prizes and all from the comfort of your own home, in your milk-stained pyjamas, baby dozing happily at your breast – what’s not to love?

For the more cynical among you, let me say, I know what you’re thinking, I used to think the same. I remember interviewing a prolific mummy blogger and tweeter a year or so ago for a feature about internet addiction and secretly thinking to myself ‘sure, you have ‘friends’ on twitter…. do you not have any actual real life friends?’ I thought it was a bit sad that all these women were turning to ‘virtual’ friendships for parenting support.

The truth is though that making new friends is hard. It was easy at school, when you could just run up to someone on the playground, tag them and run away, but as adults, we lose that freedom, and reaching out and connecting with new people can be difficult, especially when you don’t seem to have time to get yourself dressed before 4pm.

Online, you can tap into a ready made support network without even leaving the house. And peer support and reassurance is what every new mum really needs. When you’re feeling low, like you can’t cope, or bad about not having washed up in two days, there is always someone blogging or tweeting about the same thing – you realise you’re not alone and it’s hugely comforting.

You don’t need to write your own blog of course to reap the rewards of the online mummy network, although it’s easy to do if you fancy the idea. You can start enjoying the benefits though with very little effort:

Top tips for to get you started:

  • Where to start - there are hundreds if not thousands of parent blogs out there, and it can be a bit daunting to know where to start. Check out some of the most popular blogs at www.tots100.co.uk for some inspiration. Most blogs will have lists on their sites (called a ‘blog roll’) where they list their own favourite blogs, so when you come across one you like, this often leads you to other similar sites.
  • Get involved – if you read a post you like, something that resonates with you or makes you think, then leave a comment. Bloggers love getting comments! It’s a great way to get to know people and start building relationships with other parents online.
  • Twitter-tastic – twitter can seem scary at first, because it does move fast, but bear with it and you’ll soon wonder how you managed without it. Start off just by setting up a basic profile and following a few people, perhaps some of the bloggers that you like, and build it up from there. You’ll soon pick up the jargon. Don’t be afraid to start conversations. Everyone on twitter is there for the same reason, to talk, so go for it!
  • If you like the idea of setting up your own blog and sharing your stories and experiences, the two most popular platforms are Blogger and Wordpress. They are both free, very easy to set up, and straightforward to use.

 Jo Middleton is a freelance writer, blogger, marketing consultant and mum of two. You can read more from Jo on her award-winning blog, www.slummysinglemummy.wordpress.com or follow her on twitter, www.twitter.com/mummyblogger