For centuries, mums turned to their own mothers and grandmothers for advice on bringing up baby. Now, however, know-how and support is only a click of a mouse away.
There’s no doubt that when you’re a new mum, you need a good support network and a reliable and honest source of information for those moments when you’re still unsure about your parenting skills.
Where, traditionally, your own mum or grandmother would have been the ‘font of all knowledge’, the growth over the last few years of online forums proves that many of today’s mums prefer the online version!
These forums and websites are all very similar. The home page usually offers a variety of links to informative articles on a range of subjects. These provide helpful hints and tips for mums – particularly first-time mums, who are perhaps worried about why their baby is crying, or who are unable to get their baby settle. In this regard, such websites seem to have simply taken the place of the well-thumbed textbooks that mums turned to for decades.
Perhaps most importantly for most mums, however, is the fact that the websites also feature a variety of forums, where mums the length and breadth of the country are able to voice concerns online and – even more importantly – receive advice almost immediately.
These forums – or message boards as they’re also known – are basically online discussion sites where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They differ from chat rooms in that messages are at least temporarily archived. Also, depending on the access level of a user, or the forum set-up, a posted message might need to be approved by a moderator before it becomes visible.
A quick glance at a selection of these forums will show the importance which many mums put on being able to communicate in this way. Instead of traditional, third-person advice and information, mums give out advice in a first-person, personalised and honest manner and therein lies their value. Mums can instantly ‘bond’, which is particularly important if they are feeling a little isolated by being at home and perhaps with little family around them. It’s interesting to note that many, who participate online, very often state that they don’t have access to information, advice or support in their offline lives.
There’s no doubt that these informal exchanges, which can be coupled with anonymity in cyberspace, can afford mums breaks from perhaps more idealised mothering positions. We know how ill-timed advice from older generations can often rattle and upset. Speaking in an anonymous way – in cyberspace – allows mums to distance themselves from the ‘ideals’ of parenting. In doing so, they’re saved from the feelings of inadequacy which many mums – and, again, particularly first-time mums – can experience at times.
While for many mums, these websites and forums are simply a social network where they are able to stay in touch with other mums and share parenting advice and product information, others seem to derive comfort from these online friendships where they can receive advice without the physical intimacy of a friendship.
Whatever role these forums and websites play in modern life, there’s no doubt about one thing….they’re here to stay!