‘If you don’t like what’s playing, then change the record.’
I remember attending my first mother’s group when my eldest was one. It was particularly exciting as we had just moved overseas for my husband’s job. I was hoping to meet a variety of mothers in a supportive and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, the exact opposite occurred as the group was segregated into smaller exclusive groups. The environment was toxic as they shamelessly gossiped about each other. I hoped things would improve and went a few more times. However, I stopped attending after one mother made unpleasant observations about me and my child. I was extremely disheartened and consequently felt lonely living in a strange country without the support of my family and friends.
Some mothers groups are a vortex of negativity that can suck you dry.
After three years abroad, my family returned home and again I attempted to meet new mothers through different parent groups. While not as severe as my experience abroad there was still a hint of mothers splitting off into exclusive groups. The sly and judgemental comments concerning your personality or parenting skills inevitably reach your radar. It’s always difficult not to become defensive or sledge the offending mother back in these situations. The words of my husband have always kept me from hitting back: ‘Take the high road’.
Some mother groups are like a scene out of the movie ‘Mean Girls’.
On the periphery are many mothers who don’t quite fit into the cliques that exist within some mother’s groups. After talking to a few different mothers, I realised that they too felt awkward and didn’t ‘fit into’ the structure of the group in question. Some even described their experience as being toxic and that they usually left feeling deflated by the ‘bitchiness’ they had witnessed.
How do you overcome the mothers who seem to believe that their parenting skills are faultless and therefore are entitled to criticise you?
All good things take effort and you can turn your negative experiences around by creating your own supportive mother’s group. I believe the goal is to attract like-minded mothers who want to share their experiences in a positive and supportive environment. Think about who you want to attract and what you want to achieve in your time with these women. Below is an example of a mission statement and a few rules of what one may look for in establishing a group.
The aim of this group is to encourage mothers to express themselves in an open and non-judgemental environment. We acknowledge that there isn’t just one universal style of parenting but various different approaches. Our overall goal is to support mothers in raising happy and healthy children.
No gossiping about other mothers in the group. If you are caught slandering another member then you are required to apologise to that person or leave the group.
If you do have an issue with a group member then you are to approach them personally in a positive non-confrontational manner.
Any issues discussed in the group are to be treated as confidential.
Every person has the right to voice their opinion and are in turn also required to be active listeners. We don’t have to agree with each other but we have to respect every members right to freely express their feelings or experiences.
All parents are equal regardless of ethnicity, religion, income, occupation or age. However violent, aggressive and those under the influence of alcohol or other illicit substances are not welcome.
Above is just an example, but with the availability of Facebook and social media we all have the potential to establish our own support network. As the quote at the top states: ‘If you don’t like what’s playing then change the record’. So if you don’t like the groups you have experienced then build your own.
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