“People have a lot of strong opinions about their parenting choices. People have a lot of strong opinions about YOUR parenting choices” – a mom
Once a week, I get to hang with some awesome moms in my office. They like to talk about lots of different things: babies, breastfeeding, husbands, the symptoms of the mood disorders they’re fighting and the different ways of coping. This week, they talked about Facebook. Specifically, they talked about the various mom groups they belong to on Facebook. Not every mom can access an in-person meeting for hanging out with their village. Facebook groups are an around-the-clock option for new and veteran moms to gather and share the joys and struggles of their lives. I am a member of several of these groups. In fact, I started a small one 5 years ago when I was pregnant with my son. I needed a safe place to complain about hemorrhoids, sciatic nerve pain, and other pregnancy-related unpleasantness. That group has been a significant source of support, friendship, and love for me over the years. Often these Facebook groups are wonderful places for a new mom to seek information and encouragement. Sometimes though, they can also be hotbeds of mama drama and wackiness that will exhaust even the thickest skinned mom.
Over our time together, this group of moms in my office decided on some tips we would give a new mom as she enters the world of Facebook moms’ groups.
Know the Rules!
Most groups will have rules posted and will ask each new member to read them. These rules often include no-no’s like “Don’t screenshot something from this group and then post it to another group to talk about it.” There is no quicker way to get yourself booted from a group then screenshotting the information posted there. Moms want to feel like what they are posting is safe in that space, and the rules are in place to protect them, and you from bad behavior. Rules might also include appropriate conduct for handling *trigger warnings* or how they want you to (or not to) conduct your small business marketing. Read the rules, moms.
Be mindful of your own triggers!
Do you have really strong opinions about formula, vaccines, or religion? Would reading someone else’s differing opinion likely upset you and cause you stress? If so, it’s probably the best thing to just not participate in those threads. Just skip them. Don’t click on the comments. Seriously. Don’t. You’re stressed out enough with baby life. Put the phone down. Refresh your newsfeed. Close your computer. Do whatever you need to. They’re your triggers, own them, respect them, treat them kindly. Choose your battles wisely, mamas.
Know your audience!
When you have a question like "Should we circumcise our son?" or, "I don’t think I want to breastfeed. That’s ok right?" be aware of who you’re asking. Most groups will have pretty good descriptions of their overall member make-up. If the group advertises itself as "pro-breastfeeding" you’re not likely to get the same response as a group that states "formula is awesome." There is such a huge variety of groups, you’re sure to find the one that’s right for you. Just like in real life, it’s always good practice to be aware of your surroundings.
Just because you’re in several different groups you are under no obligation to follow them and clog up your Newsfeed. Facebook gives you the option to unfollow any individual or group that you choose. Go visit that group when you want to, not every time a new post is made. Some groups have thousands of members resulting in multiple posts an hour. You probably don’t have time for that. Nobody has time for that.
There are some wonderful aspects of these groups too!
Cyber-Friends can become real friends
These groups can be an amazing place to create or find a tribe. I’ve made some amazing friends in this capacity; friends I interact with in real life on a day-to-day basis. If you’re isolated and lonely, having these groups can be a real game-changer. One of the moms at yesterday’s meeting told us how several moms in a local Facebook group supported her through her daughter’s hospital stay. She told us that “people I’ve never met came to our room with coffee and sat with me for a while.” I have personally seen these groups organize food drives for moms in need, and have myself been the recipient of care packages of sunshine and love when I was going through a hard time from mom friends I know through cyber-space.
Support in unique experiences
Is your baby facing a medical procedure you’re terrified about? Do you have a weird rash on your breast you can’t find information on? Is your baby’s poop a weird color? You can likely find an answer in one of these groups. There are often groups especially for unique circumstances where moms can turn. If you need a community to discuss a special situation, odds are good you can find one easily.
Learning to grow
The variety of opinions and circumstances on the interwebs is so diverse that you’re sure to learn a thing or two about or from people you would likely never cross paths with otherwise. Learning to more open-minded to each other so we can grow as moms is a win-win for all parties. Having such quick and easy access to new perspectives can make those isolated early days of parenthood seem shorter and more manageable.
Facebook moms groups are fun and can be very informative. These can be safe spaces to chat with other moms when you’re up at 2am feeding a hungry baby or a place to vent about the ridiculous thing your husband just did. Practicing good decorum and respectful posting benefits everyone and keeps us all happy. It’s pretty great to have a tribe.
About the Author
Beth Shelton, LMSW, CPD is a Certified Postpartum Doula with Homecoming Postpartum Services and a Maternal Mental Health therapist with Appleseeds, Inc. Beth enjoys chasing her children and her chickens around her backyard, appreciates a long hike, and has a slightly inconvenient obsession with tie-dying.