Online mom groups can get ‘judgmental’ — here’s how to not get sucked in

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A recent poll finds that many moms feel criticized from time to time. Most say their biggest critics are their own family members – Jul 10, 2017

It doesn’t matter what stage of motherhood you’re in — there’s probably a mom group for everyone.

Online mom groups on Facebook or specific parenting sites are more popular than ever, and for many, it is a support system of parents willing to share their best tips, secrets and advice on handling motherhood.

But for some, they aren’t the best experience. In a recent post for Scary Mommy, author Megan Storm wrote a blog on urging mom groups to stop giving out problematic advice.

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“As time went on though, and particularly after the birth of my second child, I started to realize a more disturbing pattern: these groups were giving out some pretty scary advice, to very vulnerable people, that they weren’t qualified to give. I want to use this opportunity to give examples of what I’m talking about and urge people to stop doing this,” she wrote.

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The downfalls

Parenting coach Julie Romanowski says one of the biggest downfalls of online parenting groups is that they are not always supportive.

“[They are] rather a platform to rant, complain and judge others, especially the online groups,” she tells Global News. “They can easily get you ‘sucked in,’ and before you know it, you’re involved with something negative, stressful and possibly filling you with even more anxiety.”

Storm argued if there were questions about fevers, breastfeeding or even how to heal dry skin, responses were often judgmental.

“The people who are obsessed with and judgmental about breastfeeding come out like moths to a flame on threads like this. I once witnessed someone call formula ‘poison.’ Yes, you read that right. A perfectly acceptable form of feeding your baby was called ‘poison.’ Even worse, I have seen a trend of people suggesting a mom make homemade formula over commercial formula, even though that is potentially dangerous to babies.”

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Lauren Millman of Lauren Millman Counselling and Psychological Services in Toronto, says with online groups on apps like Facebook, it could be hard to filter all of the inappropriate behaviour or “mom-bashing.”

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“You will not escape poor behaviour by some, but any reputable mom group will have a few administrators who monitor the group … who will intervene swiftly with either a warning, or a swift deletion of the thread and a one-time warning to the offender(s) to not engage in that behaviour again or risk the boot out of the group,” she says.

When they work

But Romanowski says mom groups can be helpful for moms at any stage in life, and for some, an avenue to find new friends. Millman agrees and adds mom groups can even offer get-togethers for anyone who may be feeling lonely or overwhelmed at home.

“And if you’re a Mom with your own business, some even offer days where you can post your businesses. Just keep in mind, ‘buyer beware’; joining any mom group is at your own risk. Keep your posts friendly and upbeat, encouraging and thoughtful.”

Picking the right one

And with so many options, how do you pick one? Some groups are catered to a theme — everything from LGBTQ2 parents to moms who want to raise feminists to moms with a sick child. Others are location-based and depend on the area you live in.

“Search with caution, is my advice,” Millman says. “Many of the mom groups require you to join first, so do so, but hold back on posting for a few days until you’ve had time to read through the threads and see how the Admins handle conflict, if any. As well, look for inappropriate language in posts as this may not be the type of genre of mom group you are looking for.”

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Romanowski adds being a new mom has many challenges, and maybe a good place to start is a group that allows moms to meet face-to-face.

“It’s important to remember to find a group that will help you in life, not make it worse. Also, there are a wide variety of groups to choose from with varying levels of participation. In-person mom groups are a great way to be with people as being a new Mom can be isolating and difficult at times and they meet once a month which is schedule-friendly and budget-friendly.”