Why I made the decision to leave Mothering.com

Yes, I’ve been gone for a few days. A lot of it was to contemplate ways to make my life match my convictions and my passions better than it does now. I hope to post about some of the things I’ve decided to do over the next few days.

One of the things I did was say goodbye to a group that I’ve been heavily involved in for the last almost-five years, the forums on mothering.com.

Those of you who are not visiting from MDC, ignore the following. It will basically seem like nonsensical blather, which it perhaps is anyway. This is for those inquiring about why I “left the building” when I was a major huge poster.

First, it was NOTHING about the Pets forum that influenced my decision. I don’t object to the moderation or anything like that.

It was because I’ve seen MDC drift from a “fairness to all; tolerance to all; love to all” group to a “fairness, tolerance, and love to you as long as you believe exactly the way we’ve decided is the correct way to believe.” So anyone who professes a mainstream opinion gets roundly and searingly ridiculed, and if anyone posted something critical of, say, not vaccinating if you’re visiting Africa, they’d be tarred and feathered. There’s not even any HINT of “what you believe is OK, as long as you respect my views as well.”

I am a Christian, and part of the reason I treasured MDC was that it gave people of all faiths a place to live out their convictions by sharing responsibility toward all people and all things. It allowed me to say “See? Christian doesn’t mean anti-environmental; Christian doesn’t mean homophobic, Christian doesn’t mean Republican.” That has totally changed. Any mention of something blatantly hostile to Christianity is applauded. This is not OK. It is no more acceptable to be Christianphobic (or conservativephobic, or fill in the blank) than it is to be homophobic or anti-Semitic, but that’s the kind of community that MDC has become.

Acceptable behavior has become totally insane. There are posters who come on the boards who say “I totally lost it; I beat the crap out of my kid today; I screamed at my husband and broke stuff; support me!” and they’ll get twenty posts about how they need to be gentle to themselves and forgive themselves–and then a week later they’re posting the same thing. At no point does somebody say “I think you’re an abusive mother, and you need to stop.” Anyone who cloaks their behavior in woe-is-me and support-only gets stroked and patted endlessly. But if a grandparent gives a kid a plastic toy, the poster is told that the grandparent is being manipulative and horrible and the only appropriate response is to break all ties. The only “family” that matters is the mother-child diad; fathers, grandparents, and the rest of the network is implicitly (and often explicitly) mistrusted and criticized.

The thing that really cinched it for me was the postnatal death of a baby because one of the birth forums gave her critically irresponsible medical advice. That death should have been met with absolute horror and contrition and a sense of personal, if not legal, responsibility. I’ve been waiting for those emotions to hit in some kind of administrative decision. And it was, finally, by a decree that you can’t even use the word “doctor” anymore in the birth forums.

Does this make sense? I believe in the mission of Mothering. I believe in this whole glorious modern hippie movement. I believe in wooden storage containers and cloth diapers and extended breastfeeding and hugging trees and loving your kids and loving others. I believe in communicating that our choices DO matter, that there is a better way to be spouses and to be parents and to live on the earth. I believe in evidence-based care and savvy medical decision making. What the MDC boards have become is an UNloving, UNfamily oriented, UNcaring, UNpeaceful, weird cult of intolerance.

For years I’ve defended MDC, which is known around the web as the “granola Taliban.” But things have gotten worse and worse, not better, and I just can’t in good conscience call myself a member anymore.

Again, I hope you can read the above and realize that it has NOTHING to do with individuals. I don’t have a beef with almost anyone. It’s just a supercreepy groupthink that I am tired of getting mad and yelling at the computer about.


24 thoughts on “Why I made the decision to leave Mothering.com

  1. It makes total sense. A bunch of people have left lately (they left due to the overly oppressive moderation style) and you are one of the more valuable and sane members.

    I think the issue with the forums is that they seem so far removed from the magazine, which I loved (and read for years even though I had no children), due to the vast amount of voices and opinions on the forum. What probably started out as a nice little group of people, has just exploded.

    I was quite surprised when I saw that you weren’t allowed to use the term Dr., since sometimes a dr. is the appropriate person to involve. And I’ve been shocked and the number of times I’ve seen people posting for emergency medical advice for their children instead of calling 911 or going to the ER. (Although I missed the one you are referring to.)

    And sometimes I just want to write to the people who are complaining about the stupidest, solvable things – “Shut off the computer, play with your children, cook some food, clean your house, make out with your husband and get a life.” The number of people who shove the husband and his feelings aside in the relationship is astounding to me and then they wonder why their relationship is crap and then the solution is to “oops” another baby and start the cycle over.

    Hmm. This ranting has me thinking that I should stop visiting MDC and work on some knitting, rake the leaves, brush the dog, clean my house and get a life.

    I’m glad I found your blog before you left, and have added it to my RSS feed.

  2. It’s funny how hanging around mostly like-minded people will end up concentrating beliefs to the point where they are intolerant of anything else. If I personally believe that xxx is wrong, and then I meet a group of people who also believe that and we all start trying to see who can yell loudest and most emphatically that “XXX IS WRONG!!!”…you get the picture. Differences are what makes the world such an interesting place and I really don’t want everyone to believe the way that I do. Even though I’m right. ROFL šŸ˜‰

  3. Yes yes and yes. That’s why I’ve slung away and only go to ODD time to the pets forum to see what you all have been up to!

  4. Joanna, I understand your decision to leave. I don’t post a lot on the boards, but I have noticed a bit of which you speak. I’m glad to know how to reach you (your great blog here!) because we are finally ready to get another rescue in the next few months and I’m sure I might have a few questions. Plus, I just love reading your opinions! Thanks again for all the advice and support you have provided over on the pet forum. You’ll be missed!

  5. *nods head in agreement*

    Everything you said is exactly why I stopped caring, and ultimately got banned. I’ve come to the conclusion, from your thread being pulled, and from the termination of several long-time committed members, that they’re threatened by anything that doesn’t fit into their little mold.

    It speaks volumes that they have to censor, ban, and essentially sweep everything under the proverbial rug in order to keep appearances. When you have to try that hard to maintain an image the authenticity MUST be lacking.

    And in other news.. I LOVE your blog. I’ve casually passed the link on to several friends and family members. Keep it up!


  6. Thank you Joanna, I really hope your words are heard by the administration, as of right now there is a thread where a posters is getting bad advice where the life of a future child will be at stake for the sake of homebirthing rather than hospital delivery. Also members that support infanticide rather than adoption are allowed to constantly spew their hate while those that protest are censored, admonished or banned. MDC is becoming a center for intolerance rather than the reverse.
    I’ll miss you in the pets forum, but keep up the good work here and know you have been of immense help to many.

    Daisy Boots

  7. I’ve only ever been in the Pets forum, so I guess I never really paid attention to rest of the nonsense.

    Thank you for everything Joanna. I’m a better person to have “known” you and I will certainly be keeping up with your blog. Best of luck with everything šŸ™‚


  8. I understand. I missed the issue in the birth forum–but it doesn’t surprise me.

    I appreciate your railings against idiocy–thank you for putting it out there to share.


  9. Thank you Joanna. I’m sorry to see you go, but I’m glad I found your blog. I wish the powers that be at MDC would see and understand what you are saying.

  10. Just saw this now…I too am glad to have found your blog before you left, and I’ve benefited from your experience/wisdom on the pets forum. If it wasn’t for some nice gals in the non-mama tribe, I’d be gone too. I’ll keep checking in here, though.

  11. I always seem to miss everything…I just noticed a week ago or so that you weren’t around anymore, and I’m on a different computer now, so I’d lost your blog link, so I searched your posts and the link wasn’t in your siggy anymore, so yeah, anyway…as I was saying, MDC is like mommy crack. I think I just might follow your lead and take an indefinite leave of absence.

    Someone actually got advice that resulted in the death of a baby? That is criminal. My goodness.

  12. I agree with your comments about MDC. I completely agree that everyone is just expected to support everyone to the point of co-dependency.

    Whether or not someone was giving advice that resulted in the death of a baby isn’t really MDC’s responsibility. The person receiving advice should still investigate. Although that is a sad event.

    But…MDC doesn’t follow their own UA…they pick what they like and what sounds good. They keep what they think will keep the sheep following and delete the rest…whether there is a violation or not.

    Maybe I’ll start a little forum for previous MDC’ers…if anyone has any ideas on how to notify people about it let me know.

  13. Ah, now I know why you left. I haven’t been on MDC in a long time for the same reasons you so articulately stated. The only forum I was still hanging around at was actually the pet forum.. reading your posts! LOL Then I decided to just search you out as I believe you are filled with thoughtful insight as well as lucid common sense. I have your Choosing Dog document which I refer to often and I’m waiting another year before we get a family dog — a Llewellin Setter puppy. I’ve already chosen a breeder which falls under your excellent criteria for responsible breeders. I really like your selection of breeds, and I agree with your statements. Thank you for writing.

  14. I just left today after a moderator deleted my post on sleep training my child, I dont like feeling like an abusive parent for not rocking and singing my child to sleep every night… so I too have gone from mothering.com.

  15. I somewhat understand where your coming from. I haven’t heard about the post-natal death though.
    I’m not sure who you are or how long you’ve been around.
    But years ago Mothering.COMMUNE held to their beliefs very strongly, its got the word Commune in there for a reason. And I don’t know what word I’m looking for here. But it was very, very “crunchy”, it then went through a period of time where it was going more mainstream. It feels like now they are trying to hold on to their roots, and sometimes they step on feet to do it. There are plenty of other forums out there if you want a more mainstream POV, so maybe they are trying to keep themselves separated from the heard. I wouldn’t take any of it too personally. I tend to just take what I like and ignore the rest. So to each his own, and I’m sorry you’ve felt pushed out.

    • I was on the board for five years, so I wasn’t a newbie.

      There’s a difference, I think, between a group of genuinely like-minded people talking about things that are important to them, and a moderation group that tries to force people to act like they’re like-minded. It’s absolutely fine to say “Look, we just don’t get into certain debates.” It’s not so great to say “Don’t use the word doctor” and to close your eyes to the fact that HORRIBLE and DANGEROUS medical advice is being given out on (for example) the UC board. Either you censor medical speech or you don’t.

      I’ve never gotten even a single moderator warning on MDC. I never even came close to pushing the boundaries. But because of this post, which I never posted to the board and never referred to anywhere but here, the mods went into my account and deleted my signature. They have systematically removed every thread referring to me, even a thread that was posted by someone else and was there to let people know that Clue was lost, injured, and found. That’s pretty egregious. Somehow they think the UA applies to my private writing. What’s next, someone talks about MDC at the QuickyStop and their account gets deleted?

  16. Ah Joanna, I was wondering where you had gone. I found your blog (yay google) while looking for some other information on an old MDC post about a slicker. I made the same choice to leave a while ago, but the gardeners pulled me back in. At least no one there posts any sort of plant emergency that should be handled by a medical professional (be they for pet or human family members). Anyhow, hope you and yours are well!

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