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Laptop Woman

A very interesting report has just been issued by Gather.com and Mom Central Consulting regarding the social needs of mothers and reasons why they seek friendships online.

It looks like a large first step has been taken to accept that online friends are ‘real’ friends, and that they fill a very important void in the modern mom’s life. Women in my grandmother’s time often shared homemaking errands and child-rearing work with one another (think sewing circles) and had each other to talk to and compare notes and form friendships. Today, women commute to work, carpool to after school activities, help out at school functions, have two jobs to make ends meet … and rarely have time to slow down and feed their soul with a friendship. While it may appear from the outside that today’s mom is bursing at the seams with contact from other moms, if you look closer you will see it can be very superficial. Sitting next to a mom at a soccer game and ‘chit-chatting’ is hardly the same as forming a nurturing friendship. So we turn online, and with luck, we find a friend.

Being able to help and support moms need to socialize while still under the stresses of family and work life is critical not only for the sanity of the woman, but for the general happiness of her family.

  • 4 out of 5 Moms feel that they don’t have enough friends in their lives
  • 40% of Moms report they do not have a “best friend” or someone with whom they can share everything
  • 60% of Moms say they have had feelings of loneliness in the past month and report feeling most lonely when their children are under the age of five and again when parenting teens (14-18yrs)
  • Over 60% of Moms reported making a new friend online in the past year
  • More than a third – 34% – have turned an online friendship into a lasting offline one
  • Over 50% of Moms feel they do not get enough support from their spouse
  • Less than 50% of Moms surveyed live near any family
  • Moms who’ve made friends online have connected most around their shared passions and interests (71%), personal stories (42%), and parenting issues (29%)

So now that someone has taken the time to confirm what many people have suspected, what do we do with the information? Does anything change? When I first read this report I was shocked at how overwhelming lonely it seemed today’s moms are. Then part of me realized that these statistics could be in place because the survey was conducted online and solicited from memebers of an online social network for women.

On the other hand I am completely confident that it’s not just moms online that feel this way – I think it could apply across the board to women in America. Or casting an even wider net – most adults in America. Children seem to have this innate ability to walk into a room and make a friend, but as we get older, and responsibilities pile on, we back away from forming close personal relationships with others outside our family. Teens have not embraced social media outlets nearly as much as adults have, I think mainly because teens have a “real life” network of friends. In my opinion, moms need to know there is life outside of diapers and independence-seeking teens, that they still have their individual identy as a woman, and still have an opinion that matters, all while being at the scheduling mercy of their family and career. This is a motivating factor behind mommy bloggers, and the online social communities that have sprung up around them.

Are we shifting into a society where conversations between friends are typed into blog post comments, Twittered in under 140 characters, and indexed by Google? Not quite, but it just goes to show that a mom can be incredibly resourceful when it comes to filling her own need for friendship – after the kids are in bed.