As much as we want mommy groups to be a place of support and encouragement, they can often turn into toxic cesspools of self-righteousness and unnecessary judgment. I've heard countless stories of moms who have had horrible experiences with a mommy group they recently joined. Homebirth mamas judge hospital birth moms, and vice versa. There is a feud between breastfeeding and formula-feeding moms. It all gets so petty and hurtful sometimes, especially considering the fact that we're just trying to do our best for our unique babies.
We like to think that we can just brush off whatever we consume online, but sometimes the interactions we have with people online can have a very real impact on our psyche and everyday life. So whether you're a new mom who is getting ready to welcome a newborn into the world or you're a seasoned mom of four, here are some tips to help you avoid the toxic online mommy culture that turn off many women from seeking a motherhood community on the internet.
Choose Carefully What Groups You Join and People You Follow
You've heard that old saying, "You are the sum of the five closest people in your life." Well, the same is kind of true when it comes to what you consume on the internet. It takes great care and precision to decide who you interact with online and which groups you choose. If you're in search of an online community, make sure you have a list of non-negotiables in hand. Maybe you're looking for an all-natural mommy group, perhaps you're looking for a group that has a diverse mix of moms. Whatever it is that you're looking for, write it down and be intentional about what you're selecting. This will make it much easier to find a group or some online friends who can support you throughout motherhood and help you figure out the speed bumps along the way.
Be careful about what kind of moms you become friends with online.
Additionally, be careful about what kind of moms you become friends with online. There is a tendency for new moms to immediately connect and become friendly because you have so much in common initially. But then you might find that this person is becoming vocally judgmental about your choices or exuding toxic behavior in a public online space. Vet each mom before you open up to them and be sure they are worthy of your trust.
Never Feel Like You Have To Defend Your Choices
Every mom is going to make different choices for their children, whether it pertains to vaccines, schooling, sleep habits, etc. It's never your place to judge someone else's decisions, just like it's not their place to judge yours. If you find yourself making a choice that goes against the grain of your online friends, don't ever feel like you have to defend yourself or explain why you made that choice. There is a huge freedom in not explaining yourself to people, and you might find that it's quite liberating to not have to answer to anyone but yourself and your family.
The sooner you quit trying to defend your choices, the sooner people will realize that they are meeting a dead-end street when they criticize or question you.
Don't ever feel like you have to defend yourself.
Don't Be Afraid of the Block Button
There will always be trolls, no matter how many cautious steps you take online. I can't stress this enough: block them. Many people (I used to be one of them) feel like blocking someone is petty, unkind, or a surrender of sorts. Almost as if you're giving them exactly what they want, when you shouldn't be afraid to fight back.
That's a bunch of nonsense. If someone is trolling you or routinely attacking you online, get rid of them forever and go on with your life without thinking anything of it. When you're a busy mom who is trying to raise a human being in the world, you have limited energy to give away to toxic people. So get rid of them and move on.
Be Mindful about What Information You Share about Your Family Online
It's normal and totally okay to share glimpses of your family life on your social media accounts or in your mommy groups. But always know that you're in control of the image you put forth of your family and your children, and sometimes it's better to move with caution.
Sure, you can share photos and videos of your motherhood journey, but oversharing about details of your daughter's diet or your son's sleep training isn't always necessary. You'll find that you actually protect yourself and your sanity much more successfully if you choose more carefully what kind of information you share online about your motherhood choices. This subsequently results in fewer people dumping their toxic thoughts on you.
Motherhood is a wild, unpredictable ride, and you deserve all the help you can get.
Make Sure You Have a Solid Support System in Person
It's great having a mommy group to join because it offers support to many moms who may not have a lot of support in their everyday life. But it's incredibly important to make sure you are surrounded by people who can be there for you in person. Reach out to family and friends and ask them to look after your baby for a few hours while you get some sleep or get your nails done. Go to in-person mommy meet-ups so you can see other moms face to face and discuss parenthood. We get so lost in the online world sometimes that we forget how crucial it is to invest in our in-person friendships.
Motherhood is a wild, unpredictable ride, and you deserve all the help you can get. But above all, prioritize the health of your child(ren) as well as yourself. At the end of the day, your family is all that matters.