Mothers unite using social media

By Melissa DeMoux

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, May 8 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Dianne Callister was abandoned at a Salvation Army hospital when she was born.

Years later, after volunteering to play harp for expectant teen mothers in that same hospital, a young woman approached her expressing fears about becoming a teen mom.

Callister jumped into action. She soothed the girl’s anxiety and expressed how grateful she was for her own birth mother, a teen mom who gave her daughter a chance at a better life. This experienced mother calmed a young mom-to-be and helped her see a brighter future.

Sometimes mothers just need encouragement from someone who has been there. But what can mothers do when apprehension and distress hit and there is no one nearby to lean on?

That is exactly the issue American Mothers Inc. confronted at its Moms and Social Media workshop during the national motherhood convention April 30 at the Little America Hotel.

“I hope we can provide some inspiration through (social media) to mothers,” said Connell Branan, AMI’s new national president. “They come from all walks of life and yet they are all working toward that common goal of being the best mom they can be. ... I would hope we could inspire a mom who needs to be lifted up.”

AMI gathered a group of social media pros who are also mothers to speak about the benefits of social media for moms. Courtney Kendrick, Sheri Carlstrom, Kelly King Anderson and Sandy Sponaugle stepped up to share their ideas and experiences.

Kendrick and Carlstrom are stay-at-home moms who manage successful blogs about their mothering lives. Anderson and Sponaugle use social media to further their business goals while they mother their children.

Even though they come from different backgrounds, all four women believe that social media — whether it is a blog, Twitter or Facebook — can be a blessing to mothers.

“The cool thing about (social media) is that you start to become friends with other women in your same situation,” said Kendrick, author of the blog “C. Jane Enjoy It” ( http://blog.cjanerun.com/). “I really have found that social media can help mothers.”

Carlstrom has found connections online as well. After being named AMI’s National Young Mother of the Year in 2010, she started a blog called “Mother of the What” (http://motherofthewhat.blogspot.com/) to chronicle the imperfect, everyday life of a young mother.

“When you become National Young Mother of the Year people think, ‘Oh, she’s a perfect mom,’” Carlstrom said. “I wanted to be authentic. Some days are great. Some days I’m really good at what I do. And some days are hard. Some days I’m lost and lonely, and I thought it was important to let moms know that even a mother of the year doesn’t know her way sometimes. We’re all the same.”

Creating an online motherhood community where mothers can find not just comfort in their struggles but also new ideas and insights is what these women are aiming for.

But the ideas available through social media are not limited to family life. Creating connections for working moms is important as well.

Anderson, founder and managing director of Startup Princess (http://startupprincess.com/ ), was excited to share her working experience with other moms. Her online business is committed to empowering women entrepreneurs.

“I started Startup Princess because I was a home-based business owner and a mom of three kids,” she said. “I found myself wanting to connect with moms who were in the same boat, moms who were working at home who needed to connect and share stories.”

Named the 34th most influential woman on Twitter last year, Anderson has used social media to expand her business influence as well as to support her efforts as a mother.

“Regardless of what you are doing and how you are doing it, you must be authentic in social media or people will see right through you,” said Sponaugle, founder and CEO of her own public relations firm. “If you are not true and open to your voice, people will stop listening.”

Carlstrom agrees. “It has surprised me how much has come out of just being real and how much people want to hear that I can lay it down and just be myself,” she said.

The beauty of mothering connections through social media is that women can share their struggles and successes with each other, even when they live hundreds of miles apart. Those links are just what AMI hoped women would take from this workshop.

Sponaugle hopes women will reach out online to connect with and strengthen each other.

“I hope people leave here today and are not intimidated to comment on a blog or respond to someone else’s words," she said. "That would be fabulous."

Melissa DeMoux is a stay-at-home mother of six young children who lives in West Valley City, Utah. You can email her at mddemoux@gmail.com or follow her adventures in motherhood at demouxfamily.blogspot.com.

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