12 Ways Social Media Has Transformed Motherhood

With my daughter’s sleepover birthday party coming up this weekend, I needed ideas for a good movie to show the nine girls or I’d be screwed. So I headed over to Facebook and posted my question.

Within a couple of hours, more than 80 suggestions had poured in, including great oldies I’d forgotten (Freaky Friday, The Parent Trap) and excellent newbies (Brave, The Lorax). Plus one link to a mom who matched food to Disney movies; Toy Story movie night, for example, featured Mr. Potato Heads and Pizza Planet Pizza. Whoa—outta my league! My daughter and I had a good time reading through them all (she’s still deciding)!

Not a day—or sometimes an hour—goes by without my being seriously thankful for social media. It’s my go-to source for information, inspiration, relaxation and, oh yes, release of frustration. Social media is my shrink, my coach, my cheerleader, my teacher and sometimes, my crack. I literally can’t imagine motherhood without it; it would be a far lonelier, less fun existence.

These are the ways social media has been a mom game-changer for me, and many.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

  • 1. The comfort of a million moms 1 of 12
    1. The comfort of a million moms
    My son, Max, has special needs, and I regularly have a lot of paperwork to do to get him the services and therapies he needs. Once, on a time-sucky evening spent slaving over school and insurance forms, I hit Facebook to say: "Like this if you're tired of filling out forms." Voila! Hundreds of likes and comments from moms who knew exactly how I felt. And suddenly, filling out forms sucked a little less.

    The friends I've made through social media, some of whom I hang out with in real life, have become a major part of my special- needs journey. I count on them for support, comfort, and go-you! cheers, whether I'm freaked out by the possibility of seizures or feeling guilty that I'm not doing enough for Max. And I give it back in return, whether I'm responding to a comment or emailing with a distraught mom.

    When tragedy strikes—death, disease, freak accidents—moms are there for each other in the cyberspace communities we call home. Cecily Kellogg of Uppercase Woman recalls one heartening moment during the time when she lost the twins she'd been carrying. "My best friend printed out the 1000 comments I'd gotten on a post updating folks—this was when hospitals didn't have Wi-fi and there were no smart phones," she says. "My readers helped me up while I was in the hospital, and after I came home without my sons."

    Photo credit: Flickr/GrowWear
  • 2. Insta-info from people who KNOW 2 of 12
    2. Insta-info from people who KNOW
    I look up plenty of things on Wikipedia and Webster's, but when I've needed to find a cute lunch tote for my daughter or Lightning McQueen objects for my overly obsessed son, I hit social media—nothing beats crowd-sourced suggestions. Over the years I've also gotten scoop on stuff that's seriously made my life easier, including a site that stores your online and credit card passwords (Clipperz) and sites that are NSFW because they make you snort out loud(Regretsy, Literally Unbelievable).

    The all-time best piece of information I ever got arrived in a comment from a fellow blogger. Max has cerebral palsy, and this woman told me about an experimental stem-cell therapy program at Duke University for children with CP. I talked my way into the program, and Max got an infusion. Has it helped his challenged muscles? His cognition? We think so—and I have that reader to thank.

    Photo credit: iStockphoto
  • 3. Genius kiddie and home ideas galore 3 of 12
    3. Genius kiddie and home ideas galore
    Sometimes, I look at ideas from food and craft mom bloggers and despair that my children are growing up deprived of fantastical cupcakes and brilliant pipe-cleaner creations. Sometimes, I look at posts from design bloggers and wish they could adopt me. But mostly, the ideas I find online are very do-able and amazingly useful—a way to encourage kids to read using a paper towel roll from No Time For Flash Cards; a Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Balsamic Caramelized Onions from A Southern Fairytale; indoor gardening ideas to perk up the gray winter months from a prop stylist. My kids' lives are richer because of these ladies, my food tastier, my home prettier. (Though I still maybe wouldn't mind being adopted by one of them.)

    Photo credit: Babble/Chelsea Fuss
  • 4. More relief for moms in need 4 of 12
    4. More relief for moms in need
    This fall, Mom In A Million helped raise more than $9000 for a family in the Rockaways with a child who has brain cancer—and whose house was destroyed by Sandy. On my blog readers donated close to $3000 to help a Jersey Shore mom of a child with special needs purchase a new car after hers got ruined by flooding. Mom bloggers have been there with fundraisers for the earthquake in Japan and Haiti, too.

    In the last few years, there have been signficant random acts of blogger charity. Jill Smokler at Scary Mommy created a simple Thanksgiving circle of goodness, matching readers willing to buy gifts cards with moms in need and raised, in her words, "twenty thousand freaking dollars!!!" for 400 families. When Jenny The Bloggess Lawson offered to give out twenty $30 gift cards to needy readers one holiday season, readers matched her offer and sent out more than 900 totaling $40,000. Jenny described the event as "the most successful, unplanned, disorganized celebration of awesomeness I've ever accidentally been in charge of."

    Photo credit: Flickr/Pam_Andrade
  • 5. Major income opportunities 5 of 12
    5. Major income opportunities
    Much has been written about bloggers, their earnings, and how many moms are mum about it. But blogging has undeniably given women new financial opportunities, so that even those in the most rural areas are can earn money to support her family, or a woman who may not be a business-head but who can write like hell can earn extra bucks. I take in about $15,000 a year from blogging, money that goes toward paying for therapies for Max.

    "Thanks to social media, you can also build your own network to sell products," notes Cassie Boorn, a social media and public relations pro at Babble. "It used to be if you made, say, hats you could sell to people in your town or ship ones to family. Now you can just update your Facebook status!" Some moms have used their blogs to launch successful businesses, she continues. "Tina Roth Eisenberg at Swiss Miss was hating the temporary tattoos she used on her daughter, so she created the Tattly line." She's since shipped millions of tattoos to more than 90 countries.

    Photo credit: iStockphoto
  • 6. A platform to promote your causes (and friends to get your back) 6 of 12
    6. A platform to promote your causes (and friends to get your back)
    Last year, I made a video explaining why the word "retard" demeans people with intellectual disability. It went viral, and I was thrilled to see the conversations it sparked on other blogs and sites, exactly why I created it—to raise awareness and promote the other r-word, respect. The video made it onto, where haters take great joy in one-upping each other. I decided to pity the fools, but there was one comment I couldn't get out of my head, the one that said "Other species kill their disabled when they are young." Alice Bradley of Finslippy posted the video, and had these wise words for me: "No more reading those comments!" Also: "Some species also eat their own poop." Exactly the touché (and laugh) I needed.

    Photo credit: iStockphoto
  • 7. A safe place to vent about relatives 7 of 12
    7. A safe place to vent about relatives
    There's a certain relative in my family who may or may not be my mother-in-law who once discovered I'd poked gentle fun at her on my blog. After she expressed her disappointment, I stopped doing that...and moved right along to Twitter. Once, I offered her up as a giveaway. Although nobody took her (in fact, other moms started offering up their MILs), I had a very satisfying exchange with similarly-blessed Tweeples.

    Photo credit: iStockphoto
  • 8. Help for moms in the poorest parts of the world 8 of 12
    8. Help for moms in the poorest parts of the world
    Non-profits including Every Mother Counts, a campaign to end preventable deaths from pregnancy and childbirth worldwide, and One Moms, part of Bono's group to fight extreme poverty, have enlisted bloggers to spread the word—and they're making a real impact. After bloggers who visited Ethiopia through ONE wrote about their experiences and fashionABLE, which sells handmade scarves and creates sustainable business for women in Africa, the scarves sold out.

    "Through their storytelling, mom bloggers are raising awareness about women living in some of the poorest places on earth," says Jeannine Harvey, ONE's senior manager of strategic partnerships. "It's gone beyond the feeling that problems are 'too big' for people to make a difference to the belief that each one of us can, indeed, make a difference—and that collectively, that change is huge."

    Photo credit: Liz Gumbinner, Mom-101
  • 9. Freebies! Freebies! Freebies! 9 of 12
    9. Freebies! Freebies! Freebies!
    Coupon and giveaway bloggers have been a godsend to many families in these economically-challenged times. Moms can win appliances, clothing, food, you name it from blogs and sites. And the couponers! OMG, the couponers! I bow to the women who do "match-ups," pairing coupons for goods and store sales, and saving moms mucho money. Couponers are the patron saints of shoppers everywhere. God bless the couponers.

    Photo credit: Amazon
  • 10. Extreme laughter 10 of 12
    10. Extreme laughter
    I get girls' nights out in real life on occasion, but a whole lot of virtual nights out on Facebook and Twitter. I know that anytime, I can post an update or send out a tweet and get a fun conversation going. I recently 'fessed up on Facebook to my HGTV addiction, and described our home's decor as "hodgepodge." Someone wrote back, "My house's style would be best described as the season finale of Hoarders." There are too many ROTFL moments to share, but they are always there.

    Photo credit: iStockphoto
  • 11. Oh, the people you meet in cyberspace! 11 of 12
    11. Oh, the people you meet in cyberspace!
    This is my most prized screen grab, the time when I spotted a Judy Blume tweet about her plans for the weekend and suggested she try to solve world peace because that's how much I worship her. And she responded. This is someone I likely would have never connected with otherwise if it weren't for Twitter, that great equalizer. Chelsea Clinton once RT'd a tweet I sent out about Glamour magazine's awe-inspiring Women of the Year event (yeah, I've got that screen grab, too.) And not for nothing, Cory Booker follows me. To date, though, nobody's beat Judy Blume, and I hope to meet up with her again. Are you there, Judy? It's me, Ellen.
  • 12. Parent pride on steroids 12 of 12
    12. Parent pride on steroids
    The stereotypical annoying parent used to be the one who'd flash a wallet full of photo of her kids to anyone who'd look. And now, you can share endless amounts of photos and anecdotes with the world wide web! Wheeeee! And there's no cap on the bliss you get in return. My son uses a speech app for communication that speaks words for him. This year, he helped MC his school's holiday show using his iPad. I posted a picture of him in action, told people all about it—and got about a bazillion gigabytes of pride from other moms' props.


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More to read from 1000 Perplexing Things About Parenthood:

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• Parenting Lessons From Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Snow White
• 9 Things You Can Learn From My Potty-Training Saga

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