By Randi Cornwall of Poppies + Pinot
My cheeks burn when I see the photos. All the people I love, at an event I would have been honored to attend. The #blessed #besties burn my retinas. I can’t help but wonder what it is that I’ve done to earn this temporary (or is it more permanent?) rejection. I know it’s been a hot minute since I’ve had any kind of social life, but aren’t those my social life people? How did I miss that invite list? Even if there was some logical rationale, like timing, or event size, it’s impossible not to take it personally.
This last week our family has been uninvited to three annual events we’ve previously attended. With this amount of dismissal, you’d think my husband was on trial for murdering his mistress. But I’ve talked to enough moms to know that while this might be a rather rough social week for my clan, we aren’t alone.
So when I see a movement by moms to address mean tweens and insta-cliques, I can’t help but shake my head. Aren’t we skipping a step? How is this generation of mothers going to put a stop to bullying for our daughters when we are still doing it to each other? Mom-on-mom mean girl bullying is alive and well, my friends.
Outside of opaque accusations of exclusion via breast or bottle, stroller or babywear, we don’t really address mean moms. But once our daughters enter elementary school, that’s when the bullies get to work. I don’t need to list out the 5 types of mom-bullies you meet because you already know them. It’s the same tired clique as before, as always, redrafting their same tired drama. I’ve hypothesized that these women feel small so they make their world seem smaller, but that doesn’t always ring true. Sometimes, people are just mean.
So how can we rail against mean girl bullying when we aren’t calling out the adult brats in our own lives? I understand our hesitation—we don’t have just our social lives to worry about. Our actions impact our children as well. I suspect a lot of mothers stay quiet in an effort to protect their children from a social tax. But since we’re already in the outs of society today/this month/this year/for all eternity, I’m willing to stick my neck out for us. So to you, my internet compadres and fellow parent warriors, I say enough.
Here are five recommendations for shutting the adult bullies down, as told through our children’s kindergarten rules:
1. Don’t Hit or Kick.
My husband and I were in the same kindergarten class, and in my Star Week book, he wrote that he liked me because I sat quietly in circle and didn’t beat anyone up. This seems like a low bar, but I wonder how many moms could wiggle under it if we asked: Did you (figuratively) kick anyone this week? Did you sit next to the new mom at back-to-school night? Did you invite the working mom to a Saturday play date? Or did you lean against the counter with your fellow mom friends, scanning the crowd of newbies like an orchard full of ripe fruit? I know, you’re tired, you miss your lobster, and this is your chance to catch up. But that 10 minutes of whispers, sideways glances, and giggles doesn’t look as innocent as it perhaps is, and you know it.
2. Be Yourself (Because everyone else is taken).
Let’s all agree to let our respective freak flags fly, shall we? This also means that you can choose to be an asshole, if that’s your calling. (It’s often mine, so welcome to the tribe.) Let’s stop niceing people to death when we clearly don’t want to. If you are going to be an asshole, though, be a direct one, I beg of you.
3. Walk A Mile In Someone Else’s Shoes.
Remember how big the front office felt when you walked into it as a child? How stern the administration, how intimidating the heave of the doors felt against your small frame? Now imagine bolstering open that door, pushing through to the desk, and overhearing a friend’s mom gossiping about yours.
Your actions have consequences. I don’t know a single parent (outside of sociopaths) who would enjoy damaging the esteem of a child, so if this is something you’re doing, quit this nonsense. If you have a problem with someone, say it to them, or shut the Shitake up because our children are often within earshot.
4. If you don’t have something nice to say…
We will never get away from the goddammned Golden Rule because we still can’t figure it out. Gossiping is a normal way to connect to others, but we don’t have to tear down our own community members. Isn’t Tom Cruise still a little weird? And what do we think about Scientology anyway?
We also need to shut down the shareable gossip. If my recent binge marathon of Good Wife has taught me anything, it’s this: Don’t talk shit in emails. One day you will accidentally click reply all; best be in the anti-gossip habit now.
5. Stand Up to Bullies.
While we adults don’t tolerate physical violence, we all participate in some form of verbal or emotional bullying. It’s easy for me to call this out right now because I’m motivated to say something out of pure self-interest. But how much better would we listen if the mom in the IN crowd did this instead? If we had conscientious objectors we actually admired, wouldn’t we be better at policing ourselves?
Let’s stop it with the mean girl mom-ing, shall we? It’s the least we can do for each other.
About Randi Cornwall
Randi Cornwall hails from Sonoma, where she also foster-adopts wine from overcrowded cellar situations. Her three daughters and hound dog named Cash keep her and her husband on their toes. Sometimes she rants at companies on Twitter, is an #assholeparent on Instagram, and when her kids give her good material, she shares that on Facebook, or her blog Poppies + Pinot.