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Parenting Traps

More than "Mom"

A virtual world -- with real value.

By Alysia Krasnow Butler
September 20, 2009

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Facebook saved my sanity. Facebook? I was a 36-year-old stay-at-home mother of two, seven months pregnant with my third baby. I certainly didn’t fit the profile -- I thought -- of the typical user. I began slowly, with status updates, “friending,” sharing photos of my family.

In late October, about two months after I signed on, I had my third boy. I was not prepared for the complete isolation that a winter baby would bring. It was a particularly cold and miserable winter. I felt as if I was going out of my mind.

Daily online conversations were the answer. When I was having a particularly rough day, my friends gave me encouragement, and I got to do the same for them. The best part was that most of these Facebook friends were just that already -- real-world friends. Having connected online, we were helping one another as if we lived next door.

My brother, a psychologist, believes that Facebook is the soap opera for our generation. Originally I bristled at this idea, but his point is valid. Soap operas provide a daily connection to other people’s lives -- yes, fictional ones -- usually in a way that makes the viewer feel better about his or her own life. The shows give the viewer a story to follow and something to look forward to every day. For me, that is Facebook. It is my connection to other people’s stories. Before signing on, I had lost a big part of my identity. After seven years at home, I had become only Mom to my kids. I was no longer the reliable “go-to” person at the office or the friend who could hop on a plane for a weekend visit. On Facebook, people cared about my opinions. It felt good, and I felt whole again.

Almost a year after my son’s birth, I need Facebook a little less. However, I’m still on several times a day, chatting with friends or commenting on their updates. With these connections, I’m a much better wife, mother, and friend. I get a social outlet I need at the times when the kids don’t need me. I may be hopelessly addicted to it, but I’m a better person because of it.

Just don’t try to get me on Twitter.

Send comments to magazine@globe.com. QUESTION OF THE WEEK Do you use online social networks? Why? Next week: With grandchildren, it’s payback time. Last week: A mom slows down.