Friends, Near or Far

If anyone had suggested to me four years ago, before becoming a parent, that I would spend much of my time communicating online with a bunch of strangers, I would have creased my brow, possibly laughed out loud. Put simply, I’m not a social media person; I prefer good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction. However, since bringing two vivacious girls into the world, this bunch of strangers – from Inner West Mums as well as other online communities of which I am a member – has become an integral part of my life.
My first daughter was almost three years old before I discovered Inner West Mums. Evidently I was living under a rock, or at least a pile of dirty washing and nappies, in a sleep-deprived haze. Quite frankly though, I don’t know how we made it to that point as parents – or residents of the area, for that matter – without the infinite wisdom of the group.
IWM is a boundless source of information and advice. You name it, the mamas know who to go to, where to find it or have been through it. Looking for an elusive daycare spot for your child somewhere . . . anywhere in the Inner West? Dying to vent about the nasty person at Norton Street Plaza earlier that day who cast a judging look as you just tried to make it out of there with your shopping and children intact? Wondering, as you attend to your baby for the fifth time that evening, whether anyone else’s bub wakes to every single plane that passes overhead? You’ve come to the right place.
Some days – scratch that, every day – IWM is great for a laugh too. Who can forget the debate that raged late last year, with hundreds upon hundreds of responses, on whether it is acceptable to put underpants in the washing machine? My mind now boggles whenever I approach our overflowing washing basket. Truly that day, ladies, we struck Inner West gold.
Among the 13,000-plus IWM members, I’ve found numerous mums whose posts or comments I always appreciate, whose wise words, humour or generosity genuinely lift me up. I have written previously about my family’s difficulties in raising two children who suffer from chronic constipation. My very first post within the group, asking for paediatric gastroenterologist recommendations was a pivotal moment for me. Until that point I knew of no one whose children suffered from the problem; right away I was connected with several local mums who could relate and the names of the top Sydney-based professionals who could possibly help, and indeed have done so. Beyond IWM, among the other online groups to which I belong, I have found additional encouragement and goodwill.
So is it pathetic to count these mums, mostly complete strangers, as my friends and allies? (That is a rhetorical question, by the way, but I’ll answer it in case anyone is tempted to respond in the affirmative . . . ) No, I don’t think so.
It just so happens – and this shocked me when I first admitted it to myself – that looking after littlies can get a little dull. At times parenthood can be exasperating, exhausting. It can also be isolating. I don’t lack real-world friends, although my real-world friends aren’t necessarily there for me around the clock, can’t necessarily relate to the pressures of that day, of that night, of that week. But the online mamas can.
My life is so much richer since becoming a mother. Not only do I have two delightful daughters who make me laugh and wonder every day (and all too often make me cry too), I now have ­– quite literally – thousands of virtual allies who are kind and funny and insightful, which, after all, is everything you want in a friend, right? Thanks for being there always, mamas.

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