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That's where the Internet came in. I found the #ZombieMoms hashtag on Twitter, and the women who tweeted using it were my saving grace. I think we all found that sharing our daily (and nightly) ups and downs with our new little bundles of non-sleeping joy was the only way we were able to keep sane and feeling as though we were still part of the outside world.
Maternity leave and stress relief
It's a new reality: Many of us moms are turning to online groups and social media for friendship. Social media outlets such as Twitter and Instagram help women who would otherwise feel lonely and isolated make friends and stay connected to the world outside of midnight feedings, dirty diapers and missed naptimes.
"My online friends helped me through the baby blues, the 3 a.m. feedings, the isolation of my ‘real' friends being at work while I stayed home and more," says Caroline Fernandez, a mom of three, the owner of parentclub.ca and one of the #ZombieMoms cofounders.
I may not have very many friends IRL (in real life), but I have hundreds of friends from all over the world who keep me company every day. We tweet each other in the morning to complain about the six feedings we did the previous night, and we Instagram a photo of our finally sleeping baby later in the day.
Moms community on Twitter
"The whole reason I got hooked on Twitter was because of the mom community – because of the immediate connection I could have with other moms in similar situations," says Patty Sullivan, a mom of two, the host of Kids' CBC and a #ZombieMoms cofounder. "No matter what time of day or night, if I had a concern or question about my little one there was a mom online who could reply with advice or just support. It's been a true sanity saver."
Sample greetings among the mom community include tweets like: "Ugh! Baby decided that 5 a.m. was a good time to start the day. I disagree!" Or: "I'm up, it's 8 a.m. and the kids are still sleeping! Woohoo!" We tweet stories about how our kids did in the night, we complain about our crazy days and we generally just hang out online.
Online friendships are a lifeline for moms like me who would otherwise feel lonely and isolated as they care for their families all day. Parents of young children might not have time to go out for coffee, dinner or a movie with friends, but thanks to social media we can socialize from home.
Make sleepless nights a little easier
Having a sleepless night? Scan the #ZombieMoms hashtag randomly throughout the day or night and you can always find someone who is just as awake as you are. If I tweet "Diaper fail at 3 a.m., not fun!" someone will always tweet back letting me know that they're in the same boat or, even better, they'll offer a crafty way to quickly clean up the mess. (Extra layers of bedding in the crib make for a quick and easy cleanup, by the way!) I quite possibly know more about these women than their spouses do – and they know everything about me, thanks to our online friendships.
"The ZombieMoms community was a source of constant support during the sleepless phase when my son was a newborn," says Sara Hodge, a mom of two, the founder of Mums 'n Chums and a #ZombieMoms cofounder. "Whether it was 11 p.m. or 3 a.m., it was a mini sanity break for me to pop onto Twitter and have that instant connection with other moms experiencing the same things at the same time."
"My son has just turned one, and I still check in!" she continues. "It's great to see the progress everyone is making in their various stages of parenthood, and even better knowing they're getting the support they need, all thanks to a hashtag!"
Online friendships during the early years of parenthood
Social media has been my saving grace throughout my first three years of parenthood. Without it I would have retreated into myself, with no one but my husband to talk to every day. Instead, I blossomed as a friend – and as a mother – with the constant online companionship of the people I have met via social media. I have absolutely no doubt that connecting online kept me from descending into depression during those hard first few months of parenting after my two sons were born.
The #ZombieMoms Twitter hashtag community is just one example of a community of mothers (and fathers) supporting each other through everything from the 3 a.m. feedings of those first three (six? nine?!) months and the vomit-filled nights of cold and stomach flu season that make the rounds.
Online friends can become real-life friends
In some ways, it's easier to open up online than it is in person. "You can be vulnerable because you get real-time feedback from someone in the same boat," says Dana Sinclair, a mom of two and another #ZombieMoms co-founder. Plus, expectations can be lower, as you receive support, knowledge and friendship without the expectations that come with traditional friendships, says Sinclair, who I met in real life last fall. Online friendships have a great habit of turning into IRL friendships, which is an unexpected and very welcome bonus, I've noticed.
As parents, we could all use a little support. What better way to get that support than by making friends online. I don't know what I would have done without mine.