Hixson thinks of her Parent Soup chats as the "cyber park bench" because she views the experience much like that of meeting moms at the park. In cyberspace, though, the bench is kept warm by parents from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. "We may be different," says Hixson, "but we come here for the same reason: to be better parents."
And the number of people seeking these types of supportive relationships is growing. According to community manager Mollee Olenick, more than 2 million parents are registered participants at BabyCenter.com, where the online community boasts 8,000 bulletin board postings every day.
Fathers today, more involved than previous generations of dads yet uncertain about how to balance their responsibilities, are also forming online friendships.
"The old adage that men don't share their feelings isn't true," says Bruce Linton, Ph.D., father of two and founder of the Fathers Forum (www.fathersforum.com). "Men often don't have the opportunity to share their feelings." But that's changing, thanks in part to the continued efforts of Dr. Linton.
He facilitates 10 "Becoming a Father" classes a year for expectant dads in the San Francisco Bay area. The classes give future fathers the chance to discuss their child-rearing philosophies, explore the effects of their relationships with their own fathers, and share strategies on how to connect with their wives. Hundreds of men post messages on Dr. Linton's online Father's Club bulletin board as well.