Parenting is one of life’s biggest and most enjoyable challenges. Helping your children grow into incredibly capable, morally upstanding, and passionate dreamers is every parent’s wish. However… we sometimes lose faith in the future of the human race when we see how some parents are acting online. The sad fact is, just because someone is a parent doesn’t mean that they’re a good one (even if they love their kids as much as anyone else).
There’s an online group on Reddit with 245k members called '[Stuff] Mom Groups Say' that’s been active since 2018. It's dedicated to shaming bad moms and all of their mom group drama. From anti-vaxx showdowns to debates about essential oils, the subreddit believes that these parents deserve to be called out for their behavior that, frankly, causes more harm than good.
Scroll down to lose a chunk of your faith in humanity, upvote the best of the worst pics, and do let us know what you think about these anti-parents, dear Pandas. Bored Panda spoke about the drama and misinformation that sometimes can be found in social media mom groups with the moderators of the '[Stuff] Mom Groups Say' subreddit, as well as with Samantha Scroggin, the founder of the 'Walking Outside in Slippers' parenting blog. Check out what they had to say below to pick up some great advice.
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"In my experience with online parenting communities, it's best to abide by the rules posted in these groups. Usually, that means no selling anything and no foul language, at a minimum. I generally try to be patient with people and open to different viewpoints, but it's aggravating when people are acting ignorant or spreading misinformation. In those cases, I try to give evidence of the facts without personal attacks," parenting blogger Samantha said.
Samantha used to be a professional journalist and is now a public information officer which means that she's very wary of fake facts. "Parents will make all kinds of claims in parenting groups online, including that vaccines are harmful. They'll recommend all sorts of remedies. But it's up to us to seek out reputable sources of information to help us make our own decisions on what's best for our kids," she warned that we have to do proper research instead of believing every bit of advice that we find online.
"I think we should reserve judgment of others' parenting styles when the actions taken are harmful to the child. And I realize what is harmful is open to interpretation. But if no one is being abused, let's have some grace for one another and the choices we make. Each child is different, and parents often know what works best for their child. Parenting is hard, and we can use as much support as we can get," she added.
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Meanwhile, a lot of the subreddit's moderators pitched in to answer Bored Panda's questions. The mods explained that mom groups can sometimes be full of potentially dangerous misinformation, a desire to make money off more naive parents, and perpetuating "toxic rhetoric with zero consequences." The community also calls out those online groups that fanatically believe they're raising their kids "The Right Way" and anyone not doing so is a bad parent.
"The biggest lies are the coordinated lies spread in these groups on new parents at a vulnerable point of their lives. These women don’t need essential oils, or colloidal silver, they need paid family leave, affordable post-Partum care, health equities," one moderator explained. "New parents can be as dramatic as they want to be, they’re sleep-deprived and scared and have bills piling up and a new baby. Parental groups are allowed to be dramatic, they reflect the rawest human nature at one of the most 'precious' and yet frighteningly lonesome, most physically and mentally demanding, moments of our lives."
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The moderator continued: "So when people enter their lives promising a listening ear, a magical solution, and then shame them for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding, for co-sleeping, or sleep training, or not using magical amber teething beads, or for choosing vaccinations, then those are the heinous people that need to be shamed. They are actively manipulating people with a phony agenda and they need to be called out.”
Another moderator told Bored Pand that what inspired them to start the subreddit in the first place was the overall culture in mom groups that pushed their personal parenting philosophies as the one and only way to parent.
"These groups (like Cherry Universal, with specific subgroups for the crunchy moms and the sanctimonious moms) focus on preaching their way of parenting and viciously attack anyone who doesn’t fall in line. They’re a bigger problem for society too. Do you want to know where the anti-masking movement started? Look at posts from March-May of 2020 in crunchy mom groups. They push and perpetuate vaccine misinformation and an overall general mistrust of science and they use shame, groupthink, and banning to enforce their beliefs."
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However, the mod pointed out that far from every single mom group is bad. "Our birth month group, for example, has been the saving grace of my journey into parenthood. I have a cohort of parents who all have a child at the same age as mine. It’s a great way to get a quick pulse on typical development and also just feel generally supported, validated, challenged to be a better parent or find different and better ways to parent in a shame-free environment. I have a virtual village and that is just really incredible."
They continued: "To be really honest, it was how supportive I found my birth month group to be that sent me out in search of additional groups. My infant won’t eat baby food—oh, maybe I should check out this baby-led weaning group for ideas! (It was great, by the way.) But then when we started stumbling onto other groups that were just cesspools of negativity, abuse, bullying, etc, we learned about the subculture of 'mommy drama groups' and decided to bring it out into the public eye."
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We’ve written extensively about how to be a great parent and how to help your kids become independent. And, considering that there still are (and always will be) plenty of parents out there who either stifle their kids or who constantly exhaust themselves, the advice bodes repeating.
Anita Cleare, a parenting expert and the author of ‘The Work/Parent Switch,’ explained to Bored Panda in a previous interview all about how to overcome the desire to be a ‘perfect’ parent and how to stay positive when we’re all way, way too exhausted.
According to parenting expert Cleare, aiming to be a ‘perfect’ parent is the wrong way to go about things. This does more harm than good because it puts lots of unreachable expectations and undue pressure on both parents and children alike.
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“Trying to be a perfect parent is bad for children and bad for parents because it sets everybody up to fail. Research shows that ‘good enough’ parenting is best for children,” Cleare explained.
Instead, the expert suggests that all parents aim for ‘good enough’ parenting that actually helps improve our kids’ independence instead of them being overly-reliant on us.
In Cleare’s words, this involves “getting it right most of the time but also failing your children in ways they can handle—so that they gradually increase their independence.”
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According to parenting expert Cleare, “Great parents make mistakes but they try to learn from them (and not to repeat them too often!).”
No matter your parenting style, you can’t do much if you’re overworked and exhausted. That means that looking after yourself is priority number one. If you put yourself last, you’re not doing your kids any favors, Cleare told Bored Panda.
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“Even when you are really busy, try to find regular 5-20 minute breaks in your day when you can relax, practice some mindfulness, or do something joyful,” she said.
“Looking for the positives really does increase positivity,” the parenting expert added, suggesting that we try to maintain positive mindsets by being grateful and thinking about, for example, the 3 things that we’re glad to have in our lives.
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Meanwhile, Lenore Skenazy, the president of the Let Grow nonprofit that aims to promote kids’ independence and fights overprotection, explained to us that children’s confidence grows when they know that others believe in them.
“A teacher, coach, grandparent, or, of course, parent who thinks you are terrific and ready to wow the world can make all the difference in the world,” Skenazy said, pointing out that when the support’s not there, it can have negative consequences on the child. So it’s important to balance support while also letting kids develop their independence.
According to Skenazy, how a parent tells their kids something is often more important than what they tell them to do. Kids take cues from grownups, so even phrasing something differently or using a different tone can have positive effects even if the topic that’s being talked about is far from pleasant.
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“The best way to make sure that a child starting out in the world feels like their parents believe in them—rather than simply being fed up—is for the parent to make it explicit!” Skenazy explained that this is how parents can communicate to their kids that it’s time to be more independent.
The expert also highlighted that telling the child that you’ll always love them, even though they’re becoming more independent is a healthy, mature way of communicating with them. However, that relies heavily on the parents themselves learning to loosen their grips on their kids and setting the bar for their expectations lower (which, maybe counterintuitively, leads to healthier, happier families).
So, dear Readers, what did you think of this list? Were there any pics that made you go, “Wow, that’s enough internet for me today?” Where do you think the line between being a good and a bad parent lies? What’s the best way to avoid drama on parent groups on social media? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comment section below. And remember, stay excellent!