by Leslie Morgan Steiner
When baby number one arrived 13 years ago, I had no email account or Internet connection. My Fortune 100 company used an internal company network – employees were forbidden to use computers to communicate with anyone or conduct any research outside the corporate ‘net. This seems like cave-woman days in terms of technology. In retrospect the restrictions lasted a nanosecond with no harm done.
But the worst tech restrictions in my new-mom life were the ones I didn’t know about: other moms were off-limits to me and everyone else, along with chat rooms, pregnancy tracking sites, online shopping services, and pediatric advice that could have vastly improved my life as a new mom. While breastfeeding in the middle of the night, I couldn’t Google “boob rotation” or “freezing breast milk” or “what’s Mylacon for anyway?” During the day was no better. I pumped at work, picked up my baby from daycare, and went grocery shopping with a screaming hungry infant at 7 pm. Buying Christmas presents or diapers or replacing a lipstick or keeping an appointment with a hair stylist or therapist became close to impossible. Simple errands suddenly gave me nightmares.
Our beloved new baby had hit my life like a tiny, devastating earthquake. Suddenly I could not DO anything. Simply because a helpless, squalling, adorable baby had to come with me everywhere. I was all alone as a new mom. (My husband was often nearby, of course, but we all know how much comfort that provided, since he was as clueless as I.)
No more. My next pregnancy took place on the other side of the digital divide. For babies two and three, I had the Internet. Which meant I had access to millions of other new moms. I could ask them for advice, comfort, camaraderie, at any time of day or night. I had hundreds of new friends, some of whom I’d never met. I set up weekly online grocery shopping. Online everything shopping. Motherhood became a whole lot closer to bliss.
I’ve long praised the Internet as the revolution that saved all new moms – at home, at cubicle, at playground – but no one put it as succinctly as Virginia Heffernan in last week’s New York Times Magazine’s Home Tool: Is the Internet – and not the washing machine or the pill – the technology tool that finally liberated women ? I read it online, of course, while I helped my 11-year-old with algebra homework.
While I also get on my knees to give thanks for the birth control pill, the dishwasher, my laundry machine and microwave, there is nothing quite like the Internet for saving new moms from insanity and endless wasted time. The Internet allows me to work at home, write this column, hang nearby when my kids are sick, be with my family hours more every day, arrange playdates for my kids and real dates with my husband, pay bills, research medical care for my aging mother, and connect with new and old friends around the world. Without leaving my kitchen or paying a babysitter. I could not have kept my job, written Mommy Wars , finished Crazy Love , had a third child, without the Internet.
It’s not just me or other individual mothers whose lives have been revolutionized by the Internet. The entire experience of modern motherhood in industrialized countries has changed. And that is good for everyone – a true public service.
Another writer named Virginia -- Virginia Woolf this time -- was right. Women need a room of our own. But in that room of our own, there better be a laptop with wireless Internet access.