Making Online Mom Friends

HerStoriesTales

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about how social media connections are a lousy replacement for “real life” friendships. People argue that texting has become a cop-out for high-quality, face-to-face interactions. It has been said that too many people are opting to email instead of talk, send Facebook messages instead of get together, and spend more time in front of a screen than in the physical company of friends and loved ones.

Well. We’re here today to say- get real, folks. In the world of potty training, temper tantrums, the ever-sacred naptime, and power struggles– over everything from the lumpy socks to the request for one more episode of Dora to the refusal to eat anything that isn’t beige—that’s easier said than done for most moms.

Enter online friendships. Yeah, yeah, we know- chatting online is no replacement for actual time spent with friends. But as motherhood has proven to both of us time and time again- you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Some connections—even the so-called “not real life” internet ones—are better than none. We’d all love to have harmonious playdates at Starbucks while our well-behaved offspring sit politely in their chairs, daintily eating their petite vanilla scones while their mamas gab over lattes. We’d give anything for those daily, weekly, or hell- we’d take monthly at this point, Happy Hours with girlfriends. But let’s be honest- many days we’re unshowered, in our sweat pants, and a small person has just used our hair in lieu of a tissue. Ain’t nobody got time for mom-dates! But that doesn’t mean moms don’t get lonely or crave
connection.

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The world of social media and blogs has made it easer than ever for isolated moms to reach out; in fact, there are some ways in which online friendships are even better than real life ones, in addition to the obvious convenience factor. For one, you never meet her kid(s), so there’s no way they can annoy the crap out of you. Come on, admit it, we all have that friend whose kid is totally annoying. Online friends are also great at assuming the best and stroking our fragile, self-doubting mom-egos. They’re quick to point out your cleverness and how stunning you look in your profile picture. (Online friends never have to behold the wonder of PigPen Mommy.)

But there are certain DO’s and DON’T’s to making online mom friends. Because we have so much experience in this area, thanks to our own online camaraderie, we thought we’d share our wisdom with you…

  • DO become a mini-stalker. If she has a blog (doesn’t everyone?) make sure and peruse her “Favorite Books” page and comment enthusiastically on her great taste. Or “like” her Facebook updates, chiming in with your own similar woes/triumphs.
  • But DON’T go crazy with it. Nothing says creepy like the same person “liking” all your photos from 2 years ago the day after you “friend” them.
  • DO let her see who you are- moms love commiserating over shared parenting fails, so knock off the bragging and tell her what your life is really like. Not the Pinterest one- the meltdown, missed the bus, made Mac and Cheese again one.
  • But DON’T forget to pay attention to subtle cues: If you share the fact that your toddler pooped repeatedly during nap time, wait for a reply. If you’re met with awkward silence and a swift subject change, retreat! If, however, she responds with, “OMG! Mine smeared poop all over the crib today!” then you’re golden. Feel free to commence with future bodily waste disaster tales. If you comment that your child was a “stinker” today and she says, “Yes, but aren’t they such blessings?” proceed with caution. You can decide whether this mom is your kind of uplifting, gratitude-minded gal or it’s time to jump ship. If she says, “Stinker? I’ve got a better word for it,” congratulations. You’ve found a soulmate with whom you can officially complain about your bad parenting moments- you may even be able to use your favorite profanities to refer to your children’s abhorrent behavior- score!
  • DO seek out mothers who are going through the same thing you are. Sometimes our IRL (that’s “in real life” for those not up on their online vernacular) friends are at different stages than we are- they may not have kids yet, or may have older kids. Maybe they work, and you stay home. It’s always helpful to find another like-minded mama dealing with sleep deprivation or preschool drama.
  • But DON’T rule out friendships because of differences. No need to perpetuate the mommy wars by only befriending other breastfeeders, if you are nursing, or by judging working moms if you stay home. Rich relationships can develop in spite of, and sometimes because of, differences.

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Online friendships can be extremely rewarding. You can connect with women you might otherwise have never met, sometimes even as your “old” self- you know- the one whose job description doesn’t include wiping someone. We bonded over a shared blog project that later turned into a book- it’s always nice to be able to use your non-mom brain when connecting with other women. Online friends can remind you that you’re more than just a parent- you might be able to dust off some old skills and discuss common interests that don’t include verbally eviscerating Caillou. (Not that that’s not awesome, because it totally is.)

Even though the two of us have a lot of differences—from our educational backgrounds to our writing style to some parenting choices—we’ve found that our connection is real, validating, and uplifting, even though we’ve never met IRL. So the next time you find yourself feeling lonely but getting out of the house isn’t happening- open up your laptop and open yourself up to the possibility of making a new friend.

About the writer

Stephanie Sprenger blogs at Mommy, for Real, and Jessica Smock blogs at School of Smock. Together, they created the website and blog, The HerStories Project, dedicated to the subject of women’s friendship, and co-edited the anthology The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship.

From Around the Web

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Tarana 2 years ago

Moms who I’ve met online, or blogs that I’ve read, may have actually saved my sanity! As a first-time mom staying away from family and most friends, the internet has been a life-saver for me. Must get my hands on your book!

Melissa Pheterson 2 years ago

As someone who finds “Mom dates” totally draining, distracting and messy, I’m glad to live in the age of online bonding. It’s made my first years of (nervous) motherhood so much richer, rosier and more reassuring! Great article, great pointers.

Social Butterfly Mom 2 years ago

That I feel connected during naptime (and at all!) is such a wonderful feeling. I love my blogging buddies!

jenn 2 years ago

Even though I’ve barely commented so far I have totally felt this way about Scary Mommy since lucking out on finding you guys. I needed SM and I didn’t even know it (um, ok so maybe that’s not the term I should use..haha). I knew there were other like minded, Caillou hating, sailor mouthing, etc., etc.,”bad” parents out there like me and I’m immensely grateful to all of you (blog and comment writers alike) for the near daily doses of honesty and validation you’ve provided me these past few weeks. You guys rock. :)

Ashley Watson 2 years ago

It’s incredible how much things changed with my friends when I became a mother. It seemed that when I was stamped with the title of “mom” I became a totally different person to them. Yes, it’s harder for me to get out, and yes, things have certainly changed in my life, but I’m still the same person who craves companionship. That being said there is a group of women I met in a certain online forum for mothers that have brought a new meaning to the word friendship for me. I’m so very thankful for that. They’ve helped to keep me sane while I am up at 4am with a crying baby and running on 3 hours of sleep in 2 days. This captured the truth. Thank you.

Nav 2 years ago

I don’t have a blog so how would I even go about making online friends? Sorry, I’m kind of new to this. Never really thought about having online friends!

Susan Maccarelli 2 years ago

great article! i just tried to stumble upon it and their annoying taxonomy had my head spinning. i finally picked women’s issues because the list is 1000 things long. in any case – being a new blogger and not wanting to accidentally stalk anyone, this article was useful!

Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

Awesome tips, Stephanie and Jessica! As you know from my essay in your so-cool book (EEEP THANK YOU!), I had a hard time with some IRL friends due to failed playdatesand a bunch of other stuff (buy the book, peeps!). My son is on the autism spectrum. Their kids are typical. I became a bad friend because of it. I’m so thankful for my online friends! I honestly feel like they (you guys) have saved me from total loneliness. That’s real.

Susan 2 years ago

I don’t have online friends. I have always been afraid to reach out.

Sarah Almond 2 years ago

I live in a rural area where it’s hard to find people, especially moms, that share my odd sense of humor and common interests. Being a blogger has connected me in ways I never thought possible. My husband doesn’t really get the whole blogging connection thing when you spend hours talking to people that you haven’t met face to face, but that’s okay, he certainly doesn’t have to!

Love the tips, ladies, so true!

SSMadre 2 years ago

these are good tips! before I thought it was creepy to have online friends-who knows who you are actually talking to? Now I proceed with caution while enjoying the adult interaction I miss sometimes!

Frankie Laursen 2 years ago

This piece is quite timely for me. I just found out that Allison Slater Tate and I have a mutual friend. I Liked and Follow her Facebook page, but I’m hesitant to send her a Friend Request because I’m afraid it’s “imposing” on her.

Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense 2 years ago

Some of my closest friends are ladies I’ve met online in the last year-and-a-half since I started blogging. I love that I can be totally honest and if I say the wrong thing, that’s okay – they either accept me or we never “speak” again. I don’t have to see them and have awkward moments in the carpool line.

And the truth? The online connections I’ve made have saved my sanity. There was a point a couple of years ago when I really thought I was going crazy. I started my blog to vent, and before I knew it I had stumbled upon hundreds of other mothers who understood -and wanted to talk about – EXACTLY what I was going through. Jill’s site was one of the first I came across – I thought “YES; a ‘Scary Mommy.’ That’s what I am!” =)

Cheri 2 years ago

Most of my friends IRL don’t have kids. I’ve turned to the internet to connect with other moms, and I’m glad I did! I’ve made several new friends. I’m even working with one to conduct a Twitter chat on the first Tuesday of every month called #mommychat! It’ll be a place for moms to unload all those things they can’t talk to their other friends about and give and receive advice. (9pm EST if anyone’s interested in joining!)

Katia 2 years ago

Couldn’t agree more! I have a lot of – shall we just call them discussions? – with my husband about this. Online friendships have the potential of running a lot deeper than actual ones, as I find that many of us are less inhibited online, more inclined to share more personal stuff with “strangers” who as a result may become friends. Love to all three of you! (Jill being the third, of course) :-)

Kenya G. Johnson 2 years ago

My “get out more” with social media. Retired military spouse here – The older I got and more we moved around, the harder was to make new IRL friends. I have old friends here and there so I’ve had these online friendships before if was a thing. It works and it can be fun and meaningful. I love the connection I’ve made with all ages of women. My favs to bond with though are in my 40s age bracket and up.

Nicole 2 years ago

I wish there had been social media when my kids were little! It may have helped me to maintain my sanity…..small town living certainly limits friendship opportunities. I say it’s a good thing, I enjoy my online friendships immensely. Just use your common sense like it says in the post :)

Nina 2 years ago

I love the online world and all the REAL (yes real!) friends I’ve found there. Great post, ladies!

Anonymous 2 years ago

Me and my friend communicate more online than in real life even though her house is only a block away. We both have kids, crazy work schedules and I just had a baby. Somehow we could hardly squeeze a day for each other so we talk every night online. It made us even closer. :)

Hana I 2 years ago

I am so thankful for the online community of mom friends that I’ve made. Also, I can honestly say that I had an easier time dealing with “mommy blues” because of the support and connectedness that a had from online mom friends after I had my third child than when I had my first two.

Just the other day I recommend to a friend that it would be worth it for her to invest in a smart phone when she mentioned to me that staying at home was starting to make get depressed. That, and joining me at the gym after the kids go to sleep.

Carisa Miller: Do you read me? 2 years ago

Perfect words to describe the phenomenon that is forging real friendships online, from my real online friends. Thank you for being my connection!

Rebecca Hughes Parker 2 years ago

I have found online mom friends to be such a great resource, when the interactions are done right. You have nailed these tips. I also have found mom friends who live near me to actually transform into quasi online friends – who has time to meet people? But texting and messaging and emailing? That helps us stay close.

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons 2 years ago

So true! My online friends are some of the best and I deeply value those connections!

Emily 2 years ago

Love all your do’s and dont’s – so true! Also so glad you found each other for support as well as having a friendship that led you to producing your excellent book (which I’ve read and loved). My online friendships with other moms has been invaluable to me, especially during this challenging time for my family.

monica 2 years ago

I wish I would have had more online friendships when my four were little. I had plenty of golden IRL friendships, but I think one can never share have enough friends during the early times of motherhood. That helps get us all through! I think it can make a huge difference just having someone to share the ups and downs with. I loved the post and the tips!

Ashlee 2 years ago

I would go insane if it wasn’t for my online mama friends. They definitely keep me in check and always know how to help and what to say. I barely have time to visit with friends in real time, so I think online relationships can be just as good as “in-person” friends. And for bloggers, with so many conference options, you can meet who you’ve been talking to!

Jean 2 years ago

All of my friendships are IRL- some are just technologically aided 😉 I questioned my online friendship behavior as I read through your checklist. I’m pretty sure I’m being a good screen friend. I hope!

alexandra 2 years ago

I love my online friends.

alexandra 2 years ago

My online friends changed my life. No longer lonely, I’m able to pop in, have a laugh, share a tear, and get back to the dinners and the homework. It makes for a happy life. Community does that. My friends online connect with me in a way that my irl friends aren’t able to… because of time. Online, all we need is a 15 second hey, thinking of you, and we’re good.

Lindsey 2 years ago

I commented and it got lost – trying again! I love this and guffawed out loud at some of the points. I also want to add my voice to the choir singing the praises of online friendships. I’ve experienced the ways that some of them can be hugely authentic and important. xox

Deb @ Urban Moo Cow 2 years ago

Seems to me these are tips for becoming friends in any realm!!

I was very surprised to make friends online (including you two!!), but I can’t imagine my life without those friendships now.

Jessica 2 years ago

Commenting…want a chance to win the book!

grownandflown 2 years ago

Stefanie and Jessica, we found friendships online to be interesting and gratifying just as you say, even though we are at a very different stage of parenting – with teens and college kids (lots to discuss there, just wait!) We can imagine the value of online friendships for harried and isolated moms with very small kids (a lifesaver) but have also seen how compelling it is been for us as we reach another somewhat lonely time on the family spectrum – the empty nest years. The opportunity for digital collaboration has led us into directions we would have never predicted. Agree with everything you’ve said!

Lindsey 2 years ago

Oh, this made me laugh. Guffaw, even. Such truth! I also firmly believe in the power and authenticity of some online friendships. Absolutely. xox

Julie Burton 2 years ago

Great post by two women who truly have this online friendship thing down! As a contributor the The Her Stories Project, I’ve had the opportunity to connect online (which sometimes led to connecting on the phone) with so many incredible women due in large part to the fact that Jessica and Stephanie did an amazing job of encouraging and fostering this connectivity.Thanks again, J and S!

Jessica Vealitzek 2 years ago

I think there’s something about writing, too, that can lend to a deeper friendship, in the same way pen pals can be good friends. Sometimes I find myself being more open and honest online than in real life.

Julie Burton 2 years ago

Great advice from two women who really have this online friendship thing down! As one of the 50 contributors to The Her Stories Project, I have connected me with so many incredible women because of the way Jessica and Stephanie encouraged and fostered the connectivity. Thanks so much, again, J and S!

Lynn 2 years ago

I don’t think online friends should or can be a total replacement of friends IRL, but they sure do make a difference. For me right now especially, it is easier to talk to online friends, because all of my IRL friends are friends with both my ex and me. Awkward.

Charissa May-Riley 2 years ago

It’s lifesaving to know you’re not alone.

Sarah 2 years ago

Love this. Some of my closest friends live in my computer. :)

Pam 2 years ago

Just bought the book for myself and my BFF, who I met 10 years ago on a mom’s message board. Can’t imagine life without her!

Michelle @ Juicebox Confession 2 years ago

This is perfect. I struggled with real life friendships after having my daughter. Now I have a small community of online friends that can turn to, night or day.

Friends are friends no matter how you are in touch, right?

Christina 2 years ago

Since I keep very odd hours sometimes it’s nice having online friends who are also available at odd hours.

Kristen 2 years ago

I really love the advice in this post (and the timing of it, personally). As my daughter gets a little older (she’s 6) and there’s no more of the drudgery involved with naps, diapers and feeding that served as the common denominator with most of my “IRL” friends, I find that I am drifting from those moms because more of our baseline personalities shine through again, especially when it comes to non-parenting issues/interests. And I’ve never found my tribe IRL, so to speak, even before my child was born. But online? Yes–and happily so I’m finding. I am not at all convinced that online friendships are “less” than traditional ones, ESPECIALLY when those online friends engage on a more meaningful level much of the time than IRL friends. The do’s/don’ts here will certainly help keep me in check as I make additional friends online going forward–THANKS!

Vanessa D. 2 years ago

Even as a mom with older children, I can’t always connect with my IRL friend. She works, I work. I date, she has a husband. On-line friends fill the social gap. Twitter alone can be a lifesaver, interactions there can be as shallow or as in-depth as you want or are feeling at the moment.