Who is a mummy troll? She is a strange creature who outwardly has all the great qualities of a mother but underneath is unkind and highly competitive.
She can usually be spotted in online parenting communities where she likes nothing better to do than criticize the choices other mums make.
Hiding behind the anonymity of cyberspace, she thinks she can get away with saying some pretty nasty stuff.
An article written by Kathy Evans of the Sydney Morning Herald opens our eyes to really how nasty these ‘mummy trolls’ can get.
Evans talks about how Mandy Gunsberger, the head of Australian online parenting community Babyology, spoke out after an influx of mean posts by angry mums about anything and everything to do with parenting.
But the tipping point came when a staff member was left in tears after posting a photo of her child’s newly decorated nursery. She was told her choice of motif – dark blue and white chevron wallpaper – was ”horrific” and would give her child nightmares.
Gunsberger said this was not an isolated incident and that for months she had been battling an increasing number of abusive posts. She has vowed to fight these mummy trolls by deleting ”hurtful and nasty comments” and blocking repeat offenders.
‘Mummy trolls’ are able to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet
Why has parenting become so political?
Veteran baby guru Robin Barker, well-known author of the book Baby Love blames it all on the highly competitive world we are living in that causes mums to group in little camps and attack others who want to do it differently.
She explains, in the ”mummy wars”, words are the weapons.
Breast versus bottle, work versus stay at home, co-sleeping or cots…these are all highly loaded and political topics in the parenting world.
And anyone who dares to embrace a ‘different’ opinion or parenting style will often find themselves at the receiving end of mummy trolls.
The good, the bad and the ugly of online parenting forums
An online parenting forum is supposed to be a place where mothers support each other through the trials and tribulations of parenting.
It’s not just support – these forums are a place for collective mummy wisdom about everything from teething and breastfeeding, to potty training and discipline methods.
But even though these groups are supposed to be supportive, the arguments and judgmental attitudes that can sometimes appear in the comments show just how angry some mums can be about other mums’ choices.
Parenting can sometimes be like the ‘mummy wars’ with your every decision and choice judged and criticized.
Usually, mummy trolls are warned and their comments are deleted. If they continue posting nasty comments, they are blocked from accessing the forum.
I asked the administrator of an online parenting support group right here in Singapore about their ‘house-rules’ and how they handle mummy trolls.
Here’s what she had to say:
“It’s part if the rules of our group that mums treat each other with respect even if they disagree. We usually intervene with a message from the moderator reminding the ladies to write in a civil tone.
If the post is racist or totally crosses the line in terms of decency then we simply delete the post and ban the user.
The posts that generate the most heat have to do with maids, vaccinations and sleep training. These posts have the ladies typing with their claws out and with complete conviction that anyone who disagrees is in the wrong.
If you fall on the minority side of any one of these, you will experience Internet venom at its most poisonous.
As admin I try to intervene before it gets ugly but I’ve been too late on occasion and have deleted entire threads and banned users.”
Online parenting forums are there to support mums, not attack them
Why are mums so judgemental?
Robin Barker explains that ‘motherhood has become competitive. People have to prove that what they are doing with their baby is the best.”
And as Kathy Evans points out, with mums being more aware about the psychological influences of parents on their kids, the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mothers is stronger than ever — and this is perhaps reflected the most on online parenting forums.
Online parenting groups can work great for mums in need of support and advice. But nasty comments and unnecessarily criticism or judgement can make the whole experience terrible for everyone.
There are quite a few reasons why certain mums can be nasty online
According to Associate Professor Munidasa Winslow, who is also the Executive Director of Promises Pte Ltd (a Singaporean mental health and addictions consulting and training company), there are lots of reasons why mummies can become nasty online — and being competitive and judgemental is only part of it.
He elaborates that sometimes, mothers also have their own self esteem issues, and their personality may often be such that they can only feel good about themselves if others are not doing as good as they are.
Another problem is that normal narcissists or sociopaths exist in normal life — and the online world is just an extension of that.
Dr Winslow advises that if you find yourself being much more aggressive and nasty online than in real life — or if it goes against your nature — look out as you may have depression, or extended post-partum blues, and it may be that the stress of parenting is getting to you.
If this is the case, he recommends that such mums seek help from a therapist, counsellor or doctor before things get worse.
Support, not attack, other mums online!
Online parenting forum ‘netiquette’ 101
- Be nice – it’s easy to get carried away when you see another mum embracing a parenting style that you might think is just wrong. But try not to be nasty even if you must comment.
- No racist comments – these are a big no-no. There’s no place for racism anywhere and comments hinting at racism will not be tolerated on most online parenting forums.
- Read the guidelines – most parenting forums will have their guidelines stated quite clearly. Do read these carefully and stick to them.
- Keep it about support – you may not agree with what someone else says or posts and you are entitled to have and share your own opinions. But do try and keep the tone of your post or comment neutral and non-judgmental. Remember – the person you don’t agree with thinks they are correct too. In the end these forums are supposed to be about mums supporting, not attacking, each other.
If you think a mum is ‘trolling’ on any online parenting forum, don’t stay quiet about it – instead, report the behaviour to the admin/s of the group
Here is a checklist of what behavior constitutes mummy trolling:
- Writing in caps lock (i.e., shouting);
- Being judgemental, e.g., starting sentences with phrases like “How could you…”;
- Being condescending, e.g., “You are a bad mum, educated mums will never do…”;
- Making critical comments about children’s physical appearance, e.g., “How did your child win the baby contest? Wow, your child needs to go on a diet.”
- Threatening or throwing temper tantrums, e.g., “I will leave this group unless…”;
- Using profanities or being plain rude, e.g., “Shut up, F*** off”.
Mums, sitting back and allowing trolling to happen is not OK too, as by being quiet, we are only encouraging such distasteful behaviour.
Instead, if you do notice trolling in an online forum you are a member of, notify the admin/s immediately and do not encourage any more comments from that particular person.
Have you ever been at the receiving end of a mummy troll? Share your experiences and opinions with us by commenting below!