Let me start by saying that over the last 10-15 years I’ve made several long-lasting friendships in online spaces. I won’t pretend that everything has been smooth sailing but the majority of my current friendships started behind a computer screen. I’m an introvert and online relationships are so much easier to start off.
So, 5 years ago after I had Sesame, I dove head first into making online mommy friends. I quickly learned that it wasn’t going to be like bonding over college classes, hair products, or books. No, in these groups, you’re judged based on whether you formula feed or breastfeed? Do you wear your baby or only use a stroller? Do you co-sleep or are you an “everyone in their own bed” family? The list goes on and on. Oh, and there are even divisions within your chosen side. It this sounds exhausting, it’s because it is.
It took about six months but I soon learned when to engage and/or disengage in those groups. I rarely ever participate in “breast is best” conversations and I absolutely do not enter vaccination debates. I’m sure you’re asking if I’ve learned when to engage or disengage why am I quitting?
After an incident this past week in a local group where I finally lost my cool, I decided that I need to take an indefinite break from all parenting groups that are not specifically geared towards of moms of color and/or social justice advocacy. I’m not sure how long my hiatus will be, but for now, I’m quitting online mommy groups. I unfollowed all of the groups last night and now will only see messages if someone tags me but I’ll be informing my close friends that I’m taking a break.
Honestly, online mommy groups just are not safe spaces for me at this juncture of my life. In the last few years, I’ve become incredibly active in social justice and parenting in the digital space. This shift has made it hard for me to stay silent or disengage when people are having conversations that are harmful to me or my children’s lives. This is especially true when it comes to local area groups. Want me to be more specific?
Here are five reasons why online (local) mommy groups are dangerous:
They are overflowing with all kinds of unacknowledged privilege.
I grew up working class and we’re now considered working middle class, I think, so a lot of times I find myself rolling my eyes at the number of first world problems posted. However, it’s the posts that are so oblivious to their own privilege that really get to me. The ones that feature local police officers smiling with white children and praising them for their community involvement. Or the ones that complain about Starbucks messing up orders or being too slow. Oh, and don’t even get me started about the posts that complain about the lack of parking and having to walk somewhere. I seriously wonder if some of these people have ever taken public transportation in their life. I mean have you even turned on the news lately and seen the number of Black and Brown folks who have been harassed by the police? Seriously, do you think your Black neighbors would ever experience that kind of “community involvement” from local police?
They are often spaces that serve as gatekeepers for white supremacy.
These spaces that are often billed as being judgment free and liberal are safe havens for white supremacy and patriarchy. I talked about the gatekeepers of white supremacy and patriarchy in this Facebook Live video but let’s get specific when it comes to local mom groups. From posts that talk about low-income housing and how we can get rid of those apartments in our neighborhood (translation: how can we get rid of the poor Black people) to posts trying to start neighborhood watch programs. Programs, which by the way, are inherently biased against Black and Brown people.
Ohh and the school zoning conversations, yes, those are just lovely. It’s so great to watch neighbors figure out how to self-segregate so that their kids aren’t in school with “those people,” all while they hide it under the guise of keeping their property values up and wanting the “best” education for their children. And it’s not just the white people! Nope, there’s almost always a Black person who comes in and comforts them because that wasn’t their “intention” and apparently being direct isn’t the way to bring about change. I mean, after all, the gatekeepers of white supremacy have not always been white (slave drivers anyone?)
If you’re not following respectability politics, you do not want to engage in these groups.
And if anyone dares mention that they’re being problematic, we’re being “mean,” “race-baiting,” “divisive,” and/or “bullies.” I’m starting to think that all white women are given a manual with a glossary of terms to use when they “feel attacked” and are called out on their privilege or insensitivity. Of course, you can count on at least one or two women of color coming in to comfort them and negate everything the other woman has said. God forbid, you get lumped in with the “angry Black woman” who is literally standing up for you but you’re too busy trying to secure your space in proximity to whiteness to understand.
I literally feel like yelling, stop expecting me to wipe your tears while you stand in my blood!
Want to know more about why coddling isn’t freedom? Hugs Don’t Help, I Want Freedom!!!
The chance of retaliation against my family.
At the end of the day, we live in this area. My husband works in this area and my child goes to school in this area. How do I know that these “liberal” white folks won’t get so caught up in their feelings that they find a way to retaliate against my family in some way? What if I speak up one too many times and my child is suddenly no longer invited to play dates with friends he’s had since he was 3? Hell, I might not even be accepted back into our local cooperative preschool for baby #2 if I keep this up.
Free emotional labor.
I am TIRED of being expected to spend all this energy educating these women for free. They tag me and ask me all these questions that I usually answer and then they never pay for my class or donate to my cause. Oh and not only do they want it for free, they want the right to police how I educate them. I must say everything as nice as possible. I absolutely cannot make them uncomfortable by pointing out their white supremacy. They want me to be their prim and proper house slave because of course, that’s my place, right?
How about no?! My new motto is fuck you, pay me or in the words of Rihanna “bitch, better have my money!”
(This post originally ran on Mamademics)
About the author: Danielle Slaughter is a wife, mom, teacher, crafty mompreneur, and doctoral student, who encourages parents to raise social justice advocates. She shares her experience navigating motherhood while finding her place in the academy on Mamademics.com. Danielle is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Arbor and Georgia State University (GSU). She is a Detroit native currently residing in Atlanta with her husband, son, and pet turtle. Danielle is working on a doctorate in English at GSU and hopes to finish in 2017. She is a contributor for the Huffington Post, winner of Type-A Parent’s 2015 We Still Blog Awards, and a BlogHer ’16 VOTY honoree.