Facebook Parenting Groups
I’m not even kidding. Parenting groups on Facebook are one of the wildest rides you can take while staring at your phone on your daily commute. Or, you know, whenever it is you do your scrolling. The bigger the group, the wilder the ride. Which makes sense; the more members, the more diverse the crowd. I’ve been in dozens of these groups over the years and I think there’s a handful of characters that are common to each and every one.
The Rules and the Enforcers
Admins and moderators are essential to just about any group, regardless of size. I have a lot of respect for the ones that stay level-headed and refer the offending commenter to the pinned post or group file with all of the rules. The rules in parenting groups vary, but more often than not, certain topics are banned. Vaccination discussions, for example, are banned in many of them. For or against- nope, not allowed. Why? Because people get too hot under the collar. Some people know a lot about vaccines and are willing to say so, if the need arises. Some people think they know quite a lot and are more than willing to say so, regardless of the quality of their sources. I get it. Trying to moderate those debates would be a nightmare. But debates can start over anything from car seats to starting solid food, and woe betide the admin who isn’t online at that moment to keep things civil!
These sweethearts leave blanket comments at random intervals just to let you know that you are doing great. All of you. Even if you aren’t. They want you to know that they know you are doing your best.Why? Because parents don’t hear words of encouragement often enough. And it really is a sweet, if generic, thing to do. I like those people. It’s nice to see a bit of positivity!
The MLM Seller
MLM sellers lurk in Facebook parenting groups, seemingly waiting to pounce. Watch the discussions about post-natal weight loss to see the ItWorks weight-loss cling-wrap sellers slide in. Post about a child with a cold/croup/rash/injury of some sort, and see how many people recommend Doterra oils that they, conveniently, can sell to you. Many clever admins have banned MLM sales in their groups, but there’s always an opportunist or two who will message the group member directly. You’ll be able to spot them because they always comment on the discussion with “PM’d you, hun!”
The Woo Enthusiasts
Every bit of advice they dole out involves pseudo-scientific products and therapies from the woo crowd. Teething baby getting you down? Try an amber teething necklace or a homeopathic remedy! Feeling depressed or anxious? Forget the doctor, you need a flower essence. Asthma, trouble sleeping, migraines? Get yourself a Himalayan salt lamp! They might mean well and some suggestions are harmless (if expensive!) but sometimes, a person just needs the reassurance and confidence to go to the doctor. Some conditions aren’t going to improve with a placebo. And worse, some alternative remedies aren’t harmless. Be wary of the woo fans!
The Token Dads
Facebook parenting groups are pretty heavily mum-dominated. Mums are still, in 2018, doing the bulk of the parenting stuff, carrying the mental load for the family and therefore usually doing the most worrying about the kids. They’re in these groups looking for support, information, advice or even just a bit of camaraderie and friendship.
Seeing a dad in these groups looking for the same thing is a bit of an anomaly. So when you do see one, it’s interesting to see the gushing praise they sometimes receive, just for being a father who looks after their own kids. Some seem to join these groups for exactly that, posting a cute dad-and-kid pic and seemingly reveling in in the response. Even the genuinely-just-here-for-parenting-chat guys get all kinds of praise.
“Can anyone recommend a good bottle for feeding expressed milk to our 6 week old? His mum needs to have her wisdom teeth out.”
“Not sure but OMG you are such a good dad, I just had to tell you!”
The Car Seat Police
Another contentious topic is car seats and their proper use. I have seen some discussions started over a seemingly innocuous picture of a little one in a car seat. They’ve evolved into what can only be described as an online brawl. It’s always worth talking about car seat safety, new research, the merits of extended rear facing and all that stuff. But it can get pretty heated. In an international group I’m in, I’ve seen mums threaten to call child protective services on other mums over perceived child car seat infractions. Yes, really.
The Baby Feeding Brigade
Is there a more contentious topic? From people claiming there is ABSOLUTELY NO benefit to breastfeeding to others likening formula to deep-fried junk food for babies, there’s some pretty extreme ideas on either end of the spectrum. If you’re in a Facebook parenting group, you’ve probably seen the dumpster fire these discussions can ignite.
- You can’t talk about Facebook parenting groups without mentioning the parents that refer to their child’s ages in months or weeks for a LOOOONG time:
- Or the members who post a question that they could have just as easily typed into google
- Or the looong posts about complex problems that dozens of members take the time to respond to. The ones where original poster never comes back and you never find out what happened in the end.
- And, who could forget, the Judgy McJudgersons? I mean, hell yes, we ALL judge. We can’t even pretend that we don’t; we’re only human. But some people thrive on passing judgment in parenting groups, as any parent can confirm. Looking for a good commercial baby food? They made their own! Want to discuss strollers? They carried their babies everywhere. Looking for experiences with sleep training? They can’t help you because they would NEVER! No parenting group would be complete without them!
All that said, though…
I think, in a way, these are the village that many of us don’t have. They’re a source of connection, advice (of varying quality, it’s true), support and even friendship that a lot of parents might not otherwise have. Social media isn’t all bad. In fact, sometimes, it’s pretty darn useful!