So, you guys, I am a member of 24,000 Mommy groups on Facebook and I literally love them all. I am in groups about how to raise your kids without screens, in groups about how to raise your kids with limited screens and even, a bit weirdly, groups about how to use netflix to homeschool your child in a secular way. I am in vegan baby-led weaning groups and mainstream moms of teens American groups and woo-free late-speakers groups. I love it all. I love them all. I love reading about other people’s problems with their lazy hubbies who just sit there, playing video games all day long, and then shout at the toddler. I love reading about other people’s cats who are jealous of the three year old and keep on weeing by the back door. I ABSOLUTELY love hearing about how difficult everyone else’s bedtimes are. I love giving and getting advice. I love it all. I love them all. Literally the only mommy groups I DON’T love with all my heart are the bitchy stepmom ones, where everyone whinges about how their ADHD stepkid is always getting lice, never does any chores and won’t eat their veggies. I once got thrown out of a stepmom group for saying I thought a grilled cheese sandwich was an okay dinner for a fussy eater, and loads of kids, not just ungrateful stepchildren, are fussy eaters. This is because I should have said „GIRLFRIEND! The struggle is real! You need to whoop his ass lmfao. Show him who the boss is or he will NEVER respect you!“ I have to admit here that I thought a grilled cheese sandwich was a toasted cheese sandwich but apparently it is an entire cheese sandwich FRIED in the frying pan, look, I hate Americans as much as the rest of us but credit where credit is due, they are seriously talented at inventing incredibly delicious unhealthy food to eat. Why would you ever eat anything else?
So I am in 24,000 Mom groups on Facebook. British ones, American ones, German ones. I love them all. I love hearing about the lazy boyfriends, the naughty kids, the fucked-up cats. I don’t know why, it relaxes me, hearing about other people’s pain, maybe I am a sadist. Or maybe it just puts the suffering of motherhood – there is a lot of suffering involved – almost – ALMOST – as much suffering as joy – in context. Maybe it makes me feel less alone. Maybe that’s it. Some of my favourite groups are really supportive places – a „safe space“ – and sometimes I do feel like I need a safe space, to he honest.
People giggle at the Mom groups, even people who are in them. Even people who post every day. They’re a guilty pleasure, a trivial pursuit. There’s this idea that women defining themselves as mothers is trivial and silly, and there’s always been this idea that women shouldn’t speak to each other, without men present – and there’s very much this idea that women who aren’t earning money and contributing to capitalism directly shouldn’t be allowed any pleasure in life. People snicker at the idea of them – it’s seen as silly, everyone telling each other to get their kids vaxxed, or not get their kids vaxxed, or cut out dairy.
But I want to talk about a serious problem with these Mom groups. It’s the advice women in abusive relationships are given. IT’S A SERIOUS PROBLEM.
Now, the thing is, when you are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, you shouldn’t turn to a Mom group for help. You should turn to experts – here in Berlin, for example, you could ring the BIG helpline. This is because leaving an abusive man is dangerous and difficult. If it were easy, there wouldn’t be so many wives and partners murdered by their husbands every year.
So the women looking for help and support are looking in the wrong place, and asking the wrong people. But the advice given is often so breathtakingly bad. It is flippant, dismissive and often victim-blamey. „Call the police!“ Someone will write to a woman with 2, maybe 3 kids and a husband who is literally physically assaulting her and threatening to kill her. „He’ll be arrested! Problem solved.“ Or there will be a lot of comments like „Think of your babies! Go and wake those babies up right now and get them to safety!“
I know we don’t learn about it in schools, but seriously, it shouldn’t take an amazing amount of imagination and empathy to realize what dangerous irresponsible advice this is. Antagonizing a violent guy? Walking out with the babies? Totally escalating the situation? The truth of the matter is, a lot of non-abusive, non-violent men get violent when they think they are about to lose their wives and children. What will a violent guy do? YEP: Kill her. Women have to be clever when they leave, or they might end up murdered. And women who don’t know what they’re talking about shouldn’t be dishing out advice flippantly. You could get someone killed! If you are in an abusive relationship and need to get out, don’t ask for advice on Mommy groups. Call the experts, leave while he is at work or out for the day – and stay safe.