Five years ago today, I logged on to this Swedish parenting website for the first time. It took me a while to find my way around all the information, and above all - the over 300 different discussion groups.
You could discuss pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, kids clothes, traveling with kids, school, kids food, kids toys, having lots of kids, adoption, working with kids, kids names, kids with different illnesses etc etc etc. There was certainly somewhere to find answers to all your questions!
After a while I found one of these groups that I thought was really suited for me, a group for parents living abroad. I started reading and following the discussions, and slowly I started participating too. I found many of these mothers were in similar situations to mine, even though they might be living in different countries.
These Mums live all over the world, in Paraguay, India, UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Italy, Greece and so on. Some are married to other Swedes, some to people from their new country - and some are like me, married to a foreigner and living in a 3rd country, new to both of them.
Five years later, I still log in daily to "my" web page. We are a steady group of friends - and yes, I say friends - who write and have short chit-chats daily. Sometimes about serious things, but mostly about not so serious things.
After a while though, as the discussions on this page became more and more personal, we decided we needed another forum; so we created a closed homepage, only for "us". To become a member, you would have had to been writing for a while on the open page, to be let in to the group. We are about 35-40, in the core of this group at the moment, and we share everything with each other - from small news to big.
We have had big get-togethers, in Paris, Amsterdam, L.A and several times in Sweden the last few years. Every year we do a Secret Santa swop and send Christmas presents all over the world. Together we are better than any encyclopedia, we can answer most questions and advise in many situations.
We have followed pregnancies from the blue line on the stick to the birth of each new baby (one even in real time, via the wifi in the delivery suite!); we have supported those who have been going through difficult divorces and/or lost their children to their exes. We have been there for them who have battled serious illnesses or lost loved ones, we have been there for scary job interviews and big moves. In every situation, we have been there.
I say friends, because I know more about many of these girls, than I do about a lot of the people who around me here, or even my old friends. I say friends because they understand so many things about my situation and my life, that no one else does.
I say friends because I have actually met about 20 (!) of them in real life in different contexts. (Some while we have been home visiting family at the same time in Sweden, some in their countries while I have been traveling there, some on a weekend we arranged in Amsterdam a couple of years ago, and some in the UK before coming here etc.)
I say friends, because these girls mean the world to me and I wouldn't know what to do without them. Happy 5th Anniversary!