Eight years ago when my son was born, Online Forums were the big thing. For the most part, I just hung around – too shy to contribute, and expose my inadequacy as a parent. But every so often when I could think of no other way to stay sane during those early years of motherhood, I would open my gigantic Dell laptop, log in to the forum, and type in a question about sleep, weaning, or anything else that was at the centre of my world at the time.
It was useful – getting suggestions about this, and that, but usually that’s where it ended. I didn’t have the relationship with social media that I have today – the relationship that we ALL have! Plus the forum concept was not as evolved at that point as it is today, at least not enough to engage me in a way that kept me connected.
These days I don’t log in to Online Forums anymore (do they still exist?) and it’s not because I don’t need them because I do. Being a mom for the second time is, in some ways easier than it was the first time around, but it still carries many familiar challenges. It’s just that now I belong to a Mommy Group on Facebook that gives me everything the old forums did, but also everything they did not. Oh, and I do it all on my iPhone.
Here are the top 7 reasons for joining a Facebook Mommy Group. I’m sure I missed a few points – If you can think of any, please put it in the comments below:
1. You will become kinder and more accepting of other moms. Don’t worry – the Mommy Wars are over, and guess what? We Won! Moms today are much more tolerant of other moms’ imperfections than before. Much of that is due to a new willingness to expose our own feared inadequacies, and get rid of the Perfect Mom elusion that entrapped so many of our mothers and grandmothers. By witnessing the successes and failures of others we drop the protective shield that says “I don’t get you, therefor I fear you” and invite all mothers to walk alongside us in this crazy journey of motherhood.
2. Maybe, just maybe you will become kinder to yourself as well. A funny thing happens when you let go of fearing what’s different – you learn to embrace those things about yourself that you find uncomfortable. Whether it’s guilt over needing time for yourself, discomfort with not knowing what to do next, or anger at the whole world – allowing yourself to have these experiences is a wonderful byproduct of giving others the space to have theirs.
3. You will get your needs met – what a concept! Whether you’re looking for parenting advice, a good deal on used toys, activity ideas to do with the kids, or someone to remind you that you’re only doing your best – the Facebook Mommy Group is your destination. Knowing that you have this resource at your finger tips (literally!) is your tool against the all too common “I don’t know what the f*** I’m doing here” anxiety. And while you’re at it, share some of your hard earned lessons, answer some questions, and contribute advice – it will help you see that maybe you actually do know what the f*** you’re doing (at least some of the time).
4. Go ahead – Vent. Expressing our feelings through words is one of the most useful techniques humans have for making sense of our experience. It translates archaic, and messy emotions from the right side of our brain into an organized story that makes sense to us (located in the left side of our brain). My Momrades (read: Mom – Comrades) at the Tri Cities Moms Group have yanked me out of the muck of near-insanity more times than I can count.
5. Enjoy positive friendships that fit your hectic schedule. Being a mom is a lonely business. The constant demands of motherhood keep us submerged in a daily routine of responsibilities, plus the emotional sensitivity that comes with being depleted can leave us with a sense of being alone in the world. One of the surefire ways to beat loneliness is to connect with other people, and maintain positive friendships. But when ‘hanging out with a friend’ means planning it around nap schedules and snack preparation, after-school activities and ever changing child dynamics (“I never want to play with her” followed by “she is my BFF”), then you find yourself yet again doing it alone “because its just easier”. Enter the Facebook Mommy Group – your portal to being social once again. Once you join, Facebook will send you a notification when another mom ‘says’ something- consider it your invitation to engage. You can choose to contribute as little or as much as your interest and schedule permits. So even if you’re too swamped to contribute you can still be a part of the action, without losing your place in the group.
6. Holy Ego boost. There’s no doubt about it – when people respond (like, comment, share) to our posts, we feel good. So when you post a question or share an experience and within the day you get 20-30 replies, it feels really good! With 7 out of 10 moms spending time on Facebook regularly, we are what social media marketers call ‘a highly engaged group’. We don’t passively consume information (usually), but rather we engage actively with our community – what has been shown to ward off loneliness, and protect us from the emotional ups and downs of connecting on social media.
7. You will be a better mom. Forget the advice, and support you get from these groups. Forget the sense of belonging, and strength. Even forget the kindness and gentleness that you will have toward yourself and others. You want the bottom line, right? You don’t have the time or patience for a whole lot of hooha. You want to know how to be a better mom, how to get angry less, and how to stay calm when your impossibly adorable, yet equally aggravating little munchkins nearly drive you to the loony bin. So here it is: You will be a better mom when you take care of yourself! You will be a calmer/gentler mom when you pause and recognize what YOU need, and continue to give that to yourself. A Mommy Group can help you to remember that, give you ideas on how to do that, make you laugh at yourself, cry when you need it and see that we are all in this together.
Things to Remember About Facebook Mommy Groups:
1. These communities are only as safe as we make them. Please remember to be respectful and supportive of others, and let the admins know (tag them) if you notice someone be hurtful, judgemental, or offensive.
2. Follow the rules of the group. Often there will be a pinned post at the top of the page that will go through the purpose of the group – some are more information based others are more for chatting and connecting. Hang around for a bit, read some posts and responses to see if the particular group is a good fit or if another group wold fit you better.
3. Remember – It’s your choice how actively engaged you wish to be, but some groups do ask that you contribute. Keep in mind though, that the less active you are in the group, the less notifications (reminders) you will receive.
4. There are all sorts of Facebook Mommy Groups: Support Groups, Swap/Sales Groups (used and new), Parenting Information Groups, Meet-Up Groups…Pick the ones that fit your interest and/or need. My favourite is the Tri Cities Moms Group – a support, advice, and connecting meet-up group serving the Tri Cities area of the Lower Mainland.
5. To find a Facebook Mommy Group you can search by key word (for example: Vancouver Moms, Meet-Up Moms, Blogger Moms, Stay-at-Home Moms, Drinking Moms…) and Facebook will give you some options.
Once you have joined, Facebook will suggest to you other Mom Groups that may or may not be of interest to you.