As moms, we are constantly battling the trials and tribulations of the day to day. In our full-armor mommy gear, baby wipes and butt cream in hand, we tackle the masses (say that last part too quickly and it means the same). A side glimpse in the mirror every now and again reminds us we are no longer the glamorous women we used to be. But that’s okay. From bath time to bed time, runny noses to skinned knees, fevers, vomiting and the like, we’ve seen it all -literally. It’s a messy job. In the old days we would call on our mothers, our grandmothers, our sisters or aunts, our friends, and sometimes even our neighbors for advice. Many times our questions were met with conflicted results, but the journey was usually worth it. What seemed to matter most was that we had someone to call on for advice. It’s not always that we are in distress, but it is precisely those times of distress that we need emotional support, not just easy answers. It was more about the sound of someone saying, or implying, “I hear you”. These days things are a little different. Extended families living in close proximity are not the norm in western culture anymore. As society globalizes, we paradoxically become more physically isolated. Not all of us, of course. But for many, physical interactions and even heart-to-heart phone calls have been slowly replaced by status update comments, game requests, and the ever-so-intimate emoticon. Welcome to the birth of virtual emotional support for moms.
My BFF is now my BVF
So, we’ve evolved. And as damaging as that evolution presumably has been, it is not without it’s benefits. We are not bound to a single group of friends and acquaintances to find emotional support. We are not limited to our mother’s advice, our grandmother’s advice, or our Aunt Sally’s tried and true methods of child-rearing and castor oil therapies -thank gawd! No. Our web for emotional support reaches across the globe. In the quiet of a mother’s living room, in the darkness of night while children sleep, serious questions can be answered by highly educated responders and wonderfully empathetic counselors. Sometimes they are answered by a drunken Facebook friend (we all have one, don’t we?) who has suddenly realized he/she is perfectly qualified to answer or diagnose any conflict or ailment, but will surely delete comments the following day in stark panic. Whatever your fear, wonder, or regret, there’s someone out there willing to listen. Knowing you are not alone is comforting. Various sites online cater to mother’s with specific needs and concerns. Whether you have a child with special needs, are dealing with financial difficulties, or are having your first child, there are people out there willing to listen and offer advice, as well as a virtual shoulder for you to lean on. This is a wonderful and wondrous thing, but that’s not to say we can replace the old with the new. As teachers and caretakers to a growing future of leaders and advocates, we can’t get too caught up in virtual relationships. We must make a conscious effort to keep a physical network of friends if we want to maintain emotional health and well-being: An e-hug is not as good as the real thing. There has to be balance. Keep up your status update responses, poke your friends, share your emoticons on inspirational boards. But please, just please, pick up that phone once in a while…and not to check your ‘likes’. Make a real phone call.