Rarely do I let my snarkier self—the one honed at an all-female, private-school–take over the keyboard but mommy politics requires a more finessed hand, a sharper tongue. I’m going to venture into the realm of the catty but true. Oh, and maybe into a couple glasses of wine or a martini.
I have learned my lessons (most of them) when it comes to mommy politics. I try to stay above the fray or at least outside the firing range. I’m as guilty as the next gal for past transgressions. I’ve spent far too much time worrying about the social dynamics of our kids, à la who was invited to the big party. Never in a spiteful way—more in a “are our kids getting along/bullying each other/being middle-school jerks” kind of way. Usually, when a mom is overly involved in these things, she is running from whatever unpleasantness is happening in her own life—whatever she might not want to face. Just something I know from experience.
After a rough couple of years in which the universe decided to pitch me every curveball it could find, my perspective has obviously changed. And so have some of my friends. I can no longer stomach certain archetypal mothers with whom I used to have dealings. Flurry of curveballs = Do you really have time for this *%#&, lady? And don’t you have something better to do than define your self-worth through your child’s popularity/social dominance/academic success?
I write about this not to uselessly vent my personal feelings. I write because I hear about these mommies everywhere. They’re a universal pain in the ass. Every book club, coffee klatch, cocktail party or school function, someone will be kvetching about one of these gals. Or silently suffering, while shooting virtual daggers at them. Few of us speak of it because it’s so touchy. Sip. (That was me, taking a sip of my drink. I’m thinking how fun carpool line is going to be after this is published.)
One caveat–I am picking on no one individual. I’d never be that cruel. The ladies described below are a composite from the over 12 years and four schools my kids have attended. Most are unaware of their detrimental effect or I’m sure they’d at least try to stop meddling. And they are a far cry from the dozens of women out there who try every day to mother with compassion, keep it real and raise decent little humans. Moms who screw it up sometimes and aren’t afraid to admit it and share the lesson. I salute those moms.
Ok—I lied. Two caveats. The second being that my kids go to school with some wonderful children. They get invited to parties. They have friends they enjoy. (This is my protection clause, so when my sons read this in years to come, they aren’t up in arms because I’ve made it sound like they’re on the outside looking in. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re not. Like most kids. But I’m very good at recognizing social games, whether it’s them or another child. And mothers who perpetrate this type of ick on children—well, I have no patience for them.)
So consider this group therapy. Sip. (You can join me with your own cocktail, if you’d like. I’ll sound funnier that way.) And away we go. My personal Fab Four:
Public Relations Patty. She makes Kardashian mom, Kris Jenner, look tame in her blatant promotion of her children. But PR Patty is a bit savvier than Kris. She employs the art of subtlety. On Facebook, she is sure to post something daily about her children’s social schedules and/or desirable traits, academic success and overall valedictorian essence. Cutesy little bombs such as “Hope little Johnny has oodles of fun with his BEST friends tonight at the sleepover” enable her to appear the good mother but let all the other mothers whose little Johnnys were not invited to the sleepover that their kids don’t measure up to what obviously are incredibly well thought-out middle school kid social criteria. She drops similar comments at school functions, ensuring you know her child is putting in the appropriate number of volunteer hours and scoring copious touchdowns. The intent is to convince you, without saying it outright, that she is raising the most well-mannered, scholarly-but-appropriately- jockish, popular-but-full-of-character, boy within a 50-mile radius. As you smile and bite your tongue, swearing to yourself you will not share with her your child’s newest accomplishment or info on the party he attended that her son was unaware of, you do your best Mona Lisa imitation. You’re staying above the fray but you truly alternate between wanting to smack her and feeling so sorry for her. So much energy for such a façade. And you know this façade hides some not so pretty things. So you walk away and leave her to her own devices, finding yourself someone funnier, more real, more sane, with whom to converse.
Social Susie. Poor Susie. The girl who must have been left out as a kid, she starts when her child is young, organizing play dates. And she never grows out of it. So now, in middle school, she is still organizing. It’s become exclusive. Her mantra is that she is never exclusionary. Your take on it is: She’s also clueless about coaching her kid on being inclusionary, which is equivalent to being exclusive. Exclusivity is something this gal seems to think denotes worthiness. So her child and his/her posse go skiing, to movies, to amusement parks. They talk it up, post the online pics and publicize. All while the uninvited wonder what they did wrong. The sad answer is, usually nothing. This mother just doesn’t know how to teach a life lesson she never learned: not everyone has to be a best friend, but don’t be an exclusionary jerk. Save that for your country club years.
Holy Hattie. Her holiness has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with moral superiority. The vast majority of us have kids who screw up in some major fashion before age 22. Multiple times. Hopefully with different mistakes, so they learn new lessons. Holy Hattie, while outwardly neutral, can’t contain her overly nice but smug look, when she discovers what happened—or when, God forbid, the big mistake your child makes involves her child in some way. Killing you with kindness on the surface, but icing you and your child out in a million subtle ways, Hattie is just begging for the karma that’s coming her way. She’s burned bridges with multiple mothers whose children have had run-ins with hers, and oddly enough, her child is never at fault. Little Bobby would never do such a thing, she tells you. So, despite the bevy of prank calls, physical run-ins and nasty texts her progeny has perpetrated and many in the mommy militia are aware of, she somehow is not. You secretly hope that when your child becomes president one day (which of course he/she will, because you’ve let him/her pay for said horrible mistakes and he/she is oh so wise as an adult), he/she gets to pardon her child for some dastardly deed. It would serve her the helping of humble pie that usually cures holier-than-thou afflictions.
Mary the Martyr. You will do an about-face when you see her barreling down the hall, through carpool line or out of the crowd at a school function. She always has a job in mind for you. A job in addition to your full-time job keeping food on the table and a roof over your kids’ heads. And it usually involves making cutesy little Valentine’s Day pops with some sort of elaborate Victorian decoration Martha Stewart would cower in the face of. Or running an event that involves getting umpteen alpha moms to play nicely in the same sandbox to pull it off. This, you see, IS her job. Delegating jobs. Even though she’s never held one. And when you tell her that no, you can’t coordinate food for 100 for the upcoming banquet, she asks why. You grit your teeth and decide to tell her the truth—your mother just died, your father’s health is failing and your sister has cancer. She says, “Well, we’ve all been pretty busy lately.” And your good friend grabs your hand, ostensibly to lead you away to meet someone on the other side of the room—but really, because she knew a smack-down was coming. And that you, while small, are mighty when truly angry. Not that this has ever happened to me, of course. Purely hypothetical.
Gulp. (Yes, done with sipping now. Because I have to push the “post” button.) Don’t leave me hanging, people. Share your horror stories and get them out there. If it allows us to smile gamely rather than flaming in real-time at the next school function, we’re all the better for it.