I chat online all day long. I log on at the first opportunity in the morning and it is literally the last thing I do before I go to sleep. This is not my inner geek, many other mums do the same in an effort to keep themselves socialised.
Some women focus on a single forum, these women become very well known in their virtual community. They have post counts in the thousands and seem to be always online. Others, like me, rely on a variety of forums to meet our conversational needs.
Today I have laughed at the antics of my friends children, recommended some books and congratulated a stranger. I have discussed the best place to buy cleaning products, made a bunch of people laugh and learnt how to braid a wrap. I reassured a breastfeeding mum, told an anecdote about little sisters flooding the bathroom and gathered support for my nappy-free attempts. I offered to help sell raffle tickets, asked if anyone knew where to buy Asian-style pants for bubby and chatted with my sister. I explained how my husband made a sidecar cot, proudly showed off a photo of my bubby and discussed baby needs.
This was all done without actually holding a face-to-face conversation. I did not visit anyone today and, aside from the plumber, no one visited me. All of these conversations were virtual, and most with people I have never ever met.
Laying in bed, as I consider whether to check the forums one more time, it occurred to me just how much I am trying to mimic the type of socialisation that I would have if there were surrounded by other adults. Rather than sitting for chunks of time, this socialisation is dispersed throughout the day, a few minutes here and a few minutes there. A single conversation might take all day. It may take several hours to receive a response to a comment. These online conversations provide stimulation to stay-at-home mums as they go about their day, essentially allowing them to chat while they work.
While I am increasingly grateful for the socialisation that modern technology provides me, I am bothered by my acceptance that this is enough. It is clear just how much a mother at home needs to socialise with other people, yet the current norm seems to be online forums with weekly playgroups.
I am increasingly angry just how much we accept that a morning tea in the park is enough for a stay-at-home mum. Extended periods of socialisation are essential, and woman must be able to socialise without completely interrupting there day. Online socialising might seem like a great answer, allowing women to go about their own day while remaining in contact with others. However it is inefficient, actual direct responses are few and can be delayed over days.
It is hard work to hold a conversation online. A mother needs to stop what she is doing and access the computer. This might mean spending time while baby is asleep catching up with people, bouncing a fussy baby while typing with one-hand or using more mobile devices to type responses while on the move. This provides barely enough socialisation to keep ones head above water.
I am reminded of the game called “The Sims” where Sims must talk on the phone, chat online and talk with people in order to fulfil social needs. If a Sims social bar falls too low then they need to spend a vast amount of time to fill it again. This is how I feel every night when my bubby goes to bed. Instead of using my time to relax I find myself sitting at the computer for hours trying to increase my socialisation bar in a way that only a good face-to-face conversation really can.