The New Parent-to-Parent Bonding

Page 6

Virtual vs. Real

Today's parents don't have to choose between face-to-face groups and online communities. We can -- and do -- embrace both. Mothers'-group maven Sherry Reinhardt, who has organized groups for more than 5,000 moms in Berkeley, CA, over the last 23 years, recalls the first gathering of one of them: "We went around with introductions, and after one person told about herself, another one screamed -- they realized they were intimate friends in an online pregnancy support group. This was their first face-to-face meeting!"

Many online mothers' groups, my own included, often joke about how well we "know" each other, and yet we wouldn't even recognize one another at the grocery store. One such group can't make that claim any longer. Sporting newly designed "Momfriends" T-shirts, 25 moms who had been corresponding by e-mail since 1997 (when they first became pregnant with their January 1998 babies) gathered together in July at Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA. Though sprawled across the world, the group's members say they couldn't feel closer.

Whether you find it over the water cooler, the back fence, or the wires, it's a great comfort to know that parent-to-parent support is available whenever and however you'd like it. "I could reassure someone endlessly," says Reinhardt, "but it makes all the difference in the world for the parent to hear it from another parent."

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