As a Person With Child[ren] who is, for some reason, often the only person with child[ren] you know, I am frequently asked “are there sites/forums for moms or soon-to-be moms that aren’t total garbage?” “No,” I usually say. “They are all garbage.”
(Sidebar: there are many, many wonderful writers who are moms who write about being moms, and conversations about parenting are valid and deserve space in the public discourse, share your favourites in the comments! I just find that sites occupied by many writers devoted ENTIRELY to talking about parenting are almost always garbage, and parenting/pregnancy forums are hellscapes devoted to metaphorical-dick-measuring and the dissemination of medically-unsound information.)
I will not, today, talk about the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the Mothering.com forums. I am here to praise a good place, not to bury a bad one. I’ll be back for you, though, Mothering.com. Watch yourself.
I am here to talk about the DWIL Nation forum, on Babycenter. Because it’s great.
What’s DWIL? DWIL is an acronym for “Dealing With the Inlaws,” often extended to “Dealing With the Inlaws and Family of Origin.” DWIL is an oasis of REAL TALK in a sea of generic Babycenter forums about generic baby-related stuff. DWIL is where the women on your birth board (your birth board is the month you are due, so, for example, I am linked to Oct. 2011 and Dec. 2014 and will be forever) send you when you post about a real clusterfuck going down with your mother-in-law, who was a total angel until you had a baby but now she’s a FREAK, and they think it’s time to escalate.
(Sidebar 2: I don’t even HAVE a mother-in-law. She’s dead. I understand that she was a lovely person. My other in-laws are delights, except for [REDACTED WHO DOESN’T EVEN INTERNET.] I just enjoy reading about other people’s drama while trying to nurse or while reclining on a divan, and I’m guessing you do too.)
It is a forum with strict guidelines and warnings for posters. It is not for wusses. Your post WILL be automatically cut-and-pasted in case you get offended by REAL TALK and decide to delete it. It is an ADVICE BOARD. “Not a vent board,” as they say. This is because you’ll get newbies who show up, describe a situation they are just whining about and have no interest in fixing, and then say “I was just venting, I don’t need advice” when people are all “girl, you need to shut this down and take control of your business.” TAKE IT ELSEWHERE. These women are here to TELL YOU WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR SITUATION.
Why Is DWIL the Best?
1. Well, first of all, and let’s put this out here right away: people have horrible relatives who do nutty shit, and it’s super-fun to read about it. I’ve seen people with mother-in-laws who ordered lactation drugs from Canada so they could breastfeed their grandchildren. I’ve seen people with fathers-in-law who get deeply offended they are not welcome in the birthing suite and burst into floods of manipulative tears. I’ve seen baptism tantrums and lawn tantrums and stolen Thanksgiving leftovers and demands to name your kid after a dead relative you hated and unwanted, unexpected wheelchair ramps being installed on the side of your house and all manner of fuckery. And seriously un-funny shit too, (not that these other things aren’t serious), but stuff like “my husband was abused by his parents and now they don’t understand why we don’t let them babysit.” And there are people dealing with people who are clearly mentally ill, and need real help establishing boundaries and disconnecting from situations that are deeply toxic for them and their kids. You’re going to hear “crazy” and “psychotic” tossed around a lot, this is not a forum that is deeply steeped in awareness about ableism, so we’re clear. Know where you’re headed!
2. The advice is good. Oh, don’t get me wrong. You often have to tone it down for reality. The women on here have dealt with such dysfunction and disrespect that they have hair-trigger settings for going nuclear, and, as a Canadian, I would literally never be able to pull off half this badassery. But what I LOVE is the message of self-respect and empowerment that shows up.
“Your husband is allowing them to treat you like garbage. Tell him to get off his mom’s fucking tit and back you up.”
“Say ‘that won’t work for me.’ Say it again. If they keep ignoring you, get your Tupperware of pasta salad, pack your kids, and go home.”
Something I’ve picked up, personally (I think it comes out of Al-Anon, but has really taken root at DWIL) is the acronym JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain) as in “you need to stop JADEing with this lady and just say ‘no.'” You can use that in your LIFE. You don’t need to JADE if it’s your own damn business.
It’s…pretty feminist, really! And the RADICAL notion that you don’t have to take shit from people just because they’re related to you knocks a lot of women on their asses. The women of this board will tell you if you’re the problem. Sometimes it’s you, after all. “We live with my husband’s parents so I can afford to stay home with the kids and they are always up in our business.” I BET THEY ARE.
Fix it. Read this book. Get a better therapist. Block that person from Facebook. Leave. Ask for what you want, demand what you need. You’re the mom. We’ve been there. I live in Tulsa, I can help you.
3. It’s a wildly diverse group of women (and some dudes, to be fair.) Ethnically, culturally, religious-y, it’s a QUILT of women who have people trying to FUCK UP THEIR SHIT, and they have radically different notions of good parenting. And that turns out not to matter a whole bunch at all. I’ve seen moms who want their in-laws to stop trying to get them to circ their sons backed up by moms who would NEVER consider not circ’ing, because NO ONE IS THERE TO DEBATE YOUR CHOICES, they are there to help you stand up for your rights as a parent to make those choices. Your kid, your rules.
Do you worry that sharing DWIL is going to ruin DWIL?
No, I don’t really think that boundary-stomping inlaws read The Toast, honestly. And it’s a public forum, it’s out there in the world. But don’t prove me wrong, kids.
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.