Personally I am a huge fan of support groups on social media. They're typically free and easy to access. Social media based support groups for Mum's are fantastic platforms to get advice, share experiences and have open discussions.
The unfortunate thing about online support groups though is that there is occasionally a keyboard warrior element present on top of members being tired, stressed out and frustrated. And our babies, their development and wellbeing is a topic we all can be particularly sensitive and defensive about, naturally.
As much as most groups have rules to help keep interactions friendly and respectful. But because groups are often run by group founders instead of a professional body, arguments and dummy spits are still to be expected.
Here we'll explore some reasons for nastiness and how to handle it so as to get the most out of your online support groups for Mums.
They Are Tired
Mums no matter how good their circumstances are typically exhausted. Physically and mentally, kids and everything that goes with them are draining. Being responsible for another person, 24/7 leaves little energy for yourself and even less for people around you. This can include our husbands, friends and even the cashier at the grocery store. So honestly how much could we have left for people as superficial as other mums on support pages we've never met and don't know in 'real life'?
The answer is it can go one of two ways. Mum's can be so buggered they have no 'fight' left in them, making them super agreeable and over-the-top caring (a true member of the 'sisterhood'). Or they can be disagreeable and grouchy. And being irritable leads to being b**chy!
If a fellow mum is nasty or rude online, chances are they wouldn't be that way to you face to face and are merely suffering a case of "keyboard warriorism" brought on by a lack of sleep. You might have said something to aggrevate them sure. But how they react when they're tired is not your fault. Just leave it be and consider 'blocking' them if you don't wish to hear from them again.
They Are Stressed Out
Stress goes hand in hand with parenting. Starting with the stress of merely keeping your newborn alive to your toddler not meeting milestones, your child's grades, your work/life balance... It's a never ending list of things to stress over. And unfortunately that takes its role.
Imagine never being able to relax? That's pretty much how most mums feel. Like since the day they became a mother, their plates been full with things to do. And it never seems to end. At least not in the foreseeable future. Maybe you get away from the kids here and there, have a nap to yourself or even a weekend away at a spa. It's not enough to ever truly wind down.
Stress from any situation elevates our cortisol levels, our fight or flight responses unfortunately triggered by every day challenges. when our cortisol levels are high, we become aggressive, snappy. And this can occur online in support groups. Mums already stressed out might be overwhelmed with responses on their threads and reach a short tether or might not like the response they get.
They Are Frustrated
Motherhood is frustration in a nutshell. You can't eat what you want when you want it. You might not get to enjoy hot coffee too often. Or have privacy in the toilet or shower. A good night's sleep is more than you can ask for. All of these little things are enough on their own.
Being a parent means putting your child or children's wellbeing above our own. And not just with small inconveniences like a full bladder or cold coffee. But there's bigger frustrations to experience that many women do; Mentally, you can't do whatever you want anymore and are no longer a 'free agent' in control of your own life. Physically, a mum can't just get to the physio with a sore back for instance. Socially, mum's can often feel lonely and isolated, they can't go out with friends like they once could. Sexually and romantically, whether they're coupled or single it doesn't really matter. A good majority of mums will admit they crave more intimacy in their life and kids whatever age are total blockers.
It's important to keep in mind if someone seems catty, that they may have more than one thing frustrating them and it's likely clouding their response to you. Treat every thing with a grain of salt and never take anything said in social media to heart. The person doesn't know you well enough to pass judgement.
They Are Human
Albeit b**chy, mums in support groups are the best collective experience available to us as parents and therefore they're a great resource. And whilst you'll get some bitter with the sweet, I really can't imagine a better opportunity to feel like a part of a community. Fellow mums that share each other's highs and lows. Offer tips and advice. And offer moral support and comfort.
Much like any other platform there's a few bad apples in each basket that shouldn't be allowed to sour the rest. Don't let nasty Susan's ruin your support group for you. Just take advantage of block buttons and dodge the individual if it escalates. But I strongly suggest against leaving groups as tempting as it can be when someone gets b**chy. You can't usually get back in them. And b**chiness in support groups is like road rage in that, it's impersonal most of the time. People seldom harbour ill-will for others over it for long.
The art of agreeing to disagree is an important application to social media based support groups. A group consisting of mums discussing things such as breastmilk vs. formula and cot vs. bedsharing is bound to act as a pool for strong opinions. At the end of the day we have to stay in our lanes and respect each other's decisions. When you have a heated debate on one subject you just might agree on another. As individuals were all different and entitled to our own journey.