Getting Real With Sara Haley

All these social networking sites get such a bad rap. And I don’t think they should. In fact, I am a firm believer that Facebook has made me a better mom. Well, you know, outside of the hands-on parenting, that is…

See, I’m a single mom, and with my freelance writing career, I work from home. I’m essentially a full-time stay-at-home mom, without an outside job, which means most of my time is spent indoors, in my house, with my daughter. I don’t go out every day to a typical job where I could socialize with clients and coworkers, which limits me socially. Most conversations are held with my three-year-old daughter or one of my four-legged children, which means I need an outlet for adult conversation. I have found that Facebook clearly fills that void, and then some. Here are just a few ways that Facebook has affected my parenting abilities and lifestyle, that I’m sure many other stay-at-home mothers on Facebook can relate with.

Facebook is a forum for bouncing off parenting problems and ideas. You know how they always say that kids don’t come with instruction books? Well, outside of the “What to Expect…” books and the quick pamphlet you get from the hospital as you leave with your new bundle of joy, they’re right. And when it comes to potty training and discipline, what better way to bounce off ideas than to post your parenting problem on Facebook and let your other parenting friends answer with their wisdom? I can’t tell you how many parenting debacles have been solved through Facebook. When in the past have you been able to have such a variety of answers to your parenting questions in almost an instant? All my stay-at-home mom friends offer such great advice, and the been-there, done-that experience from other moms is crucial!

Facebook helps me be better in touch with my local community. Living in Omaha, Nebraska, there is quite a bit going on at any one time.  There are always concerts, special events and free kid-friendly activities going on during the week and on the weekends. With the events section of Facebook, I am able to plan fun weekends for my daughter and me with little to no effort whatsoever. And hey, Facebook reminds me when these events come up, so I don’t forget them. Bonus! In addition, local shelters and community assistance groups like the Open Door Mission and Nebraska Humane Society have Facebook pages that allow you to be updated on new pets at the animal shelter or what donation or volunteer opportunities are waiting for you at the homeless shelter. This instant connection to community is something that has never been done before.

Facebook has made me funnier. No, scratch that–my daughter has made me funnier in the eyes of my Facebook friends. My daughter is three and a half. She’s a walking, talking voicebox of uninhibited musings a zillion times a day. I seriously cannot help myself but to post the cute and funny things she’ll say throughout the day. I’ve been told by friends that they find my daughter’s quips highly amusing. If I stopped posting them, I think many friends would be extremely disappointed.

Facebook helps me to be frugal. I have never gotten as many amazing deals as I have since I have been active on Facebook. So many companies are taking Facebook by storm and offering free goods by the bucket load. In addition, I follow a ton of couponing sites and feeds on Facebook, and keep up on great coupon deals and bargains. On top of that, since I follow some of my favorite places, like the Omaha Children’s Museum and the Omaha Botanical Gardens, I get status updates about free admission days and other fun events that I might not have ever heard of outside of Facebook.  Having this kind of connection with local business and other coupon fanatics allows me to be frugal and find free activities to help stretch the family dollar.

Facebook gives me quick access to my friends with children. This, in turn, gives me the chance to arrange playdates, either in advance or on the fly. Although my schedule can be kind of volatile depending on client work and unexpected rush jobs that might come in, it’s nice to be able to talk with an old friend and reconnect while our children enjoy a playdate. I can’t honestly tell you the last time I picked up the phone to arrange a playdate–Facebook has always been the communication of choice for child-and-adult get-togethers.

Facebook gets me to the people I need to talk to in order to ask a question–and get an answer. Being in touch with local businesses on Facebook allows the most amazing interaction that you would have never had in the past.  If you have a problem, you leave a message on the company’s Facebook page and–BAM–a response within 24 hours. Forget calling and leaving messages for a company’s manager–leave a message on Facebook and you’ll actually get a response! Amazing! This has made getting things done a lot easier and effective, and has kept me from loading up my daughter in the car and running to the store to argue with a manager or customer service rep. Makes my day a little less stressful and a lot more productive.

Facebook keeps me in-the-know when it comes to illnesses and sickness. Yeah, yeah, I know this sounds silly, but seriously–it is so easy to know when certain viruses are traveling around an area by friends’ Facebook status update. If little Billy has been throwing up all night, as well as Sandy’s daughter and a few other friends in town, then I know that there is a bug going around. I wouldn’t really call it self-diagnosing by any means, but it at least gives me a heads up about what is going around and what I should keep an eye out on if my daughter should ever be infected by the local virus that has attacked local daycares and playplaces!

Facebook allows me to share photos and life happenings to friends and families that would otherwise not be possible. Even though I still do, there is probably no good reason for mailing an annual photo of my child and a summary of my last year in a Christmas letter to friends and family. Folks in my family, both near and far, know what is happening in my life with a quick connect to my Facebook page.  Like those nearby, they get to watch my daughter grow, enjoy photos of our recent trip to the zoo, and can find out what I’ve been up to with a simple glance on my Facebook page.  In return, I get to see pictures of my friends and family and have the same connection, and I actually feel more “in the loop” about people’s lives than ever before.

I’m sure there are another 100 reasons why Facebook is so amazing.  I believe there are people that use it correctly, and those that use it incorrectly (for example, finding it as a reason NOT to go out–“Heck, I have 400 friends on Facebook, why go outdoors?!?”).  But when used to your advantage, Facebook can be a wonderful tool for stay-at-home moms to find that social connection with the outside world, and to be more than just a caregiver to their children, but a member of society.