The women behind the Airdrie Moms Facebook group said they never set out to be newsmakers.
“We’re realizing the impact the group can have in the community so we want to have it be a positive place,” said one of the group’s five administrators, Mandi Carter.
The Airdrie Moms group has figured prominently in a number of the news stories covered within the pages of the Airdrie City View in 2014, prompting their recognition as Newsmaker of the Year. For instance, the group found itself at the centre of stories including the sudden closure of a daycare, Positive Post-It Day and calls for increased RCMP patrols around the city’s schools.
Original group founder Jenn Pole started the group simply as a way to meet other moms in Airdrie, according to Carter.
“There were only about 20 members and it was a meet up group,” Carter said. “It was a way to meet up for play dates.”
Carter along with co-administrators Tayona Wheler, Tanya Cole, Heather Heninger and Chelsea Hill now share the responsibility of monitoring the group. Carter has been an administrator the longest – about a year and a half – and Pole is no longer involved in that aspect of the group. The group moved to being a closed forum about a year ago.
“We started getting a lot of spammers,” she said.
“The reason we started asking women if they were moms is because it was becoming hard to monitor the group because the number (of members) was growing so quickly.”
The group now includes approximately 3,700 members. To join, members must be a mother from Airdrie or the surrounding areas, according to Cole.
The group’s growth hasn’t come without problems, as the administrators are well aware. Monitoring the various posts on the timeline is a big job, which is why there are now five administrators.
“The main thing about the group growing so big is that you then have so many more opinions, so many more personality types,” Carter said.
Those differing opinions have sometimes led the group administrators to walk a fine line, and Carter said they are investigating how to protect themselves.
“There are some changes coming because the group is growing so much,” Cole said. “Because we feel a sense of responsibility to our members and to the community, and to our families, we’re going to look into things like how to protect ourselves from charges of libel or slander.”
Members are given the group rules from the outset. Things that can get a member removed from the group include negative comments about the admins, public figures or other members. The topics of vaccinations, pro-life/pro-choice, and car seat safety are also off-limits.
“These are called the ‘hot topics’ and we don’t allow them,” Cole said.
“People have complained about us not allowing certain topics, about not allowing fighting. They accuse us of censoring. But the reason we have rules is because it’s our group and we do get to choose. We want it to be a supportive place and that’s it,” Carter said.
Cole, Carter and Wheler said they have occasionally had to remove or ban someone from the group.
“There’s a difference between banning and removing someone from the group,” Carter said. “Some people we’ve removed because they’ve tried to sell on the group multiple times, even though we’ve told them not to. If someone personally attacks an admin or a member of the group, we will ban them if we feel they are very out of line.”
The administrators said they don’t allow bashing of local businesses, either.
In the case of the Cubs and Kittens Educational Centre, that closed suddenly in October 2014, leaving parents — many of them single mothers — struggling to find child care, Carter said the Airdrie Moms group tried to find a fair solution.
“We were fair because we saw the issues it was causing in peoples’ lives and saw it was a very real problem,” Carter said. “We just asked them to keep it off of our group and to private message each other. They could not actually post on our wall.”
“We facilitated them forming their own group,” Cole added. “I spoke to one of the ladies and told her as Airdrie Moms we supported these moms needing something, they needed support and they needed help, just our group wasn’t the place for it.”
The administrators said they are working to come up with ways to use their influence in positive ways.
“We’ve started discussing having an events committee,” Cole said. “All the admins at the time last year were involved in Kudos to Kiddos (at Nose Creek Park in June). We raised almost $10,000 for the Alberta Children’s Hospital. This year we’re going to team up with the Agricultural Society and we’re going to put on an event during their Fall Fair. We’re looking at different charities to support.”
“Our members are amazing moms and strong women with the power to change the world,” Cole said. “They have two choices: they can rant and be negative about their life or they can be positive and bring all of us together and make change and help others.”