When it comes to mamas and Whatsapp groups, some things are better left unsaid…
In the time it has taken me to flip my laptop open, get comfy, take a VERY deep breath (given the subject of this post) and have a sip of my tea, I have received another 10 messages from my kid’s class WhatsApp group. So and so wants to know if swimming is on tomorrow (it’s on every week, at the same time) and someone’s sweater is missing (cue billions of replies from mums who very helpfully ‘haven’t seen it’). And I consider this a good day – quite unlike a friend of mine who dropped her little girl to school and received 150 WhatsApp messages in the time it took her to get to the supermarket down the road – all of them completely pointless. If there’s something that’s guaranteed to put me in a foul mood, it’s the use – or should I say misuse – of WhatsApp as a means of communicating with the class mamas.
Now don’t get me wrong, the idea is good in principle: if there are important messages to convey then this is an excellent way to make sure everyone knows about them pronto. But frankly I don’t want to hear about whether you think your child has too little homework, what you did at the weekend or what washing powder everyone uses to get the ink stains off school shirts. Nor do I care to get into a debate over whether ‘dress in your pyjamas day’ means that you actually wear uniform with pyjamas underneath (and 20 of the other variations that came out of that particular conversation). It was pyjama day; the clue is in the name, people.
I’m a nice person, I’m sociable, I like meeting other mamas and I want to know if there’s something important going on at school, but really, I haven’t got the time to scroll through hundreds of ‘good morning’s’ and smiley faces to get to the point. Which means that I often miss the stuff that the WhatsApp Group was formed to communicate. I am the mum who doesn’t return library books when the day has been changed but I didn’t know it because there was a drama about a kid’s goggles being in someone else’s bag pinging on my phone all morning. I think one of my absolute fave stories (from a mama who shall remain anonymous) is the WhatsApp message, “Is everyone sending their kids to school today because it’s really foggy and looks like it might rain” – followed by panic, hundreds of messages and – inevitably – a beautiful day with a spot of drizzle.
Morning, afternoon, evening… how does everyone have the time to be on their phone so much?! There’s nothing like having to check your phone every time it beeps in case, God forbid, something important is going on, only to be bombarded with another debate over someone’s snotty nose. As a mama friend said, “We have plenty of action, sometimes well over 100 messages a day. Which is most excellent when you are sitting in a meeting slyly checking your phone every time it buzzes in case someone has messed up the kids pick up. We’ve had teacher rants, school rants, homework rants, my child doesn’t have time to eat his lunch rants, Why haven’t I gone into labour yet? rants, mothers accusing other mothers of their child drawing on the other child’s shirt. I once got involved in the car parking rant. Ouch.”
My evenings are precious. It’s quiet. The children are in bed, husband is at home, there’s supper to be eaten and a sofa to lounge on and I really don’t need the WhatsApp edition of The Waltons wishing me and everyone goodnight. And what about the group who carried on well into the wee hours of the morning? One mama recounts how someone “was being particularly delightful sending WhatsApp messages at stupid o’clock, by stupid I mean insane: 3am, 5am and every other hour before and after, I woke up to (and I will never in my life forget the number) 217 messages!!! 50 of those were other mums either replying to her questions, or telling her it was too late to be group chatting!”
I have 2 kids in school so that’s two times the volume of messages, so I feel mega sorry for anyone with 3 or 4 kids. How do they do it?! It’s not only the sheer number of comments but the topics of conversation: a friend has to “wade through the questions about nametape or have you seen X’s bottle and the ‘I haven’t, good luck finding it babe’ about 20 times… before getting to something useful”.
And we all know what happens when a group of ladies stir each other up! One mama told me that she decided to leave her class WhatsApp group when some of the parents decided to get a petition going after finding out that their kids had watched a YouTube song at playtime – resulting in a mass frenzy and threats of removing their kiddos from school – because they ‘are only allowed screen time at the weekend’. Or when the group indulges in some serious mudslinging – I mean, yes, it’s annoying when someone forgets that PE is on Mondays but to ask if they have Alzheimers, on air, really isn’t cool – nor is complaining about the poor teachers (who aren’t on the group to defend themselves). This happened recently in a chat where one mama “forgot that another parent in the group was also a member of staff. Cue a wrist slap, and formal apology.” I think one of the worst examples of a WhatsApp fail was the time when mums of kids not invited to a birthday party started asking – on the group chat – why their child wasn’t included. Almost as bad as the mums whose kids were on the invite list then going on to brag about it… in the same group.
But what to do? Leave the group and you risk a barrage of messages asking why or, even worse, be given the cold shoulder at the school gates (yes, this has happened to friends of mine). Most of my peers seem to live in fear of the negative comments that anyone who dares leave is subjected to, despite WhatsApp driving them insane. Some schools have banned it as a parent communication tool and have implemented an ’emergency only’ class group who are under pain of death for using it otherwise. Personally I believe that communicating via class email is better. Or, if WhatsApp remains, then somehow banning the chit-chat and making sure that only the useful stuff gets through. And on that note, thank you to the mama who just messaged about the parent/teacher sign up, because I’d totally forgotten.
The author of this post has chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect her safety from comments via WhatsApp.