For a stay-at-home mum, a computer with an Internet connection can truly be a lifeline. When nappies and baby talk become just too much, adult interaction is just a click away. But for some mums, the lure of the online world becomes too tempting to resist and instead of a being an occasional distraction, it becomes a fully-fledged addiction.
What generations of mothers have been doing across the backyard fence is now taking place online and for most of us, it remains a positive diversion and a sanity-saver. But researchers now say they are seeing a growing number of young mums for whom blogs and social networking have become an all-consuming passion -- to the detriment of their real-world lives.
Currently, Internet addiction is not officially recognised as a mental disorder by psychiatrists. But considering a recent Stanford University survey that revealed 14 percent of Internet users admit they find it hard to stay away from their computers for several days at at time, 9 percent try to hide their "non essential Internet use" from others and 8 percent acknowledge they use the Web to escape problems, it is probably just a matter of time before it isIn many ways, what drives a mum to the Internet is no different than what drives an alcoholic to drink: An empty place that needs filling. "In addiction treatment, we talk about the fact that there's a void," says Moore (a researcher from the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery). "Whatever that void may be -- whether it's emotional, spiritual, physical -- typically, we're trying to fill it."
But what makes Internet dependence unique is the fact that often it isn't just a way to to escape the doldrums of parenting or make a connection with others, but also a way to make a statement and be heard, to assume an identity other than "mother."
So, how do you know if your Internet use has gotten out of hand? Letting the unwashed dishes pile up in the sink while you chat with your Facebook friends isn't the end of the world. But what about when you are trading one-on-one time with your kids for virtual bonding with strangers on your blog? A journal tracking when and why you go online -- and what you may be avoiding when you do so -- can be helpful in identifying triggers.
Even if you aren't skipping showers and completely ignoring your children, your Internet use may be a problem if it leaves you feeling guilty. Transitioning your socializing to the real world can not only give you the connection you crave, but open up your life in ways the Internet just cannot. And if you feel you have a problem and can't handle it on your own, there is no shame in asking for help.
Do you ever worry that you spend too much time online? Could you give it up -- even for just a week -- without going absolutely crazy?