Everything in moderation, Darling

March 27, 2011

*Update:  After writing this blog post, I was interviewed on the topic for the local NBC News. See the clip here.

The hubster was out of town last weekend and I had a dear girlfriend, Amanda, come and stay with me for a couple of nights.

We kept around the house mostly, sipped coffee on the deck, watched the little ones patter about (of both the four-legged and two-legged variety) and spent a lot of time just chatting. About life, love and the meaning of it all.

We took a brief trip to Starbucks and the carwash — and enjoyed the company of a few other strong women one evening, but mostly, we just kept each other company.

We joked about how we wished all of our favorite women lived in the same little village together. And we could all work from home – or simply stay at home – and spend our days doing just as we were doing this weekend. Helping each other with the little ones, cooking each other meals, taking walks together through the neighborhood – and mostly, just connecting.

This idealism of the role of women – and communities of women – spurred an interesting conversation about modern pressures. For both stay at home and working wives or mothers, it’s a particularly isolated time in the world. Family often lives cities, states, even countries away. Many of us don’t know our own neighbors across the street. Our best friends often live 30 minutes across town in traffic. And because of this, that 1950′s “happy homemaker” or “working mommy” community is found in the one place where women most commonly commune: online.

Instead of borrowing eggs and sharing casseroles at block parties, we’re swapping recipes and food photos on mommy blogs. Instead of asking parenting advice at the local church forum, we’re sharing our experiences in online forums. We’ve traded face time for Facebook and tea time for Twitter and have found that the support we innately desire is now only a click away.

And the proof is in the homemade pudding:

3.9 million women with children write blogs in the US. (eMarketer)

18.3 million internet users who are moms read blogs at least once a month. (eMarketer)

87.1 million women online are active on a weekly basis in social media (including blog interactions, Facebook, message boards, and other social networking sites). (BlogHer/iVillage)

As a bloggin’ mommy, I can relate to the sentiment. Blogs and social networks allow me to feel connected with friends that I may not see for months – or even women I’ve never met. I bookmark their recipes, gush over their kids’ pictures, cry with their heartaches, and laugh at their “adventures in motherhood.”

I share my own stories, express my own insights — and love to see the “likes” and “comments” that flood in with supportive response. But I can’t help but think how much nicer it would be if those interactions were made less through a computer screen and more outside my window screen. If our “villages” were like the ones of old, where sisters, mothers, grandmothers and friends gathered to raise babies and churn butter and nurture the entire community. (OK, maybe the churning part is going a bit far).

Most likely, many of us have a healthy balance of both an online – and offline – community, and use the internet as a supplement to real, face-to-face connection. But I am curious about the relevance of this ironic article from Great Britain, cheekily titled: “Not now, Darling, Mummy’s Tweeting: As today’s mothers spend hours on the internet, what’s the toll of their neglected children?”

It seems a bit extreme — but it does cause me to pause and ponder. The main difference between bonding with women offline as opposed to online: where are the children?

This past weekend, Amanda and I were able to chat, share recipes, show pictures and give advice while the kids played in the water and ate snacks in the backyard. If we had been having those conversations over Facebook, I would have a toddler pulling at my pant leg to “look at me!” and an infant fussing in her bouncer. With our fingers typing and our eyes squinting to read, too much online connection can pull us away from our real lives, instead of enhancing it.

In the “life through a lens” modern phenomena, we can spend too much time “documenting” instead of living, “blogging” instead of being – and “presenting” instead of parenting. And we must ask ourselves: If every mile stone is yet another cute photo to share online, where is our true focus?

I love this blog. And I find real satisfaction nurturing relationships through the means of modern technology, but I am grateful for the perspective of balance. For I never want my children to feel like they have to share my lap with a laptop – or my hands with an iPhone.

Gotta go now, the littlest one is waking up.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

LKF March 31, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Great reflection. I’ve been thinking/blogging about parenting and internet-ing lately, and I think you’ve put your finger on something here. It’s so crucial for us to model a healthy use of technology for our kids, and often that means putting down the iphone or closing the laptop and focusing on the beautiful, quickly growing child in front of our eyes. I’m always saddened when I see a child tugging at the sleeve of a parent who’s engrossed in his/her Blackberry. What will this next generation grow up to think – that computers are as important as people?

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