I don't know how moms parenting before the birth of the internet managed. Where did they go for support or advice when their baby wouldn't stop crying? How did they find moms who shared similar parenting styles? After all, parenting forums can provide essential information and emotional support. They can make you feel less alone. The members can even start to feel like friends, even if you have never met each other in "real life."
For all the benefits, however, there are some basic rules for interacting in online mom groups. These easy-to-follow rules can help all involved to avoid the sort of drama and hurt feelings that often swirl around mommy group spaces (or really any space on the internet, for that matter).
I joined two online pregnancy groups that eventually turned into mommy groups. The first one I left due to a world of catty fights, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. I had way too many pregnancy hormones coursing through my body to deal with fights with strangers.
The original forum splintered into a set of new groups containing other new moms who were also tired with the constant squabbles and disagreements, and it's a group I am still a part of three years later. One of the reasons why this group has survived, in my opinion, is because the members have followed these basic rules:
Please Be Discreet
There are a lot of highly personal details shared in mommy groups. Things about our relationships, marriages, our children's health, and our bodies. Think carefully before you repeat any of this shared information with anyone in real life (or someplace else online).
Please Learn The Acronyms
While welcoming more women into these online groups is always fun, it can get a little daunting to answer a ton of clarifying questions that essentially slow down a discussion. So, here are the most commonly used mommy group acronyms:
AF: Aunt Flo — menstruation/period
AP: Attachment Parenting
L&D: Labor and delivery
LO: Little One (your kid)
SAHM: Stay-at-home mom
TTC: Trying to conceive
VBAC: Vaginal birth after a c-section
WAH: Work at home
WOH: Work outside the home
Again, the supportive moms in your group are sure to help you out, but if you really want to hit the ground running, memorizing a few key acronyms won't hurt.
Please Don't Be Selfish
If you use the group regularly, post lots of questions, and mine the members for resources but never provide information or support, trust me when I say it doesn't go unnoticed. Just like a real friendship, there is an expectation of give and take. So, and at the very least, you should always thank members for their help or the time they take to comment.
Please Keep Your Cool
Sometimes conversations can get heated, especially when big, contentious issues are discussed, like breastfeeding and vaccinations.
Typed responses often lack some of the nuance of speech and, as a result, misunderstandings can happen. While we're not all perfect and a certain number of arguments are bound to happen, please think before you hit "send" or "post."
Please Remember That Online Opinions Should Not Replace Medical Advice
Mommy groups are a great resource to poll on how serious a symptom or condition may be. You can ask other moms what they would do in your situation and whether they think you need to take your child or yourself to the doctor.
However, you really shouldn't ever be getting your main source of medical advice from unqualified people online. Take all suggestions with a pinch of salt, and if you're in doubt take your kid to their pediatrician or a doctor.
Please Don't Criticize Other People's Kids
People share personal information about their children online and it is never an open invitation for you to criticize or offer to "diagnose" whatever "behavior problems" you believe a child has. Children all develop at different rates and just because something may not be "normal" for your child, doesn't mean it's not completely "normal" for another.
Think about how you would feel if someone said something negative about your child, then reevaluate what you're thinking of saying about someone else's.
Please Don't Form Cliques
There are so many parenting topics that moms can disagree on, but forming little groups within the group can lead to dissension and arguments.
Plus, if you only ever communicate with people you agree with, you can miss out on chances to expand your way of thinking or at least see things from a different point of view. Opposing beliefs often help you to develop and grow as a person. My advice? Don't close yourself off.
Please Be Kind
If things are getting heated, be prepared to walk away from the computer. Online relationships have the ability to hurt just as much as the ones you enjoy in real life.
Be kind and remember that we don't always know everything that is going on in someone's life. These online groups may be the only safe place a woman has to share her feelings and worries. We should be lifting one another up, not tearing one another down.