Now in my early days of stepparenting I admit I swung by Mumsnet a few times, hoping to get some answers to some of my “the known universe has fallen away!” questions.
Why does my stepson keep shooting me with imaginary guns? Will it scar him forever if I tell him to stop?
Why did he court me when we first met, but now he rejects me?
What can I do about all the wee on the toilet floor?
Like Lady Justine, I was totally stunned by what I found at Mumsnet.
Women weren’t just giving constructive advice or support to each other, they were also ripping each other to shreds in a frenzy of high-tech bloodsports. Lady Justine and I don’t appear to be the only ones to have noticed this phenomena, either.
There are some hot button topics that seem to bring out many mums’ inner ugly.
The first time I was there, I happened to stumble a post by a woman who described her childbirth as less than painful. From memory, she said something like “I hypnobirthed, and while it was intense I wouldn’t call it painful”.
To my horror, this apparently unforgivable sentiment was followed by the commentary equivalent of about seven thousand vicious, post-natal mums beating their way through the offender’s computer screen to bitch slap her.
Sadly, stepmothering yet not appearing to experience candy sorbet-flavoured glitter delight at every single aspect of caring for someone else’s kids seems to be another of these hot button topics. I guess that hearing about stepmother challenges or unhappiness simply spotlights too many fears and resentments and resonant cultural stereotypes for the audiences of these generalist parenting forums to let offending stepmothers go unrebuked.
So anyway, my own piece of unsolicited advice to the universe today is:
Whatever happens, don’t go to a general parenting forum for advice or support about stepfamily issues.
If you do, you will be offered two starkly unpleasant choices:
1. Stay silent, and watch deserving people who are struggling to do their best with difficult situations (after all, they are asking for advice!) get slammed.
2. Speak, and get slammed yourself.
In my experience, general parenting forums are frenzies of self-righteousness and deliberate hurtfulness. It’s so ugly.
Longer term stepmums quickly work this out for themselves, but I would always tell recent stepmother recruits:
If you ever want to seek or offer stepfamily support, you really need to go to a stepfamily-exclusive site.
Honestly, this is the only way to avoid all the trolling meanies with chips on their shoulders. Because, really, adjusting to stepparenting is hard enough without having interweb cave dwellers getting their judgement jollies at your expense.
A better choice than Mumsnet and its ilk is to try your local or national Stepfamily Association and see if it runs forums. They often need you to register and be approved before you can read or post, but once you’re in they are often the most wise, supportive and understanding communities you could ever hope to belong to.
Where do you go for stepfamily support?