I didn’t say it. I didn’t even type it. But I so desperately wanted to be painfully, inappropriately honest and ask ‘Were you born in the shallow end of the gene pool? And now you are BREEDING?!’ This bluntness is very out of character for me. I’m great at having an internal monologue. Sometimes. Rarely. Ok – almost never.
I really needed to talk to someone, to see someone. I’d been locked up with two sick kids for almost three weeks. I hadn’t been past my letterbox. My hair may have once been red, but now it was a dull greasy brown from days of being unwashed. Despite going through bottles of Domestos and cans of Glen 20, my house still smelt of sick little people. And despite the kind offers, I didn’t want my dear friends coming over in case my little biological weapons infected their kids. So I had turned to the Canberra Mum forums. My only link to the outside world, it seemed. At which point I realised that if this was my idea of talking to ‘people’, it was time I returned to work.
The administrators of these Mummy forums have my endless admiration. They sit back and monitor while ‘people’ hide behind profile pics of their gorgeous children or cute cats and provide medical, legal, financial and relationship ‘advice’. They ignore the poor spelling and grammar, which is often so appalling the meaning of the post is lost. They steer people back from opinions which rapidly crumble into censure and judgment. I can almost hear the admins sigh as a post on breast vs bottle, male circumcision, natural vs caesarian birth, controlled crying vs co sleeping, vaccination vs ‘big pharma’ goes up.
I have the luxury of making myself popcorn and watching the chaos unfold. Giggling from my high moral ground because the decisions I made were the right ones. Well, the right ones for my family and I. Others can decide differently as to what suits them. And that’s fine. Until someone comes along who just can’t handle that. And then it gets nasty.
Meanwhile…I imagine the poor admins groaning, making a cup of coffee and saying to their partners ‘Go to bed sweetheart…I’m going to be up for a while.’ They are the benevolent guardians of online Mummy land democracy. And they are much, much better people than I.
A dear friend of mine has had her third boy, ten years apart from her youngest. When I asked her what the biggest change she had seen in the decade between her children, she replied. “The online community. Now I’m always questioning if what I’m doing is right.” WTF? This woman has already raised two beautifully behaved boys with an incredible respect for their mother. She has done most of it by herself. She is one of my IRMMs – Inspirational Role Model Mummies. And yet, the posts online still make her doubt the gorgeous evidence that she is a great Mum.
I’m not claiming that all of the online Mummies were born at the shallow end of the gene pool. I am friends with some amazing women through these forums. I love hearing how their children are growing. How they too are growing into their new role as Mothers. And I love catching the glimmers of what their life was like before. But there are a few specific breeds of online Mummies who need to be recognised for what they are. I have four in particular which set off alarms…
No friends– Beware of the Mummies who are in their 30s or later and post “I have no long term friends because no-one ‘gets’ me. Does anyone want to have a play date?” If you don’t have at least a couple of dear friends by the time you are 30 – it’s time to look in a mirror. I hope a Mummy version of Dorian Grey doesn’t look back at you. And I’m sorry, but I don’t want my children playing with another child whose Mother lacks self-awareness.
Know-it-all – These are the Mummies who post on every topic…on every post. They need to be heard to be validated. You may be bored at home. You may feel unappreciated. But this is a shallow way to find that self esteem boost you are looking for…it’s only as good as the next post. It’s cyber crack. Also, no Mummy is that much of an expert on everything.
Help me! (Under these conditions…) The posts generally start, “I’m not coping with the lack of sleep, trouble feeding etc…and my house is a mess…could another Mummy please volunteer to clean it for me?” But then it goes on, “but I am very fussy about my benches, they would have to be sterilised. With this unique cleaning combination I’ve created which will eat through gloves and the skin on your hand. And I have no money to pay you. But PLEASE I need help!” We all do sweetheart. But:
No. Just no. She is an online emotional succubus. You are a Mum now, you just don’t have time for any extra drama. Practice saying No. It will be good for you. As a Mum you’ll be saying it A LOT.
Self- appointed Doctor – Finally, my pet hate, probably because it is so damned dangerous, beware of the ‘free’ medical advice. A rash should be seen by a Dr, or emergency. A persistent wet or dry cough should be seen by a Dr, or emergency. A prolonged temperature, especially above 38 should be seen by a Dr or emergency. When pregnant if you are bleeding, have cramping and backache that seems to be coming in timed intervals…or irregular but getting worse…what do you do? Ask a body of your Mummy peers? NO! Emergency or call the birthing suite. Talk to the experts. Labour is different for every woman. Don’t risk your most precious cargo on the opinion of someone you probably haven’t met.
Online Mummy land is not the village nirvana we all crave. What we all want is physical assistance and cyber advice from afar is too easy to give (and yes, I’ve been guilty of it too). But the sad truth is, online Mummy land is full of too many village idiots to be truly effective.
Instead, surround yourself with your own IRMMS, the Mummies you know and trust, who give sensible advice, have a sense of humour, who are honest. The Mummies who can take one look at your face and say “I know you are struggling, how can I help?” The Mummies who find a way to drag you out of the home, take you for coffee and remind you of who you are. The Mummies who warn you that you’ll have to live with constant guilt when you go back to work…that you can’t escape it. And who then recommend which bosses will be truly understanding of ‘flexible’ working hours. The Mummies who say to you “You think THAT was bad? Let me tell you about when I stuffed up!” The Mummies who recognise we are all part of this journey together. These are the Mummies you want. Part of a real and viable village and community.
And thank God these Mummies are breeding, because I would be lost without them.
If you liked this article, I heartily recommend Renegade Mothering. She is honest, humorous and makes you exclaim “Thank GOD I’m not the only one who thinks this way!” In short – she is awesome and our sort of people.