Can being a mom blogger really make one happy? This time last year, if you had asked me my opinion on blogs, I would have rolled my eyes and said they were stupid. That’s my composition teacher and journalist snobbery talking—I really am biased against bad writing that serves no purpose. That’s why I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey.

Fast forward a year later, and a lot has changed. I am a mom. I am a blogger. I am a mom who blogs. I am a mom blogger! Yikes! How did that happen? The truth is, it all happened on the spur of the moment, and I’m so glad it did.

Because being a mom blogger has made me happier, more productive, and more in touch with the world. And it might just have staved off a case of postpartum depression.

My baby was born near the end of 2011, just as a cold winter was settling in. We had just moved into our new house. It’s just a few miles away from my husband’s family and our friends in the village but figuratively, it’s much farther than that. My husband Paolo went back to work right after the baby was born, and I found myself alone with a baby in a big, lonely house. My most readily available outlet was the Internet. And after posting cute baby photos on Facebook all day long got a little tiresome (for me and my friends, I suspect), I decided I needed to do something a little more productive with my free time.

I know what you’re thinking. I had a newborn at home. What free time? But the thing is, as much as our baby was desired and welcomed and adored, I found that I couldn’t settle down comfortably into being a 24/7 mommy. I’d always been productive; I’d always earned money and been self-sufficient. With the utmost respect to full-time, stay-at-home-moms—because I know how hard they work—I needed something else to stimulate my brain and keep me engaged with the person I was before I became a wife and mother. And that person was a writer.

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So, I started a blog about my life as an American transplant to rural Italy. I joined Twitter. I fell in with a group of other writers, almost all of whom are also mothers, and we communicate regularly via Facebook and email. Once I worked up the nerve to start linking my blog posts to my Facebook page, I started getting feedback and comments from my “friends” there, many of whom were only passing acquaintances prior to our new communications.

I have been a writer for years, so I’m used to both positive and negative feedback on my work. (Heck, we writers are happy to get any feedback—at least it means someone is reading!) But there was something different and somehow more rewarding about getting positive feedback from people who told me they laughed or cried at what I’d written. Maybe it’s the immediacy of blogging that makes the difference—I can post a blog on Facebook or Twitter and then start checking right away to see how many people have read, who has commented. It’s near instant gratification, and when it comes as the result of words you’ve written, it is gratifying indeed.

I have no way of predicting whether I was headed towards a case of postpartum depression before I started blogging. But as a person prone to melancholy, I’m pretty sure I was a ripe candidate. And I truly believe that blogging and joining a community of bloggers helped me avoid that outcome. It also helped my marriage—my husband saw me as someone else, someone other than, or rather, in addition to, his wife and the mother of his child. Now, when I write a new post, we sit and look at it together and I translate it into Italian for him, hoping the jokes and plays on words will convey (though often they don’t). He always asks me how many people have read and commented, and suggests new topics for my posts.

As important as these personal and ego-driven benefits may be, for me, blogging has brought another, more important reward. I have found an outlet, not just for creativity, but for cajoling, complaining, and laughing with other women, all things I get to do far too little of in my non-virtual life. I now have a network of dear friends whom I’ve never met face to face. We know what is going on in one another’s lives, our challenges and small triumphs, and we confide in one another as if we’ve been friends for decades. I might not even recognize most of these mom bloggers if we passed on the street, but I’ve got their backs, and I know they’ve got mine.