The Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies is a division of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences
As a new mother, Diana Parry was guilty of stroller-stalking.
In an attempt to connect with other mothers, she would bundle up her daughter and walk around her neighbourhood hoping to meet women with children the same age as her own.
But today, instead of pounding the pavement to meet other mothers, Parry, like thousands of women across the country, simply logs into a social networking site.
Today technology drives motherhood and motherhood drives technology,” says Parry, an associate professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.
For the last four years Parry has been researching the connection between social media and motherhood.
More than ever women are turning to online social networking sites as a substitute for the support and friendship they used to find in neighbours.
“We know that peer support is vital to women’s experience of motherhood,” says Parry. “But we are living in a day and age where women are increasingly isolated from each other and people don’t know their neighbours like they used to.”
Social networking sites like Momstown.ca, the focus of a recent study by Parry, Troy Glover and Caitlin Mulcahy, fill this void by creating virtual neighbourhoods and providing women with a 24 hour support system.
They also give mothers the opportunity to connect with women who not only have children of the same age, but share similar leisure interests and values.
“Stroller stalking awkward and it’s also mostly unproductive,” said Parry. “Women have no way of identifying if the person they approach is someone with whom they have anything in common besides motherhood.”
Some forums, like Momstown, facilitate face-to-face meetings for members by offering classes or workshops. Each month Momstown hosts 20 offline meetings and classes for members in cities across Canada.
For Parry, social networking sites are becoming an essential part of the 21st century motherhood experience.
“It’s a real switch in the way women seek out support for motherhood. But postpartum, this type of group is vital and incredibly socially relevant and can have a huge impact on women’s lives, health and well-being.”