I used to work as a Substance Abuse Counselor and facilitated many many many group meetings where I saw shared experiences helping all the people present. There's no way to deny that support from people who have shared a common struggle can help each other. Even with no new answers being given, no new strategies, just knowing that someone has fought the fight you're in can be a vital lifeline.
The flip side of that is: It can also make you act like a wussy whiny pants. Support Group-modeled message boards, friends. That's what I'm talking about today.
Seriously. While trying to get answers for twin-related questions, I've stumbled onto twin-related message boards. These things are gateway drugs for serious self-pity. I absolutely believe there's good to be wrenched out of getting support, don't get me wrong. But I have been observing a different type of phenomenon. It's like message board gluttony. Parents get on these things and just cannot stop complaining about everything -- their husbands, their children, their bodies, their jobs, their friends, their in-laws and themselves. I have to wonder if these message board support groups are being populated by people who just do not want to make their lives better in a real way. And do I actually want advice from them?
I can write and write and write about things that suck. Yes, citizens -- there are a multitude of things in my life that I could say totally blow. But if I start naming names and doing an inventory and cataloging all the things in my life that are awful, that seems like a whole bunch of energy spent focusing on the bad. And doesn't that give the bad stuff a whole bunch of power? I only started thinking of this after reading a thread that had caught fire... something like 200 responses on a comment from a woman whose husband didn't seem to be helping her enough with her twins. Two-hundred responses. Dang.
Which made me wonder, of course, Hmmmm...does my husband help me enough? After reading the increasingly hysterical comments from tired and overwrought moms, I didn't believe so anymore. How could our husbands abandon us like this? Sure, they work during the day but they have no idea what we go through. The crying of two babies. The needs of two babies. The nursing of two babies. The poop of two babies. Trying to sync up napping and feeding for two unreasonable babies. And there is no end in sight. And the husband? At least he's dealing with adults who can speak and don't spit-up on him! He needs to come home and dig into this war. Us vs. The Babies. I need him to be on my side!!
Except. I don't actually feel like that. It's not actually bad like that. Sure it can get hectic. There are times where I definitely don't have any idea what these two creatures want from me, and I feel stressed out because I wonder if I'm meeting their needs. But what helps me during those times is just an ability to laugh. How ridiculous is it to be bested by a team of 3-month-olds? And if I can smile and move through the experience, it is less stressful the next time. And the times where I'm sucking it as a mom, well -- those are the times I need to write off, not write about.
I think in our race to support each other and be each other's cheerleaders during the hard times on these message boards, we're actually promoting defeat. Yes! Parenthood is hard! Yes! Sometimes it totally bites! However, if that is the case more often than not, then it's time to turn off the computer, close the message board, and get on the floor with your kids to dig in.
What do you think? Have message boards ever helped you? Harmed you? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
More from parenting