Everyone knows that parents need support – as the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. But we are living in an era where families are far-flung. Friendships are transient, neighbours don’t speak and independence is prized above all else.
How on earth are we to rely on support networks that, for many of us, simply aren’t there?
Parenting two newborns was hands-down the most gruelling experience of my life.
Breastfeeding twins was an insane challenge.
And in the dark, lonely hours of the night, desperation could so easily have swallowed me… at least, if I hadn’t had thousands of parents on my side, on call, day and night!
It Takes a Village To Raise a Child…
…And my village numbered in the thousands.
When I managed to spill the precious breastmilk that I had just sat up for 40 minutes pumping, there were hundreds of mums crying with me! The solidarity was priceless.
When I shared a photo of my first tandem breastfeed, feeling exhausted & vulnerable, it received literally thousands of likes and encouraging comments. Such a trivial thing, but those were some of my darkest days and it bolstered my confidence no end!
In the darkest moments of parenting, you need instantaneous help.
When I was desperate to quit feeding, quit gentle parenting, run away, those parents offered instant advice and support. And I have never met a single one of them!
(This isn’t to discount what help I received in person, but on the whole Londoners are super-busy. You can’t just assume people will be available for support when you need it. Plus, even these visits were facilitated through FB!)
Supported From Day One
It started before the twins were even born. At 6 weeks pregnant I got such severe hyperemesis that I couldn’t have hidden my pregnancy if I’d tried. I was visibly pregnant by 7 weeks. (Should have been a clue that it was twins, I guess!)
I was also petrified of losing the baby. I knew I would need support if that happened.
So, my first Facebook parenting tool was to create a private, secret group and add those whom we wanted to tell. I posted regular updates about how the pregnancy was going, as well as how the baby was developing.
I’m not a secretive person, so I would never have survived 12 weeks without being able to discuss it!
Next, I started scouring Facebook’s local kids selling groups for discount baby gear. I found everything from clothes & toys to a free cot & changing table!
I was also shameless in asking family and friends if anyone had anything we could borrow. I regularly posted lists of what we needed for the boys:
But the biggest input was the topical Facebook groups. These provided solidarity for my twin pregnancy symptoms, support for my gestational diabetes, and advice on how to breastfeed twins. (I’ve included a full directory at the end)
Facebook even taught me how to harvest colostrum antenatally!
I went into hospital with a raft of support, armed with all the info, and able to confidently stand my ground if pushed to use formula top-ups.
Facebook Saved My Parenting
Most importantly, Facebook has exposed me to different parenting philosophies.
I doubt I would ever have encountered positive parenting.
I wouldn’t have considered natural term weaning, likely following the crowd instead.
The siren call of minimalism and simplicity wouldn’t have lured me.
I know Childism wouldn’t have even occurred to me
These causes, which I am so passionate about – I discovered them all on Facebook!
Even now, when relatively few of my real-life contacts subscribe to these parenting philosophies, I know where to turn to get advice I can trust.
Not only has Facebook saved my parenting, it’s probably saved my family’s long-term physical and emotional health too!
Now, if I have any sort of parenting question or struggle, want a product review or need to vent, my first port of call is Facebook.
My Virtual Village!
Directory of groups listed st the end of this post.
For more coping strategies,
check out the rest of this series:
The Virtual Village
Here’s a directory of the main players in my Virtual Village, along with their own descriptions of themselves. I haven’t included any local groups because I don’t want to advertise the location of my gorgeous twins!
I have included asterisks to mark my very favourite groups – those to whom special kudos is due, and where I have found the most support!
I hope this list will serve as a useful resource, a starting point for others looking to build their Virtual Villages!
**Parent Allies Support Group:
This is a group for parents who want to be allies to the children in their lives. Parents are powerful but we want to use our power WITH our children, to share it, rather than using it OVER them. We are here to support each other to live this way with our families.
Gentle Parenting UK:
We are a peer to peer discussion group for parents, based on the gentle parenting ethos.
Her Arms Are Strong:
This is a group for all things crunchy lifestyle, Christian faith, and gentle parenting. You can be a little or a lot of one or all of these things. We’re a group of moms who supports each other with love and grace no matter where we are on our individual journeys.
A chat group to discuss non-parenting topics for members of Gentle Parenting International or Gentle Parenting UK.
Our aim is to discuss ideas and share articles, stories and opinions on the topic of Childism.
**Can I Breastfeed In It? Off-Topic:
This group is an off topic discussion group with an emphasis on breastfeeding support to complement the ‘Can I Breastfeed In It?’ groups. We welcome posts discussing all aspects of breastfeeding, and our admin team are all experienced breastfeeders and/or peer supporters who will be happy to help if you need any support on your journey. This is also a place to talk about other parenting topics, whether related to breastfeeding or not
A group to recommend any tops/dresses/jumpsuits you’ve seen out on the high street or online which are practical for use during breastfeeding.
This group is dedicated to supporting parents in establishing their feeding journey, gaining confidence and overcoming any early difficulties. We believe that the vast majority can breastfeed, given the correct support and encouragement. The group is aimed at those expecting their babies and wishing to breastfeed, and parents feeding from birth to 12mths.
We are a private support group for parents feeding (including breastfeeding, chestfeeding, SNS, tube-feeding, pumping, and all variations of supplying babies with human milk) their babies of 12mths and older, toddlers and beyond.
**Post GD Weight Loss Support Group:
This is a weight loss support group for mothers who are/were members of our Gestational Diabetes UK Mums group who now would like to lose weight following birth.
This is a support group… for those who want help and support with gestational diabetes. If you’re wanting to debate the necessity of being diagnosed for Gestational Diabetes, have ‘cheat days’, or not take GD seriously, then this is not the group for you. We are here to support those that want exactly that, support for managing and controlling GD the best way we know possible, amongst like minded people.
Home Education & Unschooling etc.
This is a gathering place for anyone who is passionate about supporting a nature-based, active & joyful childhood. Here we’ll explore nature’s role in providing a nourishing, dynamic and creative education that honors the whole child.
This group is for any UK parents with children under compulsory school age who are home educating or planning to home educate.
Other Parenting Interests
We serve the Montessori community by providing a place for parents and teachers around the world to discuss how Montessori philosophy can be used both in the home and in the classroom. We take a special interest in empowering parents, and we hope to inspire a new generation of Montessori teachers.
This is a place primarily to support parents, carers and relevant professionals, who are interested in solely following Baby Led Weaning
Twins & Multiples
We are a UK gentle parenting group for parents of twins, triplets or higher order multiples. This means that members may cosleep, bed share, breastfeed, babywear, cloth bum, practice unconditional parenting, use gentle discipline, home educate, use elimination communication and follow baby led weaning with their twins, triplets or more.
This is a group to support multiple birth mums in the UK with breastfeeding…We are a breastfeeding support group. We do not promote formula feeding, there are many other people who do this!! We recognise that all our members are, have been or would like to be breastfeeding mums, but many of us will have used or will use formula during some part of our journey for various reasons.
Where twin mums get to share helpful tips through pregnancy and bringing your twins up. Support throughout pregnancy, birth and beyond.