When Moms Groups aren’t Made for Gentle Moms

by | May 7, 2023 | 0 comments

When I started becoming a more connected parent, I was pushed out of my church moms group. I found another one that welcomed me with open arms at the time, until of course I started going through therapy and the same happened again. The same thing that’s happened time and time again in my life.

I wasn’t kicked out, but I do say I was pushed out, because like any rigid system, I no longer fit the mold. So there wasn’t a place for me anymore, and the leadership and others in the group made that very clear.

In the first moms group I mentioned, a Mops group called Moms Connect, I was a part of that leadership team. Until of course they told me that God wanted me to take a different role, a role I had no interest in taking, and eventually quit because it was so out of alignment for me.

That was the group I was a part of when I first heard about gentle parenting. I was changing the way I viewed my kids. I was treating them better. I was seeing them more fully. I was holding more space for them. I was working alongside them in new ways.

I remember a park meetup where all the moms were sitting around in a circle, talking about bringing wooden spoons with them in their purses, joking and laughing about how scared their kids were of them. I made some excuse and left early.

I remember a speaker that was brought in one day. An older woman who preached that one should never get down on their kids level, because it would make you vulnerable and take away your authority, and something about them then “going for the jugular.” I bit my lip through the whole presentation and disassociated for the rest of the meeting.

Then there was the time when someone asked a question of the group. How do kids know the difference between spanking and hitting? And I answered, they don’t. Spanking is hitting, and you don’t have to hit your kids. That’s when a “mentor mom” jumped in quickly to silence me. Telling me she felt so sorry for me and the wrong way I must have been spanked as a child in order to believe that now. (The same thing people still say to me but about leaving the church…)

So yes, I was pushed out of the group.

Then the same happened again in the next group, called the Help Club for Moms, the one that at first felt so refreshing, much like the last one did in the beginning.

But when I got depressed, went through therapy, ended up in a psychiatric hospital, and asked for help? Well aside from the leader of the group who always bragged about how much she didn’t need therapy because depression was only an attack from the devil that needed to be overcome with positive thinking… The “help” I got was so very conditional.

I asked if someone could watch my kids one day because she offered, and then she expected me to come too, because she never gets a break from her kids so I shouldn’t need to either. She told me “the Bible doesn’t say we can do SOME things, the Bible says we can do ALL things through Christ…” Telling me, in not quite these words but close, that I needed to suck it up and just take care of my kids, because that’s the mission we’ve been given as moms in this life.

So, as you can see, like many times before, I was pushed out of that group too.

And sometimes I wonder, if there would have been anyone in those groups that would have stuck with me or wanted me to stay… But who never spoke up, or who didn’t know what was happening, or who I never got the chance to connect with because I wasn’t gonna put up with being treated the way I was anymore.

And I wonder how many more groups I cast aside as a whole, because of how much space the abusive ones are allowed to take up, and how much of a voice the oppressive ones have, all in the name of being “christ-like” or welcoming of “everyone.”

There are so many groups I’ve loved to be in, until the one who spent the whole time complaining loudly about her kids became a well-respected regular, or until the one who abusively demanded blind obedience of her kids was given the space to do so, or honestly even until the whole meetings would be spent talking about the surface-level drudgery and dread of momhood and nothing else.

I never actually told anyone this. The ones I did love spending time with, who inadvertently and unknowingly unwelcomed me by welcoming something I wasn’t willing to stand for. That is, a certain level of accepted “differences” in parenting that was actually just perpetuating hurting kids and making spaces unsafe for them. And for moms like me who once were one of those kids.

It’s why I’ve tried to create my own or join with others to start groups with a different goal and a different type of environment. Groups that didn’t stick because ultimately things like “freeschooling” and “unschooling” and “gentle parenting” and “relationship-based parenting” were too unstructured or too respectful of kids or even not enough following of societal expectations for those who initially liked the idea.

It’s why I HAVE to center everything I do around kids and parenting because there are no spaces that exist where kids are automatically respected and heard and welcomed. Where space is made for both kids and adults alike to have feelings and needs and differences that don’t have to hurt one another. And where those who do hurt their kids are the ones who are offered help or asked to leave, rather than the ones setting the standard.

So that’s why I’m here, finding my voice once again, walking into new spaces and stepping right back out, ready to create something that actually does support me, and those like me who just want to be able to exist somewhere made for real humans of all ages longing to live and grow and learn in love together, instead of using our fear and pain and insecurities to hurt and control the very people who need our safety the most.

What does that look like? No clue yet. I just know the birth of something new is on the horizon.

About the author
Ashley Newberg is a connected parenting and unchooling coach, a writer and speaker who teaches on relationship-based parenting, developmental trauma, natural family life, unschooling, and out-of-the-box living. She has been traveling around the US in an RV with her family and currently settled in Winter Haven, FL, where she enjoys creating a colorful life with her husband, three daughters, and two cats.

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