Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mothers online

Thursday October 02, 2008 @ Bangkok Post
Mothers online A network of mothers in the cyber world


Not long ago, a woman decide to leave her husband. She was three months pregnant. The subsequent depression and stress increased the risks of losing her unborn child from a threatened abortion. Not knowing what to do, she turned to the Internet and found a particular web board.

After reading a few discussions, she made a post about her condition, asking advice on giving birth without the father present. Replies were overwhelming. The moral support, compassion and suggestions from other cyber mothers gave her the strength and optimism to be a single parent.

Thanima Pichitnapakul, a 31-year-old single mother, became a loyal member of the online community of "mothers" on the Rakluke web site at, one of the oldest and most popular web sites for mothers and other family-minded people.

 Today's Thanima is raising a son and running a spa business, but she also finds time to browse Rakluke every day for information on child-health and -rearing, as well as to trade new and used products with other mothers.

Other than the initial encounter with the board, another incident has also given Thanima a great impression of the web board community.

On the night her son was suffering from acute diarrhoea, and a visit from the doctor did not help, she turned to the web site.

She instantly received suggestions from the cyber mothers, who said that her son should keep drinking water. They also helped her find a hospital with a night-shift paediatrician and a few even offered to accompany her to the hospital.

"A mother asked if I wanted her to pick up us from home, as she knew my son and I did not have anyone else. I was extremely impressed and felt that I was not alone as there are people willing to help whenever there is a problem," said Thanima.

"These days, we arrange get-togethers from time to time. Some people are far away in Chiang Mai or even Hong Kong. They are everywhere. So, we chat on MSN, too."

Thanima eventually turned herself from a member of the web site to a counsellor for other single parents. She advises other members on situations such as the father's or mother's days when the children are supposed to bring their parents to school, when only one parent is available.

"I used to be just a receiver. Now I am capable of giving back too as I have become stronger. And because I am so impressed with the mothers' community on the web board, I want to give back and help other people," said the single parent.

Wilaipan Poompaka or "Mae Jang", 32, joined during desperate times - she failed to get pregnant after four years of treatment. Wilaipan's friends recommended the web site, saying it might help if she talked to other mothers who have the same problem.

The members made numerous recommendations on the doctors, as well as self-help techniques in detail, such as the counting of the ovulatory phase, which helped Wilaipan save a lot of money.

''Experienced mothers on the web board were very jlunderstanding of my mental state as they had been in the same situation. They are ready to dispense advice. I was also consulting a doctor, but I could not get enough counselling. But, everyone on the web board was trying to help me as if we were sisters,'' said Wilaipan.

''We always keep in touch. If there is a problem with the child rearing, I can ask them any time. Now, my son is two years old and is about to enter school, so I can discuss to them about finding the right school. You can say the online network has helped me get pregnant and now helps me raise my child.''

As Thai families are no longer extended, child-rearing is solely the parents' responsibility, without much assistance from relatives.

Wilaipan is no exception. Her mother-in-law is too old to help raise her son, while her own mother lives in another province. ''During the first month, my baby began to develop colic. He kept crying for three months. I was a first-time mother who did not know what to do. I could not eat or sleep and lost 13kg. I also had an inverted nipple and had to feed my baby from one breast, while pumping the other,'' said Wilaipan.

''I asked for advice on and I received suggestions on the baby carrying techniques that effectively reduced my baby's crying. Other mothers who had the same problems also advised me and boosted my morale. I eventually was able to breastfeed my son until the age of one year and two months.

''When there were outbreaks of dengue fever and hand, foot and mouth disease, my son developed a few suspicious symptoms. So, I read web articles written by doctors and talked to other mothers to compare the symptoms, which gave me a lot of comfort. Today, we keep in touch and have had a couple of meetings alongwith our children,'' said Wilaipan.

She said the main reason she relies on the online network so much is because people respond quickly. A few people allow her to call them or chat online, and some are even happy to take a call in the middle of the night.

Wilaipan has been recommending the web sites to other friends, too.

''In this online community of mothers, all women are ready to help the other even when they do not know each other,'' said Wilaipan.

''Shang's Mother'' is a well-known user of Rakluke web board who regularly posts information on child rearing for other online mothers. Her posts are often the ones with the highest readership.

''Shang's Mother'' in the non-cyber world is Rattana Thanasarakij, a 41-year-old mother living in Vietnam with her family. Her older son attends a Vietnamese school, while the younger one is home-schooled by Rattana.

Before becoming a full-time home-maker, Rattana ran several businesses and helped raise several children in her large, extended family _ she has eight siblings. As an avid reader, Rattana has a lot to share with other mothers about child development and rearing.

''My husband said I am very much like a web master. I usually log on to the site at 6am and though the computer is on the whole day, I spend the day with my sons. I only turn off the computer at midnight when I go to bed,'' said Rattana.

''Parents typically send me about 30 to 40 emails a month, asking for advice or sharing their experiences. So, I have a lot of friends to talk to. I write a blog that people can read at their convenience.''

According to Rattana, the attractive aspect of Rakluke is that it has generated a strong online community of mothers. In addition, the web master allows total freedom in discussion, which may lead to strong arguments sometimes, but the readers are always encouraged to use their own judgement.

''When someone made an inappropriate post such as advertisement of a product or a school, the mothers who are monitoring the web inform the webmaster. So, the credibility of the web site is intact,'' said Rattana.

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