After DS was born, i joined a BW group to help me learn how to wear him. My local group holds monthly meetings and runs an online forum. At first i participated both in person and online, but later i connected with this community mostly online. This would be my first experience with such a forum.
As a busy, sleep-deprived WAHM, i had no time for the mass high-school reunion that was happening at that time on Facebook. I did, however, make time to learn how to use the online forum, guess at the meanings of abbreviations like TTC and RS, and engage in conversations with other women. The forum became my source of information and advice on everything-parenting (especially “natural parenting”), community events, food, work, and more.
There were some lovely things about my cyber-community: we shared birth stories and walked with each other through some of the toughest and most beautiful experiences of our lives. We were creating a sort of collective womanly wisdom. But there were some troubling aspects too: the absence of male voices (although the group was not exclusively for mothers), the commercialism in the desire to amass more and more baby carriers and other natural or trendy baby products, and the emphasis on a style of mothering that maternal theorists such as Adrienne Rich, Andrea O’Reilly, and Sharon Hays describe as oppressive to women.
Despite the claims of WAH advocates that working at home is empowering to women, i experienced it as disempowering: by adding more invisible work to the tedious and thankless tasks i performed as a SAHM, i devalued both kinds of work and became isolated and frustrated. Often, instead of going outside, getting together with old friends, writing a poem, or reading a book (i was starved for these things), i spent spare moments reading and posting messages to my mostly invisible online friends.
I am going back to school this fall, and the children are going to school and day care. I check in once in a while, but i have mostly given up the forum. I’m grateful for the help the online community was to me when i needed it, and for a few friendships that i think will last IRL.
BW: baby wearing
CD: cloth diapering
DD/DS/DH: dear daughter/dear son/dear husband (i sometimes substitute
less affectionate adjectives that begin with a d)
IRL: in real life
RS: ring sling
SAHM/SAHD: stay-at-home mom/stay-at-home dad
TTC: trying to conceive
WAHM/WAHD: work-at-home mom/work-at-home dad
Melanie Dennis Unrau is a poet, freelance editor and proofreader for Geez magazine.
For more articles about our relationship with technology, see the Geez Super Cyber Issue number 20.