When my oldest son was about 6 months old I was invited to join a mommy group by a high school mate of mine. I was nervous. I am far from picture perfect, well organized and super domestic. So the thought of hanging out with a bunch of moms who primarily defined themselves as MOM scared me to bits. The thrilling thought of hanging out with ACTUAL adults again won out and I finally made my way to my first park play date, I soon discovered that most moms where just like me, not totally defined by their title but absolutely in love with the job while also being a touch overwhelmed with research, more than a little under slept and occasionally rattled with insecurity.
Then one day, I could not make it to a play date. My baby had a fever all night and I was struggling to get in to see my doctor. That mom, who I was told would have my head for canceling the day of any event, sent me a warm email with a bulleted list of things to try to get his fever down while we waited to get into the doctor. Item number 3 worked! We got in to see the doctor and when we got home I had another email checking in on my little's health. I soon discovered that, in fact, this mom pretty much did know it all. But not because she was a "know it all". It was due to the fact that in addition to being a nurse she also went through her early days of mother-hood on her own isolated from her family and childhood friends. She was super efficient because she had to be not because she thought she was better than anyone else. Today, I feel so lucky to count her as a friend and advisor.
I try to remind myself of that scenario when I start to feel marginalized and sized up by other mommies. It can be really hard through the blurry lens of motherhood to hold on to the things that unite us. As moms we all have a habit of speaking a bit sanctimoniously and without filter about everything from TV viewing, to food, beliefs about what makes a child "good, smart, or more". Some of us are NOTABLY better at monitoring our messaging but none-the-less with such diverse viewpoints the play date conversation can be a minefield. The decisions we are called to make as parents, "Which school,which teaching methodology, which playgroup, marsupial or stroller mom, attachment parenting or traditional disciplinarian" almost require us to commit deeply to positions. Then like political candidates we tend to start rattling of facts to one another as if we are headed to the polls. However, I almost always find that moms respect each other and differing viewpoints. This makes our debates, unlike most political ones, typically productive and enlightening.
The reality is as much I would like to give everyone a pass because man this job ROCKS but sure is grueling .... bullies do exist in the mommy-verse. From my perspective, there is a big difference in someone who holds strong beliefs and someone who is a bully. No ... the bullies aren't created by pintrest, mom blogs and social networking. They are, in my opinion, most likely great moms who have given into their own insecurity and possess that same magical mix of authority and need to isolate people that make the mean girls in high school ... well ... so mean!
So what do you do when you find yourself in the cross hairs or standing beside a bully? I haven't a clue. It hurts to be on the receiving end of snarky and catty comments. It happened to me just this past week and I still don't know why. I can now honestly say, though, I think it hurts even worse to hear snarky and mean comments about other moms and friends then about yourself. But the whole thing has gotten me thinking pretty intensely about social choices.
Here is the commitment I'm making to myself as a result. I will not let other people define who I am as a parent, a friend, or woman. I will also not let them define my children or their abilities. I know I bring value to the table. I know that my children are gifts from God and that we are all perfectly imperfect. I am committed to forming my own opinions and respecting everyone else's opinions. <<Insert Big GULP>> I am also committed to finding my voice when I see and hear nasty, catty unproductive behavior even if it comes from the most popular mom on the block. No matter how tired, worried, or overworked we all might be ... letting each other sink to that kind of behavior is not being a good friend. And <<Insert Bigger Gulp>> I will remember that being a bully is a behavior choice not a person. As big, blustery and mean as it all may come across ... there is a person behind those hurtful, careless words ... a person that may be hurting and unable to properly communicate it. It doesn't make it okay, but it should and will impact my choice to respond with kindness.
because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness;
however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness
as Roo.” - Winnie the Pooh