Mommy Groups Heaven or Hell?

I’m not a joiner. I don’t like crap where I feel trapped in a place for a set amount of time with strangers, so the idea of joining the mommy group organized by the Public Health nurse in my area, made my ass itch. It didn’t start until my baby was 6-weeks old so I figured I had time to back out of it if I wanted to (and I was too tired to think of a nice way to say no) so I agreed to try it.

I was all set to cancel but my friend (who is also not much of a joiner) said it was the best thing she ever did and essentially forced me to go. Long story short, it was a great thing to do and here is my list of the pros and cons based on my limited experience:

Pros:

You’re not alone. Once my baby was born, and the visitors left, everything was back to the same old, same old and I felt very isolated because it wasn’t the same-old-same-old because I was at home by myself caring for a whole person. It’s nice to be surrounded by women who are in the same boat as you are.

Poo Talk. It feels so good to unleash the poo obsession with people who are just as excited as you are to discuss it. I’ve decided that suppressing a new mother’s “poo talk” is just as bad as suppressing poo and it needs to happen somewhere. I’m sure that the other people in your life would appreciate you sharing the frequency, consistency and colour of your baby’s poo with other “poo talkers” as well.

Birth Stories. Women’s birth stories are like men’s war stories and I would be fascinated to know what women that have gone to war AND given birth revel in more. Nothing is like a friendly round of “if you think that was bad then…”

Baby Measuring Stick. You’re never *quite* sure the first time around just how much a baby cries, poos, spits up, wakes up in the night or eats and it’s nice to be able to get an idea of what the average is and if you should change things up or if it’s just par for the course.

The near future. It’s nice to be around Moms that are a month or even a few weeks further down the road than you are so they can share the light at the end of each dark tunnel. I have never been so happy to hear a woman in my group say her baby slept through the night the first time because I knew I couldn’t be far off for me (it turned out mine didn’t come for another 2 years but that’s beside the point). It gave me hope dammit!

 

Cons:

You’re not all there. I personally found it really hard to hold an intelligent conversation for the first year of my child’s life, so I hated that I was constantly looking like a tired, doughy, asshat and these women had never known me any other way. I’m sure they felt the exact same way but I was too sleep deprived to realize that logic at the time.

One Upsmanship. There is always one Perfect Penny in the bunch that just *has* to be better than everybody. Everybody thinks their baby is awesome and most women do a pretty good job at graciously giving equal billing to all the other mothers in the group (even though they know their baby rocks it like a pizza pocket), but there’s always one broad that you want to beat with a bag of hammers because she won’t shut up about how brilliant her baby is. Well, let’s just hope her baby reads social cues better than she did because I’d had 7 minutes of collective sleep and I could tell everyone in the room was sick of her shit.

Baby Measuring Stick. Yep, it’s in pros too but the worst thing ever is when EVERY baby in the room is eating fine or sleeping through the night and your baby is the only hold out. I find pregnancy and early motherhood is very similar to your teen years and you don’t want to veer too far away from the average. Even if it’s seemingly a good thing like not crying too much you’ll start wondering “Why doesn’t she cry as much as the other babies? What’s wrong?” Sadly, it’s a vicious shit spiral and, even though it’s impossible to avoid, I find it’s exacerbated in a group of new mothers.

Different Parenting Styles. You will find that there is a gamut of parenting styles even from the get go. I liked to group them into Hippies and Hitlers and everything in between. Within my group I found I had hippy leanings but in another, I’m sure I’d be viewed as a Hitler. There was one woman in my group who decided to let her two-month old cry all night in her cold vomit in an effort to “sleep train” her. I have no doubt that little girl is a wonderful, well adjusted little kid but even as I type this, my eyes are starting to well up because the idea of letting a hungry, little baby cry like that just breaks my heart. I’m a suck.

A newborn is the only thing you have in common. One woman in the group asked the public health nurse what kind of immunization, if any, her baby would need because they were missionaries and were leaving for Papua New Guinea in a month. Wow. I hadn’t ventured to the grocery store at this point because I hadn’t figured out the logistics of getting the baby in the cart yet, and this woman was flying across the world in a month. She was a lovely woman and I tried talking to her a few times but we were so completely different. The only thing we had in common was that we were too tired to figure out chit chat that appealed to the other one so we just gave up. She didn’t even get my “it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again” reference I made when she gave me hand cream one time. There was no hope for us.

 


So there it is. Love ’em or hate ’em, there will always be bands of new mothers that try to huddle together in the most wonderful/worst time of their lives – I’ll call it worsterful. Hopefully they lean on each other for support rather than lash out at each other in some kind of vulnerable, primal defence, but it will probably always be somewhere in the middle.

Be sure to say “hi” to Perfect Penny for me as she tells you how she just can’t find sleepers for her son because he’s in the 450th percentile for height and doesn’t stop rolling over to recite Chaucer. Give her a nice, perfect punch in the face then tell her how lucky she is.

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43 Comments

  • I didn’t find a lot of common ground in the mommy meet-ups when my first was born, but there was a 2nd time moms group when I was on leave with my daughter. It was great! Everyone was juggling a toddler or preschooler and an infant and the competitiveness/insecurity of the first time moms was just not there. Also, I think a lot of us (I know it was true for me) were just a lot more "with it" the second time…the shock of being a new parent was a little less overwhelming. We watched each other’s kids when someone needed to run to the restroom and supported each other when someone had a personal or parenting dilemma. By the second time around we were all embracing the "whatever works" philosophy and it was much more enjoyable. I guess the moral is, it might not be right for you with the first, but you might still find some use for the right mommy group later in your parenting journey.

  • Within a week of being a new mom, a message in my Facebook inbox appeared from an old friend. “I hope you don’t mind that I added you to a mom group I’m a part of. All of the women are so supportive and loving. It’s a really great community.” (Sometimes I look back at this and cry from laughing so hard.)

    Mind? No, certainly not! I was new to the game. Oh yes- it’s a game. I’ll teach you. I meant surviving Mommy Facebook Groups, not the kid. The kid isn’t a game, unless you count barking like a dog to get your baby to bark like a dog. Anyway, I didn’t know a lick about keeping a baby alive. This sounded ah-mazing.

    I was so green then, it’s kind of adorable now how naive I was. Like a fresh doe frolicking in the meadows of flowers, completely unaware that I was being hunted from just yonder the hills. What was just past those hills you ask? Cranky, bitchy, tired, hormonal women who thought their main purpose on this earth was to tell you that if you aren’t raising your child the way they raise theirs, well you might as well just off the kid. And they all unite to be miserable together in Mommy Facebook Groups! I feel like, in the early days of Mom Groups there must have been an initiation where you swear an oath saying you complain about your life at least 27 times a week.

    Alas. A post asking for advice on baby bottles popped up in my newsfeed. Perfect! I registered for only one kind, got a zillion of them, and my baby was over them after a few days. This would be so helpful!! The comment chain started out innocently enough. Some moms chimed in suggesting Doc Brown or Tommee Tippee. Some women suggested different nipples for the bottle (standard versus slow flow versus faucet drip). Ok, I made that last one up, but seriously, what did women do when there was only one type of bottle? We have it so easy. You’d think that’d make us less stressed.

    Then a mom wrote in: “How old is your baby?” Ahem. If you’re new to the game, you wouldn’t think twice about this question. Perhaps you’d even think how nice of this woman to take an interest in the baby. Silly, sweet you. Us seasoned moms… we know better. The poster replied: “3 months.”
    You know where this is going, right? “Why does your baby need a bottle at 3 months? Are you not breastfeeding? There could be nipple confusion if you try giving them a bottle and you should be breastfeeding for at least a year.”

    Shooooot me already with your holier than thou chastising as fuck questions and judgment. CHRIST. Is it your business if this woman is breastfeeding or, if she did, for how long she breastfed? NO. NO IT IS NOT. She asked about bottles. She didn’t ask you to come bitchslap her in the face with your boobs full of IQ laced breast milk. For real. (If you’ve been around long enough, you’ve heard the common “breast is best” brag that babies who are breast fed have higher IQ’s than babies who received formula). Formula baby here. It’s totally miraculous I can put together a sentence isn’t it? It’s like I somehow defied all the odds. And I swear to baby Jesus, enough with this nipple confusion bullshit. Stop scaring moms.

    Comment after comment poured in.

    “Sometimes the milk supply just dries up and you have to supplement,” one gal chimed in. Oh honey, I wish I could have warned you… don’t ever say “supplement” in a mommy group. Blood hath been shed over such crimes.
    “You shouldn’t need to supplement. Your body knows what your baby needs and your baby knows how to get what she needs from you.” Oh, thank God. Finally, a woman who knows my jugs and my baby better than me! Maybe she can let me know when I’m ovulating next.
    “Well I’m just saying blah blah blah recommends breastfeeding for 2 years. Why wouldn’t you provide the best for your baby?”

    LADIES STOP BEING ASSHOLES. You can breastfeed your children until they can tie their shoelaces if that’s what you really want to do. Yeah, I’m totally gonna judge you because that’s weird and creepy, but I’m not going to be an asshole to you. I’m gonna let you do you. You want kids hanging off your boobs in the park while I day drink mimosas and lattes, cool. But do us all a favor and pull the stick out of your ass that forced you to lecture another mom who didn’t do it your way. There are other options if you want to take something up the ass.

    And see, you’d think this might be like a one-time thread. All groups have a few resident bitches, right? But no. It happens all the time. It is actually the only predictable thing in my life right now. I may not be able to predict that my baby will wake up at 3am having shit herself all the way up her back, but I can sure as shit predict that if I come across a post with a picture of a bottle, some hussy is gonna have a say about it.

    Let’s take last week for example. A mom friend of my liked a post from a woman who has quadruplets and it popped up on my page. This mom’s Facebook page has close to 70k followers. She posted a photo of her baby napping on her husband’s belly. Aw, sweet moment right? Most of us probably have one of those lying around if Dad is in the picture. But in this particular photo, you could see a bottle of an opaque liquid. It could have been formula. It could have been breastmilk. I could have gone on with my life never having known.

    But not these moms following her. I didn’t have to scroll far for the first comment. “Is that breastmilk?! If so, I’m even more impressed by you!” I’m sure the mother of FOUR BABIES is totally worried about impressing you. Thanks for sharing! I mean I know she’s totally going to high five herself because some woman who probably doesn’t have QUADRUPLETS is letting her know, she’s even more impressed with her. I mean, if it was formula, yawn. Definitely yawn. Can confirm, as a mother of one, I’d totally be unimpressed if it was only formula. Hmmm, maybe I should write and tell her that. Totally sounds like a good idea because naturally, I know she’s counting on me as an internet stranger to let her know how I feel about how she feeds her kids. I’m actually only impressed if she could breastfeed all four kids at once. Only then will you get my accolades!!

    OK THAT WAS A RANT, BUT DAMMIT. STOP SUCKING WOMEN.

    Annnnd that’s how I feel about mom groups.

  • [email protected] says:

    Ok this link is probably totally inappropriate for a baby post, but your lotion on the skin reference deserves this follow up. 🙂 my husband randomly found this song a few years ago and it’s quite catchy. If anyone can appreciate it, I think it’s you. (Try listening without watching if the movie actually gives you the creeps. Then watch the video.) lol

    http://youtu.be/tDgS6qLsVM4

  • The thought of joining a mommy group was also nauseating to me. But I forced myself to and I’m glad I did! Sure, there are going to be some people that you ordinarily never would’ve befriended (like the simultaneous jogging, BF’ing, stroller pushing mom – WTF?!?), but there will be at least one person that you connect with. And that’s really what they’re for IMO – weeding through the other moms and finding a winner or two. It’s kind of like dating. I have one good mom friend from the group I was in. We still get together on weekends with our almost 3YOs and have dinner (with wine) at each other’s home. And if everyone in the group makes you want to drink at 10am – you could always try a different group until you find one with people more your speed. 😉

  • Hey, having a tall kid is kind of a pain. It’s hardly bragging to remark that your kid is tall. Some kids are tall and some are short. This is the way the world works. It’s not a race. And it’s really quite frustrating when your five-month-old can’t wear those adorable footie fleece things all the other kids at day care have! Those things are freaking cute! Meanwhile, you’re putting useless shoes on a baby who can’t walk so his toes don’t freeze off.

    My son has hit a few of his benchmarks "early" (he was born almost two weeks overdue, so often times adjusted for gestational age, he’s not early at all), but I don’t know why I’m supposed to sit on them like some shameful secret until all the other babies have gotten their teeth in. It’s not an achievement to get teeth early. It’s mostly a health risk. Nipple biting kills. Or at least feels like it might.

  • Good post. Your "cons" are pretty much why I didn’t join a mommy group. I might have, though, if I was new to an area or didn’t have a ton of family nearby.

    one point of contention – the.mother who let her 2 mo old cry all night in vomit. That is NOT the Ferber method. That is child abuse. Ferber recommends checking on your child after graduated intervals, not letting your newborn scream in their puke. Also Ferber doesn’t recommend sleep training until at least 4 mo. I don’t know if she thought she was using Ferber, or you just assumed, but either way, that’s incorrect. And possibly very harmful.

    Otherwise A+ post

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