Mums logging on to share their stories with new online friends

IT used to be that people would save their innermost thoughts and frustrations on parenting for their closest friends. Not any more.

Now parents, especially mums, are using the computer to bare their souls to the world at large.

Mummy blogging is an increasingly popular way for parents to share their experiences with like-minded souls.

Parents can set up blogs by creating their own websites and posting their thoughts, or by joining one of the many blogging sites on the net.

One such site is the Mum Bloggers Club (mum bloggersclub.co.uk). When UK mums began colonising the American Mom Bloggers Club with their British chit-chat, Jennifer James decided UK mums might need their own site.

"Blogging among mums in the UK is relatively new, and from what I can tell, mums are testing the waters, just like we did in the early days in the States a few years ago."

She says that mum blogging is more than just about parenting: it also helps parents to hone their writing skills, chronicle their families' lives and forge online friendships.

"Mums network immensely and find a camaraderie that they sometimes can't develop among friends face-to-face."

Jennifer began blogging in 2004 when she was a stay-at-home mother of two young children and "desperate to talk to other women instead of toddlers all day long".

"There's something quite liberating about writing about your kids, family, deepest desires, motherhood, parenting and work – and then connecting online with other women who share your ideas and/or have gone through the same things.

"Instant connections are made through cyberspace and often develop into lasting friendships."

Blogging can also be a means of re-connecting with the professional world.

Mum-of-three and author Charlotte Moerman began writing her parenting column on raisingkids.co.uk two years ago, and has since published her first book, Instructions Not Included (Virgin Books 12.99), about adapting from being a career woman to full-time motherhood.

"It's a therapy for me – writing about experiences and how I cope helps to control the chaos of day-to-day life with three young sons – it helps to make sense of it all," she says.

She points out that blogging is also a replacement for writing a diary. "If I wasn't writing a blog, I'm sure I wouldn't have the motivation to write a private diary."

With modern families often living far from their extended families, she adds that online communities can become a vital support network.

"It's like having your own virtual family," she explains.

"There's the argument that spending too much time on the computer is unhealthy. But if the kids are in bed and your other half is away on business, for example, having a community to log on to and a piece to write is a massive positive."

Mum of two Vanessa Lawton, from Leeds, started her "mum blog" in 2008 and says she has attracted a good following.

"My blog represents heartfelt, soulful parenting with a dollup of humour, wit and occasionally wisdom," says Vanessa who manages and develops cainer.com, a website for astrologist Jonathan Cainer.

However, too much time on the computer is an aspect of blogging that psychologist Kairen Cullen warns against.

"Whatever you choose to spend time doing always means choosing not to do other things, like having fun with your children, going out, being physically active and so on.

"So exercising some discretion and moderation regarding how much online activity people, including mothers, engage in is important."

But she stresses that as mums work very hard and have little leisure time with other adults, blogging clearly has benefits.

However, she warns that if virtual social contact substitutes for the real thing, mothers who don't get out much can become "socially de-skilled and alienated".

"There's no substitute for real people. A psychotherapist once wrote: 'It is through relationships that we learn who we are'. This sums up a lot about why virtual interactions with strangers are a poor substitute for real people, face-to-face," she says.

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