If you’re reading this post, it’s likely because you found it on Facebook. It probably popped up on your feed, either shared by a friend or a mom group you’d joined. That’s how I find most of my reading material these days – I’m on several handfuls of Facebook parenting groups.
There are wide-reaching support groups (like The Motherhood Collective, Breastfeeding Mama Talk, and Babywearing International), there are ones for specific needs (Feeding The Littles and the always-aspirational KonMari With Kids), ones for a laugh and sanity check (thanks, mommy bloggers Constance Hall and Bunmi Laditan), and of course there are the local ones exclusively for moms who live in my city and even my neighborhood.
But halfway through my recent maternity leave with my second child, I needed a break. I wanted to be a present parent and to disconnect, but I wasn’t about to cut out Facebook entirely – I’m not a masochist. So, I decided to unfollow all of these “mommy groups” for one week. Although the effect wasn’t as life-changing as I’d hoped, I did learn a few surprising things.
I Was a Lot Calmer
We’ve all started reading a post that instantly sends our blood pressure rising, our heart pounding in fear: “Hi mamas! Soooo, not sure if you heard the latest study, but looks like [insert devastating revelation about screen time, breastfeeding, formula, coffee, wine, bedtimes, literally anything a mom would get stressed out about].” When I was no longer surrounded by all the fear-mongering and crowd-sourced panic, I wasn’t so quick to freak out. In fact, though I am sure I eventually discovered some of the things I was doing wrong (there is the playground, after all), some of the noise very likely never made its way to me. And what you don’t know can’t hurt you. I think.
I Wasn’t So Angry / Defensive / Annoyed
Before I detoxed, in just one of the groups I’m in, I witnessed an argument over whether it was offensive to dress babies up like leprechauns for St. Patrick’s Day, I rolled my eyes over one mom’s navel-gazing essay about her natural childbirth (her words were some variation of “no offense, but I’d never drug my baby with an epidural, but that’s just me!”), and I tried to thumb past roughly two dozen posts from another mom looking to sell every last stained onesie and used sippy cup she owns. And all this is without mentioning the near-constant mommy wars that are waged between working moms and stay-at-home moms, breastfeeders and formula users . . . Not having these in my feed was like an instant mood-booster.
It Was Harder to Get Help
For as zen as this experiment made me, there were some clear moments that I missed not having the 24/7 support. The week before I quit these groups, one of them sent a recall alert for my stroller. I don’t think I’d have ever found out about it otherwise. And once I was cut off from this instant resource, I had to work harder to get tips and suggestions that would take me all of five minutes online. When I was curious about a new kids’ playspace in the area, I asked around to every mom friend I knew, only to turn up empty. (Meanwhile, someone posted the same question to our local Facebook mom group and got 27 useful comments in return.)
I was lucky to have an easy second baby, but this experience reminded me of all the late-night posts I’d sent the first time around, with questions about fevers and “does this look weird to you?” photo uploads. Yes, I’d get a lot of mixed messages, but it sure beat Google. There’s something to be said for the virtual village.
I Was Just as Distracted Without Them
The problem with the internet is that it just. doesn’t. stop. Likely thanks to some hyperintelligent algorithm, whatever space was saved by cutting out Facebook mom groups was quickly filled with more posts from friends and more depressing news from other Facebook groups. There was always something. (But again, I’m too weak to quit Facebook entirely, so don’t suggest it.)
I Actually Felt Lonelier
It sounds silly, but I missed all these moms. I didn’t realize how supportive, encouraging, and inspirational these groups of women were until I no longer had their cheerleading clogging up my feed. For every glib comment, there were 20 “you got this!” affirmations complete with a fist-bump and biceps emoji. Even when those kind words were directed at a mom in another state that I’ll never meet, they served as an instant we’re-all-in-this-together pick-me-up.
So, after my week off, I decided I wasn’t better off without these groups. I just needed to be a bit more selective on which ones I rejoined. And it was relatively easy to decipher those that were positive influences on my life and which made me feel anxious, frustrated, or annoyed (hat tip to the group where every third post is some lady hawking a “LIFE-CHANGING!!!” pyramid scheme).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go ask 5,000 mom friends of mine how to potty-train my toddler.