You know one thing that I’m tired of? Toxic mom culture. It goes without saying that moms need other moms. To celebrate the highs of motherhood with. To lean on when the lows come. When I first learned I was pregnant, I turned to all the mommy platforms I could find. Podcasts, websites, mom support groups online, Instagram accounts. I wanted to feel connected and validated and less alone. In many ways, the platforms that I’ve been connected to have done just that. But I have also witnessed a darker side to the online world of motherhood—and that’s the toxicity that online mom culture so often breeds.

I have never felt more discouraged than when scrolling through posts and comment sections in online mom groups and the majority of what I see is mothers belittling or completely disregarding each other’s experiences. Instead of supporting and validating each other, differences and all, online mom groups can often turn into an unfiltered judgment zone and an endless pit of women trying to one up each other—whether that be through comparing birth experiences, feeding choices or screen time decisions. 

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Though I haven’t personally experienced an online altercation, witnessing them unfold has been enough to keep me from engaging in the online mom groups that I am a part of. Because of the fear of being judged or siloed, I often filter what I share in those social spaces.

I’ve seen so many debates spanning from how old is too old to breastfeed to mom-shaming women who choose to formula feed. I’ve seen snide comments toward moms who share that they struggle with being a stay-at-home mom from other moms who feel like SAHMs have it easy. I’ve seen moms shame others for getting an epidural or even go as far as to claim that C-sections aren’t really giving birth, and then turn around and flaunt their “natural” birth stories. I have seen mothers debate over who has it harder—as if the ability to endure any struggle of motherhood is a badge of honor.

I have seen the darkest sides of online mom culture—and frankly, I have seen enough

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Given the magnitude of motherhood itself, many mamas are simply just trying to find communities that understand, respect and value the challenging role of raising children in today’s world. But needless to say, online mom culture is a huge problem—and we need to figure out how to stop the toxicity. 

Social media has pretty much given us all the impression that everyone else’s life is easier and better than ours, which makes it harder than ever to challenge the toxicity of online mom culture—and not be affected by it in our day to day journeys of motherhood.

These platforms should be a place of encouragement, support and open-minded conversation about the many realities of motherhood. Because there is no one way to be a mother or to raise children. 

But the honest truth is that as much as we may try to challenge toxic online mom culture, it will continue to exist and motherhood will continue to be promoted as a competition. So here are some ways that you can keep your feed healthy and make sure you aren’t over-indulging in toxic mom culture.

How to avoid toxic mom culture

1. Be mindful of the online support groups you join

Considering that you will probably be consuming a lot from these online mom groups, you want to make sure that what you’re intaking is healthy and not harmful or discouraging. Test a few groups out. If you don’t like them, leave those groups and find more. And sometimes it helps to start narrow and find some online groups of moms that exist within your community.

It also goes without saying that even when making mom friends online, you should take some precaution. Not only of which groups you join, but also of what information you choose to share about yourself and your family.

Related: I hosted a motherhood gathering—and it was a life-altering experience 

Moms often feel the most judged by other moms—and that is not OK. So in whatever online groups you decide to join, make sure you’re feeling supported. Just as you take the time to vet new friends that you make in person, make sure you’re vetting those online mom friends before you dive in too deep and find yourself in a dark hole of toxic mom culture.

2. Know when to step away

Modern motherhood seems so focused on moms trying to one up each other that we’re not honest in our struggles because we don’t want to be deemed as a “bad” or an “unfit” mother. As much as we try to avoid it, we may run in with some nasty, opinionated moms who want to attack us or shame us online. Knowing that you don’t have to engage in hostile debate is the first step. Someone who barely knows you attacking your personal decisions or experiences doesn’t define you as a mom. Someone telling you what they would’ve done instead doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

Simply step away when things seem to take a rough turn—and even block the person so that you don’t have another altercation with them in future settings. You have to be mindful of the energy that you give out, and also of the energy that you let in.

We seek so much validation from the world around us when it comes to being mothers—yet we rarely receive the validation that we would expect from other moms who should understand just how hard this role is. Understanding that not every mom you come across is going to support your choices will make it easier for you to take those mean comments as a grain of salt and keep it moving.

3. Make sure you have IRL support

Mom support groups online are cool, but it’s still very important to have in real life support—and to make sure that you’re not submerged in toxic mom culture online. Some moms may live away from their family and friends. Other moms may be the first of their friends to have kids. Some moms are introverts and have no idea how to make new mom friends. But whatever your circumstances may be, making sure that you are surrounded by a dependable support system is essential—even if it’s only one or two people.

You can even look into in-person mom groups in your community and start there to find mom friends. We shouldn’t be so consumed in social media that we don’t carve out time to have those in-person experiences and to seek community IRL.

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Online mom culture doesn’t have to be harmful or intimidating. It can be a safe space. But it takes all of us to break down the barriers of toxic mom culture. If we were all just a little more open, a little more honest, a little more vulnerable and a lot less judgmental—just imagine how many mamas wouldn’t continue suffering in silence. 

While we can’t control the responses of everybody, what we can do is start with ourselves. We can be the kind, supportive and encouraging moms that we would like to have around us. We can work through our biases so that we aren’t judgmental or condemning or unwelcoming.

Though I’ll never fully understand why online mom culture (and even modern parenting culture in general) has become so toxic, one thing I can say for sure is this: There are many different walks of motherhood—all of them unique and valid in their own way. The best that we, as moms, can do in a society that already undermines motherhood entirely is support other mamas around us. That’s where it begins.

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