Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

From "Stroller-Stalker" to "Momancer" Courting Friends through a Social Networking Site for Mothers

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

From "Stroller-Stalker" to "Momancer" Courting Friends through a Social Networking Site for Mothers

Article excerpt

Motherhood is arguably one of the most important transitions in a woman's life. Nelson (2009) argued the rapid transition associated with motherhood is unparalleled: "A woman entering motherhood can experience changes in her bodily experience and functions, her emotions and psychology, her sleep and work schedules, the tasks she performs, her social circle, her sense of self, her sexuality and the roles she plays" (p. 12). These dimensions of life are dynamic for everyone, but Nelson argues the speed, ubiquity, and pervasiveness of the changes make motherhood unique among life transitions. Moreover, women increasingly negotiate the transition to motherhood in an "age of anxiety," which can result in a "caught-by-the-throat feeling so many mothers have today of always doing something wrong" (Warner, 2005, p. 5, original emphasis). The anxiety surrounding motherhood is presumed to be the impetus for the growing number of women accessing online support groups. This anxiety is caused by increased isolation that mothers face in postmodern society (Drentea & Moren-Cross, 2005). Indeed, demographic research reveals more women return to paid employment after the arrival of children, which means fewer women stay at home full time to raise children (Arendell, 2000). Litt (2000) argued the loss of time spent with other mothers raising young children has resulted in reduced informal support networks and access to advice. Mothers also find themselves geographically distant from female kin, which further reduces social support. Nelson (2009) posited, without a community of mothers with which to interact, women struggle to establish a maternal identity. To this end, Mauthner (1995) argued the extent and nature of relationships between mothers is "critical to the quality of women's experiences of motherhood" (p. 320). Given that approximately 80% of North American women undergo the transition to motherhood at least once in their lifetimes (Nelson, 2009), issues connected to social isolation warrant exploration and understanding from the perspective of mothers themselves. Such research tackles the "conspiracy of silence around ordinary motherhood" (Jackson, 1992, p. 3). In this spirit, the purpose of this study was to explore the roles of an online social networking site called Momstown.ca in the development of social and peer support with a particular focus on leisure and its impact on the social isolation mothers of young children can face.

Literature Review

The culture of motherhood is changing rapidly (Warner, 2005). Whereas in the past, many women (mostly urban and middle/upper class) would be at home raising children in a closely knit neighbourhood filled with other women in a similar situation while simultaneously living close to female kin, today's mothers are more likely to transition into motherhood isolated socially from others. Cultural changes that include women's increased participation in the paid workforce (Gaudet, Cooke, & Jacob, 2011), geographical distance between family members (Postmontier & Horowitz, 2004), and increased rates of single parenthood (Gallagher, 1997) have resulted in many women mothering without tangible and emotional support. This change has occurred despite a wide-spread understanding of the risks that accompany social isolation and motherhood (Mallikarjun et al., 2005; O'Hara, 2010). Indeed, research is clear that the quality of women's expert- enees of motherhood is inextricably linked to their relationships with other mothers (Nelson, 2009).

Increased Isolation Among Mothers

New mothers without strong social networks report feeling "isolated" and "so alone" (Mauthner, 1999). Contemporary Canadian women have increasingly smaller support systems, particularly those who are already structurally vulnerable due to poverty, mental illness, socioeconomic status, marital status, age, ethnicity, and geographical location (Landy et al., 2009). For those mothers who are married, spousal support can be very important; however, relying solely upon a spouse for social support can be detrimental to both partners, not to mention the relationship itself (Davey, et al. …

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