I first discovered the powerful impact of connecting with strangers online when I was diagnosed with infertility in 2009. At the time, I didn’t know anyone in my real life that had faced the possibility of never getting pregnant — certainly not while still young and single, as I was. I felt isolated and alone, and I struggled with talking to the people in my real life (many of whom were married and just starting their own families) about what I was going through.
That was when one of my closest friends suggested I start a blog. “It will give you a chance to get it all out there,” she said. “And who knows? Maybe someone will find your blog who can relate.”
I had no idea back then just how much that conversation would change my life. I followed her advice, setting up a blog that very weekend, and within just a few months — I had connected with countless women who actually could relate to my infertility struggles. I wound up starting an online forum that many of those same women joined, and while it is closed today (the company it was originally built through has since shut down), for several years that forum served as a beacon of friendship and support for the hundreds of women who used it. Many of those women are still my friends today.
The Growing Trend of Online Support
Over the years, through failed IVF cycles, adoption, and now motherhood, I have continued to feel blessed by the camaraderie I’ve found online. My own Facebook page is more active than I ever could have dreamed, with the majority of participants being women who are currently parents themselves, many who struggled to get to that point, just as I once did.
We are not alone in finding support online. A 2014 Pew Report declared that nearly 90 percent of Americans now use the Internet, nearly all of them feeling as though having that access has improved their lives. For many, this is likely because of the opportunities for connection that the Internet provides. A 2012 PLOS study found that Internet support groups had positive benefits to those suffering from depression, and as far back as 2001, empirical evidence was already building for the value to be found in online connection.
When it comes to parenting, finding that online support can sometimes be more beneficial than at any other point in your life. This is because parenting can be an isolating existence without a strong base of support surrounding you. You love your kids, but being an active and involved parent is exhausting sometimes, and the truth is — we’re all kind of just figuring it out as we go. Even for parents who have close family members and friends at a similar life stage, finding time to get together and connect can be hard.
The Internet doesn’t have the same barriers to friendship that sometimes exist in our day-to-day lives. No matter what time of day it is, you can find a parenting forum available to help you connect with, learn from, and commiserate alongside other parents.
Of course, this all comes with one caveat: the Internet is also a great meeting place for “trolls” — the nickname given to those who turn online specifically to tear others down. The Mommy Wars are rampant in various corners of the Internet, and seeking support online has to come with a willingness to take the good with the bad sometimes. Not all parenting websites, Facebook pages, and forums are created equal, and some are more helpful than others. But here are a few we think are worth checking out.
General Parenting Forums
If you’re just starting out in the quest for online parenting support and advice, these forums have you covered:
- Cafemom.com: Cafemom launched their first community platform in 2006, and branched out into the creation of TheStir in 2010. Today the growing digital media company offers parenting articles, videos, and an active community with specialized groups dedicated to various stages of parenting.
- BabyCenter.com: This site breaks expert parenting advice down to the month in the early years of parenting, and offers an active community forum as well.
- DailyStrength.com:The forums at dailystrength.com are active and provide support in a variety of different categories.
While parenting in and of itself can be isolating, parenting a special needs or medically fragile child can be especially so. These forums allow you to connect with other parents in your same shoes. This might include exchanging information, talking about the latest research, and just being a shoulder to cry on when the challenges start to seem like too much.
- Mothering.com: While Mothering.com has a lot of forums dedicated to general parenting topics, their special needs forum is one absolutely worth checking out.
- Parents of Special Needs Children: This Facebook page provides some great insight into the special needs community, as well as tips for advocating for your child.
Special note: If neither of these speak to you directly (or you need support for an especially rare condition), Facebook has a group for just about everything. A quick search should help you to find your “tribe” in no time!
Parenting through adoption comes with its own challenges, both before and after your adoption is finalized. These forums will help to walk you through the process:
- Adoption.com: The forums at Adoption.com have thousands of threads, and are especially helpful for navigating the waters of adoption in the earliest stages.
- Adoptive Families Circle: These forums address every aspect of adoption you could possibly be interested in.
- Transracial Adoption: With over 8,500 members, this private Facebook group offers an opportunity to interact directly with others in the transracial adoption community.
- Foster Care Adoption: Another Facebook group, this one with over 7,500 members is dedicated to discussing the various trials and tribulations of foster care adoption, while also celebrating the joys of building your family in this way.
Sometimes, you don’t necessarily want to interact — you just want to read the stories written by moms and dads like you. These websites can be a great way to accomplish just that:
- Babble.com:Owned and operated by Disney, Babble tends to share poignant parenting stories that let you know you’re not alone. If you do feel compelled to comment, their Facebook page is always active.
- Mom.me: You’ll find a lot of topical blogs on mom.me, as well as plenty of personal parenting perspectives. Their Facebook page is also popular.
- ScaryMommy.com: Scary Mommy is more the page you go to for a laugh than for nurturing support. Their brand is all about the snark, and their Facebook page offers much of the same. But sometimes, a little humor can go a long way.
The Wrap Up
The sites listed above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is available in the online parenting community. Whether you are looking to connect with other single parents, military parents, moms suffering from postpartum depression, or parents passionate about car seat safety — there truly is a niche of the Internet (and probably several) already carved out just for you!