The Dreaded Mom Bully
I have a friend whose son will be entering elementary school this Fall. She mentioned to me that she is concerned about something she's heard whispers about, and that many of us with older children have faced on occasion...the mom bully! The mom bully can take many forms. She can be the mom who invites everyone in an established playgroup over to her house for a play date, but just so happens to leave you and your child off of her guest list. She can be the mom who constantly compares her child's achievements to yours. She clucks things like, "My child was reading at 3 months old and was potty trained just one week after after birth. You mean, your little Susie isn't doing that?" The mom bully could be the class mom who never seems to pick you to help out in the classroom or to help chaperone a school field trip. She could be the coach mom bully who constantly yells at your child, compares them to their teammates, or keeps them warming the bench a little longer than some of the other players. Sometimes these moms physically block you from entering into their gossip group during school pick-up by boxing you out of their tight-knit huddle making you feel like you're on the set of the movie "Mean Girls."
I remember when my son was in preschool, parents were asked to take turns bringing in a snack. It was eye-opening to see moms competing every week to bring in the best, homemade snacks into class. I watched in awe as moms would announce that they had picked up organic vanilla yogurt at the farm stand accompanied by homemade granola, or how they woke up early to make zucchini muffins for everyone. When it was my turn to be snack mom, I brought in goldfish crackers and grapes. We were running late as usual and I had forgotten about the snack altogether until I passed by the kitchen calendar that morning. I rushed to the grocery store on the way into school and picked up the goods. When snack time rolled around, I received "the look" from the other moms. Have you ever received "the look?" When it happens, you won't forget it. To break the uncomfortable silence one mom managed to say, "Oh, that's...nice," with a serpentine-like emphasis on the soft c that lingered in a way that you know she was thinking the complete opposite. Here's the thing readers, while some of the kids ate the "fancy stuff," most didn't want it. When I placed my goldfish crackers and grapes in the middle of the table, you would have thought it was a holiday party. The kids devoured it. Score! Right? Seeing the children happy should have made me happy but instead I just couldn't shake that heavy feeling of "the look."
I find that sometimes mom bullies are at their worst online. From behind their computers, i pads, and smart phones they cowardly concoct ways of making others feel really badly about themselves. If you post a picture nursing your child, they will say it's inappropriate to post those kinds of photos online. They're too pornographic, they say. If you have a picture with a container of formula in the background, lactivists around the world attack you for not nursing. They will accuse you of poisoning your child. If you post a picture of your child in their car seat, moms will judge you for not strapping your child in correctly. I know what you're thinking. For the child's safety, we should inform the mom of how to properly use her child's safety seat. That is true, but isn't there a better way of doing that? Rather than posting a corrective remark right under that mom's sweet picture of her smiling baby, if you're truly a friend and if your intentions are pure, how about sending her a private message, or better yet, pick up the phone and have an actual conversation with her where maybe you two can catch up on things other than what you perceive as her shortcomings.
We all agree that bullying is inappropriate but we need to ask ourselves as parents if we somehow model bullying behavior in our own lives. We need to watch the comments we make, especially when our children are within earshot because they hear the gossip and unkind words, and if mom is saying those things about her friends or other parents then it must be okay, right? If you see something online that you feel you must respond to and that isn't positive, how about waiting until the next day when the initial shock/anger/frustration has worn off and maybe then your response will be more grounded, and less judgmental. We may never figure out why bully moms exist. I'm not a psychologist but I suspect things like jealously, competition, boredom, and living unfulfilled lives are at just the tip of what's going on. Maybe it's the need to be recognized as the "gold star" mom, the one who is seen as right, good, perfect, because in being all of those things, it makes them feel good about themselves. In my opinion feeling good about ourselves should never be at the expense of another mom or child. The next time you find yourself about to gossip or post a negative remark, ask yourself,
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
If we all work on ourselves and model better behavior for our children, I believe that we can help reduce incidences of bullying behavior altogether. If you do encounter the bully mom, realize that the problem lies within her, not you. Confronting her usually doesn't help, and in some cases makes it worse. You cannot control others but you can control how you respond to them. My best advice is to cast a wide net with regards to friends so that you and your children have friends from school, your neighborhood, at church, at rec sports, etc. Don't place your value on what other's think of you. Recognize and claim your power and your worth because we all have value, and after all moms, you are someone's reason to smile.
Peace, love, and lots of chocolate,