Leona O'Neill

Leona O'Neill has been a journalist in Northern Ireland for over 20 years working with, among others, the Belfast Telegraph, Sunday Life, Daily Mirror and the Irish News. She is also a news reporter on Q Radio, a weekly columnist with the Irish News and a commentator for the BBC. She is a mother of four children - two of them teenagers - and as such is also a full-time professional worrier.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it is time to give thanks for that one thing which makes the lives of Mum’s the land over much better – the blessed internet.

In our mother’s and grandmother’s time raising children, they could merely go to those in the same room as them for advice on what ailed them or their children. They had but one or two confidants to share their burdens with and bounce ideas off. These days Mums can post questions on online forums and get thousands of answers. They can vent or rant online and felt listened to and understood. They can tell people how they truly feel and Mums across the world will virtually come to their aid with a big hug and encouragement for them to keep going.

Oh how do we Mums love thee internet? Well let me count the ways.

Once upon a time Mums had to get their child dressed, take a shower and make themselves presentable – perhaps while having had half an hours sleep in 48 hours with a new baby – and ship the whole sleepy, sorry mess to the supermarket to buy groceries. But then some genius invented online shopping which meant Mums could sit on the sofa at 3am in an MC Hammer t-shirt and eighties hi-side ponytail with no make-up, with a newborn baby slumbering peacefully on our shoulder, and order food without having to interact with other human beings.

The internet has also opened up a whole new world of advice to the modern mother. Whereas in the past a Mum would have to rely solely on the advice of her own mother and female relatives with regards raising her children, now she can ask thousands, even millions of women and ask what  they have done in every situation from toddler tantrums to teenage drinking.

And mothers of a past generation could only boast about their children’s cuteness, their achievements and how much they love them to those in the room with them. Social media has given Mums a platform to announce their little one’s fabulousness globally. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram enables them to show more than their partner or mother their kid’s Halloween costumes or their child’s hilarious bolognese covered face.

Online haven

And social media allows us salvation in our times of dire need. What did mothers of old do in the small hours of the night when their teething babies would only sleep on our shoulder while they paced the floor? They could not scroll through Facebook to look at other people’s dinners or nights out. They could not converse with former Beverly Hills 90210 stars on Twitter or follow members of Take That on Instragram. They could not have 4am online conversations with fellow Mums from all over the world pacing their floors from Dubai to Derby County in the same manner they are. And their lives were no doubt less sparkly for it.

And where could past generations of Mums go to have a rant, ask for recommendations or just ‘give off’ to a large group of mutually appreciative people? Today’s Mums have Mumsnet which makes their’ lives easier by pooling knowledge, advice and support on everything from conception to childbirth, from babies to teenagers. The forums can get nasty depending on the topic and the comments judgemental at times, but for the most part, Mumsnet is like a big virtual bar where Mums can go to let off steam and talk.

Then there’s eBay, where many a Mum has helped bring in extra income to her home by making and selling products or getting rid of old clothes online.

Mummy blogs

And then there are ‘Mummy Blogs’, an avenue on the internet where a lot of Mums have made a living from talking about their own experiences, inspiring others and cheering their fellow Mums on.

Essentially the internet has made Mums feel less alone. Having children can at times be isolating, particularly when they are very small, and having online platforms to have conversations with people is something a light in the dark for many.

It has empowered women to build businesses, inspired Mums to be the best they can and has helped them make their lives easier. There are a few not so nice things we could say about the internet and the information it brings into our homes. But for today, we will pay homage to something that has changed many a Mum’s life.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and for Mums there was never a truer word spoken on the internet.