“It takes a village to raise a child,” so goes the cliche. In a village, your mother, your aunts, your friends, and the local midwife are all there for you. They know all about those early weeks of no sleep, the cracked and bleeding nipples, and the frightening amount of blood pouring forth from your vagina. These women also know you, personally, so their advice is tempered with kindness and warmth.
Enter the Age of Information. We’re so connected these days that we’ve disconnected from our village of old. Why ask actual people for advice when you have Google? Worried about your milk supply? Wondering what that rash is? Google to the rescue! Unfortunately, the results of your internet search are as likely to scare the shit out of you as they are to offer solutions to your immediate problem.
Hmm, maybe it’s better to have a pool of mostly female companions as support after all. For the most part, we no longer live in small villages, so where’s a modern mama to turn? Why, your trusty Facebook mommy group! In the absence of a physical, geographically local village of matrons, many of us, particularly new first-time mothers, join one or more of the thousands of Facebook mom groups. Suddenly, there’s a wealth of advice at our fingertips! We need only to ask, and we don’t even have to leave the house or dial Aunt Gladys’s number. Sounds fabulous, no?
It can be, especially at first. Post away, and most of your new-mom worries will be soothed by a sea of encouraging, virtual voices saying things like, “That’s normal, Mama! Nothing to worry about. You’re doing great!” It can be very soothing and rewarding.
“Oh, that’s just eczema. Lots of babies have it. Put some coconut oil on it after a bath.”
“If you’re getting six wet diapers a day, she’s getting enough milk. Keep at it, Mama, you’ve got this!”
“Looks like cradle cap. If you’re nursing, rub breast milk into his scalp a few times a day.”
It won’t be long before you start to notice that breast milk and coconut oil seem to fix everything! Eye infection? Breast milk. Unidentified rash? Coconut oil. Baby’s first cold? Breast milk. Mother-in-law being a pain in the ass? Coconut oil. Flat tire? Breast milk. Annoying political ads on TV? Coconut oil.
In a few short weeks, you’ll hit your stride as a new mother. Still, you turn to your Facebook moms’ group on a regular basis for advice, affirmation, and sometimes camaraderie. You may even be able to offer your advice to help others, which can be very emotionally rewarding.
But there’s a darker side you are only now beginning to notice. If your mommy group has more than a few hundred members, there’s bound to be several women who rub you the wrong way.
Her way is the only way, and anyone who disagrees with her is doing it wrong. Your child is exactly like her child, and you’d better take her advice or else. She will endlessly argue her point long after everyone else in the group is tired of the topic. She usually uses cloth diapers exclusively, home schools, and is the mom who gives other cloth-diapering homeschoolers a bad reputation.
This mom knows more than a thousand doctors and is often, though not always, a rabid anti-vaxxer. In most cases, her cousin’s kid’s buddy from preschool had the exact same problem you’re asking about, and their doctor was an idiot because all drugs are poison. What your kid clearly needs is a breast milk enema and to start pulling with coconut oil. Oh, and possibly some herbal snake oil bullshit she conveniently sells as a rep for some multi-level marketing scheme.
Trigger Alert Mom
TAM is offended by literally everything and needs to be sure you know it. She jumps on every thread, asking you to edit with the preface, “TRIGGER ALERT: blah blah blah,” and please post your actual question or photo in the comments. She often rallies the other TAMs to her cause, just in case you don’t feel guilty enough already. How dare you post about your baby refusing to eat carrots, don’t you know there are moms in this group whose babies died from a carrot allergy, you unfeeling witch?
(Of course, trigger alerts have an important role in semi-public discussions. Sensitive topics, traumatic events, and graphic images need such a warning, and people who may be sensitive to certain topics deserve the respect of a trigger alert. However, overuse of such alerts diminishes their value and does the group a great disservice. So cool your jets, TAM. It’s just a rash.)
I Thought We Were All Women Mom
This mother is shocked and outraged to discover that, in 2016, a man is included in this group. Never mind that he’s the stay-at-home parent, or a single dad, who needs our support. This mom is freaking out now because she posted a sex question or a period issue four months ago and now some guy she’s never met may have read about her gross girl stuff.
Thankfully, there’s a fabulous way to silence these harpies. Use Facebook’s handy “Block” feature liberally. It’s a better cure for mommy group woes than coconut oil and breast milk combined. Less messy, too.
Most importantly, when you find the group’s discussions making you grit your teeth rather than nod your head, leave the group immediately. Don’t post a goodbye, and don’t look back. You’ve gotten all you’re going to get from that particular village.
Now, by no means am I telling you not to join one or more Facebook parenting groups—mommy or otherwise. They’re quite useful and empowering, and can save you plenty of unnecessary worry. However, if you choose to skip it, here’s everything you need to know:
Rub breast milk on it. Or coconut oil. And when in doubt, call your pediatrician’s advice nurse.