Most parenting is about receiving conflicting opinions from people around you. Your own parents and grandparents give you information from a time where most things were natural, homegrown and uncompromised. While you want to believe and follow much of their wisdom we find that most of it is not practical or available today. Speaking of friends, colleagues and peers, you may not have babies around the same time or maybe geographically scattered. Parenting philosophies also may not match. How then do you gain information, that has been tested by application and proven to give results? How do you find support in situations which you know your friends and family may not understand or have experience in?
The answer is online support groups
Mark Zuckerberg may be caught in a lot of fire in recent times due to the data leak controversy, but one thing that most new age parents agree with is the invaluable support they have received from his creation Facebook. Yes, you heard that right – I and countless other parents like me, have found their information and “how to’s” on Facebook and related social media. From countless other parents who we have never met or heard of, we learnt how to take care of a baby. We learned about new age parenting concepts like attachment parenting, the importance of breastfeeding, the need and how to’s of sustainable living like cloth diapering and menstrual cups. We owe a lot to social media.
For me, it all started when halfway into my first trimester, a friend added me to the Facebook group called Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers. This was my first tryst with Facebook groups. And soon I found groups for everything under the sun – cloth diapering, baby wearing, introducing solid foods, baby sleep support, books and development, random chatter.
These Facebook pages provide a safe space for honest discussion and support. I particularly love to see the heartwarming images of fellow mothers going through similar situations. It’s so easy to set one up too – as long as you’ve got an eye-catching header image anyone can start a page quickly. If you ever create one yourself, just don’t forget to check the facebook cover photo size as this isn’t always straightforward.
These groups helped me decide that I wanted to follow baby led weaning for my child when it was time to introduce solid foods. Read my post on Baby led weaning from this #AtoZBlogging Challenge here.
They helped me pick the right books for him when he was moving from a baby who could barely move his arms to turning the pages. Read my post on Raising a reader here.
Most of the new age parenting concepts that I know today was picked up from these groups on social media.
Groups – the boon
I was amazed to see women freely discussing issues with their breastfeeding journeys. Even photos of problem areas in private places were shared to ask for help. At first it puzzled me as to why did someone feel comfortable sharing a private matter or a photo for that matter. But the kind of support, help and ideas that poured out for this poster was incredible. It was in fact by reading screen after screen of queries and solutions that I learnt all about breastfeeding and cloth diapering.
Read about how I owe my breastfeeding journey success to a Facebook group here.
I saw that most of these groups were private havens where women shared their deepest, darkest fears and thoughts and sought solace. Some were routine queries and how to’s. Some spoke of torture from in-laws, an abusive husband or pressure of regressive practices. Such posts seemed to be too gruesome to be true, but this stark reality is what life was about. Not everyone had it as easy as some of us. Such women were offered support and leads for seeking assistance from legal authorities, together with the courage to fight the battle. This truly shows how resourceful online support groups are.
Motherhood sometimes leaves us feeling trapped within the confines of our homes. You lose touch with your old friends and some even move on in life. However, you meet a new tribe of people who know exactly what you are going through and won’t think twice before helping, supporting, prodding and guiding you on to better days and better times. This is what online support groups do. There is no judgement, only understanding and support.
There are also support groups for special needs and personal issues. From eczema help groups, to groups of parents of galactose intolerant children to autism, online support groups provide comfort and a leaning pillar to parents who need it the most. Having a child with issues, whether they be a mere food allergy or something more severe, can be quite challenging for parents and caretakers. While family and friends are supportive, they may not truly understand what you go through on a day-to-day basis. Online support groups of other such families help because they know exactly what you go through. They can offer you tried and tested solutions or point you in the right direction to seek help.
And groups are not always for serious business. Social media goes wider than Facebook or Instagram. Apps like Whatsapp also provide valuable spaces for people, especially moms to connect, learn, share and find support. Mumbai based Ritu Gorai runs a network called JAMMS – Journey about Mast Moms which runs exclusively on Whatsapp. She has created and runs multiple Whatsapp groups where mothers, right from the ones who are pregnant to grandmother’s come under a single chat window to ask for ideas and leads.
Ritu runs a network of almost 20,000 mothers under her JAMMS network and is doing commendable work in terms of finding work from home options, encouraging mompreneurs and providing networking opportunities to groups of mom bloggers, Human Resource professionals, educationists and so on. She also runs workshops for her tribe which enriches them and equips them with skills to take up a hobby or start a new line of business.
Read about one such JAMMS workshop here.
The other side
There is also a flipside to this.
As with any social media tool and information you put on the internet, you cannot be assured of 100% privacy. Although these online support groups are private and mostly women only, there have been times when fake profiles have been created and found a way inside the groups. Soliciting for business promotions or sending personal comments on messenger has happened. Pictures have been copied and used to create fake profiles (it happened to me.)
While there are ways to ensure your privacy and social media teams are working constantly to make your data more secure (well, Mr Z failed miserably here) one has to be cautious about what and how much you share online. Taking and sharing of screen shots is also common place and there is really no way to control and understand who is sharing what you wrote online.
Rage culture is also all too common online. I have seen many posts where a distraught mother has posted about her child rolling off the bed and asking for ideas on what she should do, only to receive stinging comments in return about how she is wasting valuable time on social media when she should be seeking medical advise instead. While I agree that all medical advice should come only after a first hand check from a recognised medical practitioner, sometimes in the heat of the moment (especially after baby’s first fall) you cannot think straight and need to siren for help in all directions. Hate commenters don’t stop to walk in their shoes and think if maybe in her situation she was unable to find access to a doctor or it may be too late in the night for her to find help.
Social media is also an incredible time sucker. Minutes become hours before you know it and you soon realise you lost precious moments when your baby napped when you could have actually been ticking off your to-do list.
To conclude, just like technology has changed the face of many things today, so too with social media. While elders and parents of older kids may rue the time their children spend buried in a phone screen, social media has provided a valuable tool for many people. Finding like-minded people to share your joys, concerns and fears with complete strangers is not as strange as it may seem.
This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.
To read all the posts for the #AtoZChallenge go here – #AtoZ2018
You may also find this post on Influencer Moms very interesting too.