THE BLOG

Love, Laughter And Catfights: The Murky World Of Mommy Groups

03/05/2016 8:26 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter
Lite Productions via Getty Images
Close-up of two women arguing

There's a new playground, people. A new cafeteria. A new battleground.

It's a bit like Mean Girls, a bit like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, a bit like Game of Thrones, with a dash of Dr Spock thrown in.

There is drama, nail-biting action, tears, laughter, friendship, gossip.

It's a place where the gloves come off, and the claws are unsheathed.

Yes, I am talking mommy groups on social media, the latest craze for many women who jump onboard almost as soon as they see the two pink lines on the home pregnancy test.

You can ask questions, vent, or just have some plain old fun... but there's a less upbeat side.

Lest I've been sounding overly sceptical so far, these groups do indeed perform a valuable service support platforms for likeminded mommies. New mothers who have absolutely no idea what they are getting into when they enter the world of parenthood find a lot of kindred souls in these groups. I have drawn a lot of succor from such groups myself. You can ask questions, vent, or just have some plain old fun. Chances are that if you see a new mother typing away furiously on her phone, she's advising someone on a virtual group on how to make carrot-potato puree or is outlining the latest outrage perpetrated by her mother-in-law. There's a lot of good stuff.

But while the concept of a mommy group is great and they are often excellent places to hang out, there's a less upbeat side to them. Once a sizeable group forms, a whole different world is created, complete with complex group dynamics and power struggles.

There is a leader, and there are the followers. The leader is usually the person who started the group with a concept in her head. And it's generally a universal concept (attachment parenting, breastfeeding moms, natural parenting, what have you) which most people who join feel passionately about. Then more people join in. It becomes a virtual community, a virtual kingdom.

The leader appoints a cabinet of ministers who help her rule the kingdom. The subjects of the kingdom are happy...UNTIL they disagree with the leader....

The leader appoints a cabinet of ministers who help her rule the kingdom. All these ministers are just an extension (and I am being very gentle here) of the leader; they follow in her footsteps with unwavering precision and devotion. The subjects of the kingdom are happy with a sense of belonging. But that's UNTIL they disagree with the leader on something. Then it's "off with their heads". It's either the leader's way or the highway, with the followers acting like henchmen.

And here's the thing: arguments are not rare. There are lots of things to disagree on. Breastfeeding versus formula. Diapers versus the crunchy granola methods. The million different ways of weaning. Diet. In-laws. Potty training...the list goes on and on.

Sometimes it takes a simple question or an innocuous conversation to set off a veritable bloodbath. Allow me to illustrate.

Question posted by a new scared mommy: "The elders in the house are encouraging me to add little sugar in the baby's puree. How much do I stick to the no sugar before the baby is one year rule?"

A variety of answers crop up quickly.

The holier-than-thou mommy: I would not allow anybody to do anything that will harm my baby.

The downright rude mommy: Are you seriously kidding me?? Sugar before she's a year old?? Have you gone crazy? Why can't you stand up for yourself and your baby?

The supportive mommy: Try explaining to your elders, but if they insist, don't feel bad. It's ok. A little bit of sugar won't harm the baby.

The "researching-articles-on-the-net-and-shoving-them-in-your-face" mommy: The WHO has clearly stated that no sugar and salt is appropriate before 1.

Exhibit A (WHO Chart)

Exhibit B (Diagram about all the different ways sugar can harm)

Exhibit C (Some another chart about some another research)

The "live-and-let-live" mommy: Hey guys it's ok. A little bit of sugar is not a big deal.

The "I-know-best" mommy: No it's completely wrong. I have never done this with my kids and will never allow anybody else to do it.

The feminist mommy: Why are you letting someone else take control of your life this way?

The condescending mommy: Hey dear. I am sure you are doing your best, it's OK to fail sometimes. [Subtext: Of course "my" best is much better. But don't feel bad if you feel that you are not taking care of your kid.]

The peacemaker mommy: Guys, guys--let's not be harsh with our judgments. Instead try to support the poster and try to help her with her problem.

****

Sometimes it takes a simple question or an innocuous conversation to set off a veritable bloodbath.

Somewhere along the way the original poster has already left the group.

Then, the women turn on each other.

"Why are you telling me to calm down? I am just trying to help her!"

"How can you say that little sugar is fine?"

"How can you be so rude to another mom? Don't you have any decency?"

"I still can't believe that women can't stand up for themselves or their kids."

"Oh god you people are so rude."

"That's it. This is the last time I am helping somebody now. I am just being honest about what I feel, and still everybody targets me. I am leaving this group. Bye."

Leader: "This thread is closed for discussion."

The Lannisters send their regards...

All this and much more over five goddamned grains of sugar.

Sometimes a rebel crops up. The rebel is a leader in the making or at the very least an aspiring minister. She comes with her own set of supporters.

She stands up in front of the leader, demanding to change some things, all the time backed loyally by her followers.

Then ensues bloodshed. Leader vs. rebel; followers vs. followers.

Some subjects perish in the battle... but most just grab some chips and enjoy the entertainment.

The victor of the battle banishes the loser, or then sometimes the loser herself leaves, taking along her loyal followers. Either to build a new kingdom, or to defame the victor in other kingdoms.

Sometimes a rebel crops up. The rebel is a leader in the making or at the very least an aspiring minister. She comes with her own set of supporters.

The victor takes the place of the leader and starts running the kingdom according to her whims, until the next rebel comes.

Only the names change. The bullying remains the same, the groupies remain the same.

Life goes on.

A lot of egos have everything at stake in this virtual world.

I guess a lot of women suddenly find a platform to express their opinions. And especially about motherhood, which becomes an obsession for most new moms. What helps is that you're physically formless, and that makes it easier to fight battles. A lot of closet bullies get their first victims.

But all in all, these kingdoms are not all that bad. Lots of suppressed thoughts get a voice. Lots of lost aspirations are aired. Lots of lonely souls get companions. People come together for a common cause. Friendships, some extending to the real world, are made. Support is extended. Kindred spirits are united.

If only it would stay that way and it might if there was generally more humility and self-knowledge in the world. But until then, most mothers, including myself, will hang on, because the good does outweigh the bad. And a bit of drama now and then never hurt anyone.

Like Us On Facebook |
Follow Us On Twitter |
Contact HuffPost India

Also see on HuffPost:

39 Stunning Images Celebrating Women Around The World

More On This Topic