The Mummy Mafia by Sarah Tucker

Today’s guest blogger is Sarah Tucker who is an award winning travel journalist, novelist, producer and broadcaster.  Her novel ‘The Playground Mafia’ was published in 2006 and became a best seller. Sarah is a single mother and lives in South West London with her son and two tortoises.

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Bullies beget bullies.  Ask teachers or head teacher (off the record and occasionally on it) and you’ll hear the same thing – you can tell the child by the mother.

Five years ago, when my novel THE PLAYGROUND MAFIA (Arrow) was published, I opened a can of worms on a subject everyone knew about but no one discussed. To put it simply, the playground mafia are the bitchy girls at school who have have grown old but not grown up.

I initially developed a series of ‘ten tops tips’ devised by child psychologists and emailed these back combined with first hand experience of my own encounters with mafia.  But this month I devised an app ‘mummy mafia’.

Together with the organisation which helps children recover from bullying, Red Balloon, I am conducting a nationwide survey to identify if we are a nation of yummy mummies or scummy mummies.

We need mums and dads (as there is a daddy mafia too) to download the app and take the test and send the results to me at madasatucker@aol.com with anecdotes of the playground politics you have personally experienced.  The results will be published in national press, and broadcast on national TV and radio late September.   We will then try to action a policy to nip the playground mafia in the bud.

There will always be mothers who try to undermine others, what we can do is make them ineffectual. This is why I whole heartedly applaud the Netmums Real Parenting Campaign.   It’s as far away from the celebrity airbrushing of perfect parenting as you can get, the fairytale of the nurturing playground community, and the mothers always immaculate, faultless, perfect simply does not exist – and it irritates me how we get taken in by the photographs of those carefully PR placed poses with yummy mummy and yummier baby, and think it is inspiring when it is fake. Even the celebrities with all their money and support still need airbrushing.

There is no such thing as perfect parenting. Parenting is an art not a science.  You don’t have to love or even like children – I don’t – but I do love deeply the one I have, and I want to help mothers transcend petty playground politics by identifying the mafia and stop becoming one themselves or becoming a victim of one.

Mothers need to know that their best is good enough.  The playground mafia survives on nurturing the belief that no one is good enough unless you play by their rules and live by their values.

Unless mothers become more confident in their own instincts, the issue of over competitive parenting and what I call the impact of hippies (high impact parents) will continue. And so will the playground mafia.  And so will the bullying.

Find out more: www.sarahtucker-website.com

This blog and Sarah’s concept of the Mummy Mafia has sparked a lively discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages.  If you want to join in the chat then we have started a thread in the Coffeehouse on Netmums here.

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70 Responses to The Mummy Mafia by Sarah Tucker

  1. Fay spencer says:

    Never had any experience of this at all. found all the mums at the school gate lovely. peope make friends and cluster but no one was excluded or made to feel anything but welcome.

  2. Jen says:

    Surely only having the survey available on an Iphone or an Ipad app is a form of technological bullying in itself?! “You can’t play unless you’re in my apple gang?!” Lots of other smart phones can have apps, and some of us may have the net but not a smart phone (ok, i do have a smart phone but it’s a nokia I’m very happy with!). Or are you suggesting people with Iphones or Ipads are the only ones likely to be bullies?! 😉

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Jen, very good point and sorry it’s limited to this at the moment, but it was the first step in getting the mummy mafia tips out there. I am producing the smart app at the moment. Sarah

  3. I, and my son were definitely victims of the playground mafia. My son has ADHD and although very few parents new about it, they thought he ‘wasn’t right’ and gave me the cold shoulder or worse. One parent who is proud of the fact that she was a school bully even bullied another parent (her friend) into going to school, complaining to the head about incidents taking place in the playground ( later unfounded) between her son and mine because her son was telling a pack of lies every day – the Headteacher confirmed this. Eventually It came out her husband was an alcoholic and beat her up a couple of times, so to deflect what was going on at home, she thought she’d make trouble for us. Her eldest son was also turning up at the school gate, waiting outside the door and threatening my son as he came out before I could get to him. My son’s self confidence was very low and he came out in tears many times. As the son had cerebral palsy all the parents gaggled round her and egged her on even more – she even threatened my son, but I had noone to support me at the time, as my self esteem was very low. Because of this, I sent my son to a different Secondary school, away from most of the troublemakers’ kids and he had the chance to learn without fear. It wasn’t easy, but he had a lot of support from the school and is now a confident happy young man at college studying his A levels.

  4. jess says:

    I hate taking my daughter to school. I hate all the false smiles and the three witches who stand at the top of the playground a systematically rip everyone else apart. I hate the fact I will have to see these horrible people for the next 10 years (unless I move). My daughter likes school and gets giddy when playing, every one treats her (and me) like a leper. They don’t see her 2 mins later when she has calmed down and is enjoying learning and is being very well behaved. They don’t invite her to play/parties as they presume she is giddy all day long. I am dreading Wednesday.

    • Pauline says:

      Most people are so pre occupied in the morning they aren’t really taking any notice! Invite your daughters friends to play, you’ll probably find they are just as dizzy! Smile at the witches(even if it’s false) then they havent won anything over you :0) Hold your head up and take a deep breath. Good luck x

    • Isa says:

      There are three witches. What about the other parents?
      Sometimes our own distrust puts people off.

  5. Lucy says:

    Lol I love the group that have the hair perfect and loads of makeup on at that time in the morning! And they are defo not that way because they are on their way to work!

  6. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for those who have commented and please send in more comments and download the app – if you can – I know there’s an issue. Interestingly I have received more emails over the years rather than less in connection with playground politics, hippies (high impact parents) whatever you want to call them. I will be writing some more about the issue and will be on TV in the next few weeks so will let you know when – talking about the subject. Sarah.

  7. Cath says:

    I had a very awful experience of a large group of Mummy Mafia types who all lived in a newly built development in a small town, to them it gave them carte blanche to judge and stare on others who they did not even speak too. The school was a mainly middle class school but they were pathetic people who had not left the school playground. I and the other left out mums knew who we were but in the end I actually made myself stand out on purpose. There are always people who feel that they are superior to others but I think it hides their many insecurities and the fact they have to go around in a pack to me speaks volumes to me.

    Keep strong you are there for your children, not for these witches. You will find the people that suit you eventually and the Mummy mafia will normally burn themselves out cause they then compete with each other and it all goes BANG!!

  8. Marianne says:

    Wow! Never noticed this Mafia type at my Childrens School.
    But if I did,I would just assume that they were bored,unhappy and unfullfilled in thier own lives.
    I also assume that they themselves or thier Husbands are sleeping with thier friends partners behind thier backs.In fact I would put money on it lol.
    Bullies are weak and pathetic,but have an ability to manipulate vulnerable people.
    Bullies cannot survive on thier own and they need to feed off others,like parasites and vermin.
    You need to squash and exterminate them quick before they have chance to breed lol.x

    • Sarah says:

      very well put Marianne.

    • Ada says:

      Bullies aren’t weak and pathetic and to say they are is unhelpful to someone who IS experiencing it. Some are, but it’s dangerous to assume all are. It’s also a huge generalisation to assume they are all victims of bullying themselves (as mentioned by a previous commenter). Their victims aren’t always vulnerable. I’ve had dealings with people myself and I’m no wall flower, so I think sometimes they enjoy a challenge, it’s almost like a sport. I feel this applies equally to kids and grown ups.

  9. Marianne says:

    and the app is a great novelty idea to make money.But quite useless in reality,like most novelties are.x

    • Mairi says:

      Is this for real? Or are you just creating anxiety for people where there is none at the moment. Promoting your book is one thing but this is just silly and demeans women further. (because it is mainly women you are talking about, let’s face it)

      • Sarah says:

        Hi Mairi,
        I think it’s a real issue for some women and not for others. I don’t believe talking about it creates anxiety, nor demeans women. By identifying why it happens, for those who experience it, its one way of dealing with something really that is another form of bullying. Bullies like to isolate and intimidate unless you play by their rules and live by their values. Many mothers don’t expect to find it in a playground which should be a nurturing environment. Teachers are aware of it and can do little about it. It happens and it makes a lot of women utterly miserable. And as a result their children as well.

  10. Carmela says:

    I agree with the 1st poster, we all get along well when picking up our children or dropping them off, we all come from diff backgrounds, some more quiter than others, but never made anyone feel left out….

  11. persh says:

    My son goes to a special school and most kids use taxis so a few of us who live near the school get on great. However, I find there`s a lot of bullies at mother and baby groups, so I stopped going there. Everytime I took my baby I came home feeling really low so I thought whats the point.

    • Ada says:

      I stopped going to mines for that very reason. I moved to the area and everyone would just sit around talking about people I didn’t know. Not that I wanted to sit around talking about people, but they were having conversations I couldn’t join in with and they knew it. I remember talking to a mum one day and she just came out with “I’m here for the kids not to make friends”. I thought “steady on, I’m only making small talk!”. So I felt even worse. But over the years, this mum always stops to talk to me in the street, at school, events etc and I’ve always been baffled because for someone who stated she didn’t want to make friends, she always looks really pleased to see me. It only clicked a couple of years ago that she wasn’t directing her comment at me to ward me off, I think she felt like just as much of an outsider as I did and she meant more of a “stuff them” one! So I think maybe we can misinterpret situations depending on how our feelings enable us to perceive them.

      • Carrie says:

        Yeah I’ve had the “I’m here for my child and not to make friends”. I had just had my daughter and joined a local playgroup, a woman who lives the same street as me had just had her child and was at the same playgroup. She always said that she always went just went for her kids and not to make friends yet she kept saying how much she had “clicked” with another mum and they became friends etc. She is the mum that knows everyone and is “a close friend” of other mums etc. I had suffered post natal depression and was very new to the area having moved 100 miles from where I was from. I still talk to this lady but can never really join her click as they all have children who attend the same local school and mine who has severe learning difficulties goes to another school 5 miles away. Thankfully I made a friend whose kids go to my child’s school but I don’t know if there is a mafia at the gates as most of the children are transported by bus/taxi to the school.

  12. Cara says:

    I’ve already experienced a form of this and my son is only 7 months old..at his baby group all the moms compete on who has lost the most weight the quickest, who has an i candy or a bugaboo (a pushchair over a thousand pound) or the latest “it” toy for your child like the jumperoo..i like to think i havnt given into it..my son has a nice and in my eyes quite pricey pushchair which will last him until he is 3, he has lots of toys but i dont rush out to buy him things like a jumperoo he has a walker which he loves..theres a pressure on mums to look a certain way, not look frumpy and to treat your child like they are just an accessory with the latest clothes and toys…its rediculous!

  13. D'emily says:

    I and my daughter attend a very lovely school (Catholic), great parents, great children and great teachers…ok, its sounds rather rosey (even though we all have our ups and downs), but I thnik it is. I think it is mostly, we the parents, are over the age of 40 (and still having babies) and are quite mature about how we, as adults, should be, as well as, God fearing and not really using our time and energy to pursue hatred and being in a Mafia style group.

    Majority of the parents in the playground install inclusivity and inclusion in parent groups (even though we are in our own little cluster of groups) we say good morning to each other and elect parents from each class to become Speakers to inform each other of any news or updates. The school also elects from each class, 2 children to become Playground Buddies to ensure there are no bullying of such.

    However, above all, we all want our children to be great rulers and speakers of the Universe and if we want that…..we cannot be in a Mummy/Daddy style Mafia group, can we?

  14. Elaine says:

    That sounds distinctly mafia-ish to me!!

  15. Mel says:

    I agree with Elaine…I would feel so uncomfortable at a school like that doesn’t leave much room for individuality?Just saying 🙂

  16. Pingback: Team Netmums Blog – Schools, shoes and playground blues | Netmums Blog

  17. Erm i have to say my daughter is in a catholic school and yes like ALL schools we have the MAFIA when we pick the kids up…me i dont care as long as my daughter is happy! im there for half n hr of my day to drop her off n pick her up! Couldnt really care less about what they think of me if they dont like it jog on!! Though i have noticed it play groups when i take my son and that gets borring!

  18. Charlotte says:

    Snore………….honestly really isn’t there anything better and more positive to talk about – how about focus on yourself and what makes you happy…..not about negative people…sometimes I think people are too quick to judge and assume that there are cliques in school when there are not, all mums are different and entitled to be…there will always be a small minority of people who we clash with….does that make them bad or me bad………..??????

    • guest says:

      couldn’t agree more…there are people who have said that there are cliques at our school but in reality, we just tend to migrate to people who are similar to us or whom we find a common bond with, and it’s not about excluding people…I now feel horribly concious of this and feel guilty the whole time for not including these people every time I organise something with a friend, or chatting with the entire class of mums every time I pick up my children, when in reality why should I? we can’t (and shouldn’t) all be friends with everyone all the time??

  19. Lea says:

    It wasn’t the only reason but one of the many reasons we decided to pull our daughter out of school and home educate. It took the ‘mafia’ in my daughters ex-school almost 6 months to invite me on their weekly dog walk at the local park and another 2 months to start play dates. I was always very chatty and friendly – never quite understood where I was going wrong. I once went to a coffee morning and that started as a baby play with younger children on the floor – after 20 minutes of being alone with all their babies, I realised I was nothing more than a babysitter while they enjoyed tea and cake in the dining area. We are new to the area and I wore dirty wellies, jogging bottoms and black circles under my eyes with my toddler son on a back carrier to the school gates – my daughter in her second hand school uniform and a big smile. I clearly clashed with the skinny jeans, £200 Hunter wellie boots/leather riding boots and expensive pushchairs with matching changing bags – their school children with starch pressed uniforms and knee high bleach white socks. I used to get down about it and wonder why I couldn’t look that great at 8am, but funny enough…I found out quite a few of them are on anti-depressents….so who’s laughing now???

    • Claire says:

      why would you mock people on anti-depressents? Comments like this can make people try and hide problems they really should get help for!

  20. Marie says:

    Hi there, I personally feel the whole situation has become over analytical and complicated. In short I feel it’s about our children settling into school, developing their learning skills, socialising and developing self reliance skills. A happy confident child will attract friends, which thankfully my son is, hence we have many play dates after school. Needless to say I made many friends through my son, which I am very thankful for. I went out there with an open unjudgemental mindset and generally like people. I wear make-up first thing in the morning and hey ho, if some mothers feel insecure about that, quite frankly that’s sad. I simply care about my appearance. Why make such a simple thing seem so threatening. Not everyone is going to like you, but your not going to like everybody either. Look at the playground as a situation to broaden your horizons, meet new people and experience new situations. Make it a positive experience. I am not part of any cluster and choose not to be, flitting is fun. Why not be a social butterfly!

    • VV says:

      Don’t think mums who don’t make-up feel insecure about mums who do. Its how some of the painted ( however tastefully done) mums look down upon others who don’t feel the need to do it. Also, with that comes the fact we live in a society where a lot of people choose to live in debt but still want to appear in the trendiest of clothes on themselves and children matched with trendiest of accessories. And the minute somebody comes to school to drop off in joggers they are judged upon and ignored. I have faced this time and again over a few years. I have added problems breaking the ice because I am not a white British person. I have had to make a lot of effort to reach out to mums only for the reason that I too AM a ‘social butterfly’ and can only look at people without reading much into their backgrounds and colour. It is unfortunate that I do not feel welcome inspite of trying my best to help and be friendly only possibly because I do not believe in splurging money on clothes. I would rather spend it on books, holidays and parents as they matter to me more.

      • Marie says:

        Please forgive my remark and the use of the word ‘insecure’. However, I do feel you have already boxed yourself in by categorising yourself and the ‘painted’ moms you refer to. It’s seems you are quick to judge and make presumptions wholeheartedly. I expect once you find your niche you’ll fit quite comfortably with the mummy-mafia.

  21. Temi says:

    Interesting posts above. I heard so much about school mums and whats not prior to my son starting school 4 years ago. Initially it was quite intimidating when you try to make friends and people just don’t want to be get to know you, eventually I just got on with things. I talk to whoever I want to when I want to and though some people choose to react quite cold, it doesn’t bother me. Like someone said, it is only half an hour at the most and like Marie I am now a “social butterly”. I have got a busy life working as a business consultant from home, so there is no time for chit-chats anyway. Mafia mums do exist in some schools, but my advice to anyone feeling intimidated, do not give them the satisfaction by allowing them to affect you – ignore them. If you want to dress to the nines for school run fine and if you don’t enjoy that too, but do it for yourself and not anyone else.

  22. Rox says:

    My eldest son went to a school where some awful mothers contributed to part of the reason we took him out. Typically it was the children of these horrible mothers who were also horrible to my son! It was an alternative human scale school too but was supposedly against this….! Not the case at all as in the end it was the headmistress who showed herself as the most narrow minded and meanest person there!

  23. Michèle says:

    My daughter has just started school and I know exactly the type of mums you are referring to. You meet them…oh, I meant ‘see’ them as they will not speak to outsiders…already at nursery so I am quite used to them.
    They need to dress up to leave the house, need to park the big car right in front of the gate, they only speak to their ‘friends’, they never say ‘hello’ to anyone new and their kids are usually the worst behaved ones in class!
    Having said all this, sometimes you are luckly enough to spot one of them on their own somewhere else than the school gates which is a fereshing experience as they seem to have lost their sense of fashion, obviously rhave run out off make-up, took the bus but of course still don’t speak to you because they are so insecure, probably utterly embrassed and worried about their reputation. It can put your mind at ease as you are reminded that they are not better than anyone at all, they just seem to have sadly nothing else going for them, to say the least.
    I am confident enough to laugh most of this behaviour off but it does make me angry when I see how other people are treated that might not have the same confidence or are just new to an institution. What ever happened to general courtesy, manners and adult behaviour? And if I do get annoyed I smile as I am telling myself that their kids will probably be driving them up the wall constantly: What goes around comes around eventually!

    • Ada says:

      Ha! Do you live in my village by any chance. I’m very much a turn up, drop them off and leave person. This is because I live in a village were everyone grew up together, half are married to the boyfriend they’ve had since they were 14, and none can walk the length of themselves without running into a relative of sorts. They have no perspective on being the new girl who knows no one, they’ve never been in my position, in fact I even met someone who couldn’t open a bank account because she leaves the village so infrequently she doesn’t have enough id! I’m friendly with a mum in the village who told me one of the mums who’s name I don’t even no once announced in front of her little clique “I don’t like Ada, she’s a weirdo, do you like her?”, the mum I’m friendly with said “I think she’s really nice, what makes you think she’s a weirdo?” Other mum “Because she’s never once come over and spoken to me”. So she thinks I’m weird for not talking to a complete stranger who never once spoke to me. Weirdo!

  24. Beccy says:

    Honestly, some of the comments on here are so sad. Really, we should be judging and celebrating (!?) because some people who suffer from mental illness or domestic violence made us feel bad?!

    No-one can MAKE you feel bad! When other mums and dads look over my scraped back hair, yogurt-stained t-shirt and the smeary-with-cheerios-stuck-to-cheeks toddler on my back in a carrier as i dash to take my daughter in i just give them a big smile. I don’t need to excuse myself, i’m a grown woman, choosing NOT to get up at 4am so i can do what it’d take to “look good” at the school gates. If those other women have the inclination to do so (or the skills to be able to do it in less time!) then is it really worth me judging THEM? It is important to them and not to me, neither of us are bad people!

    If your child has low self-esteem get them some help with that – if you intend to rely on everyone they meet in the world being kind and fair and wonderful towards them to make up for their low self esteem you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and hurt. Loads of colleges and health centres and mental health services run confidence classes which are fun and effective, you’ll never look back!

    If you are happy with how you do things you don’t need to judge anyone else or feel judged BY anyone else. I know a few mums think it’s crazy that i still breastfeed my toddler or that i choose not to work and thus forego the bigger house and more lavish lifestyle a second income would bring, but i’m happy with how things are, and i enjoy meeting up with them and seeing how things differ and how many things that very hilariously converge (no matter how big and beautiful their house, it is still THEM who cleans the dumped weetabix off the floor of a morning!).

    This whole thing just adds to the polarity already forced on parents. They say you don’t get a manual with a new baby, but you do seem to get the word “versus” shoved down your throat at every turn!

  25. Lynda says:

    Well I think this is all a bit stupid our children don’t go to school so that we can have a great social life with the other mums, our children go so that they can learn and develop their own social skills with the other children. I am a very smiley, friendly person and I do tend to stand with the same mum’s every day but that is probably because we have age in common, we are all hitting our 40’s when other mums in our children’s year are a lot younger, so they often stand with the younger mums but that really doesn’t mean that we are some kind of ‘mafia’ in the playground. I have come across mums that have one minute smiled and said hello and now completely ignore me, well for that I won’t waste anymore time trying to get to know them and they are often the ones that are standing on their own in the playground (so what does that tell you), perhaps they choose not to get to know anybody. If you find a group of mums that you can get on with then I think that is great, you can’t label people because of that.

    • Becs says:

      maybe they are just shy – mums can be shy as well as kids – often manifested in a smile to try to get to know you and they may now feel rebuffed and a shy of your group of mums so they seem to ignore you but in reality just don’t know how to say hello – maybe you should try smiling at them again.

  26. Janice says:

    This is a difficult one because I am not sure that it is really bullying. At my last son’s school all the parents formed quite a close group because of the parties when the children were younger so it became natural to stand together to talk and then do things away from the school, this may seem like a cliche. I would always try to talk to any new parents but this got difficult when parents pick up children at different times or other people collect the children. My son changed schools in the last year of primary because we moved towns and I probably found it more difficult than he did to adapt because I didn’t know any of the parents in my son’s class. I eventually started to talking to some through sport matches etc but you have to meet them half way and be friendly also. Sometimes I feel left out but I have 4+ years to make up in regards to getting to know everyone. I don’t see this as bullying but just normal social interaction – it would be the same if I joined any club. In regards to how I look, well so long as I don’t embarrass my son I am not particularly concerned what other people think. In regard to friendships, I have found that I probably get on better with older mothers like myself because we have more in common, but that does not preclude friendships across any other age groups. I like Marie’s take on life and I am definitely a no makeup sort of woman.

  27. Erika says:

    I have not expeinced this at the school gates but during the holidays I have felt very uncomfortable at our local park, one day while playing in the sand pit with my children a group of ” mafia mummies” took one look at my tattoos (some flowers in a sleeve on my arm) and moved with thier bored looking children to another area, not before I over heard there comments of tattoos, junkie. Etc. At first I was upset by this, but then thought I am great at what I do, the children are having fun and learning, I am free to express my self with body art. If they are pathetic and narrow minded enough to let someone elses appearance effect thier play time with thier children… Then I feel very sorry for those children because growing up with that kind of influence is going to have a negative effect on thier children’s outlook.
    We on the other hand had a great day!

  28. Deb says:

    Hi Sarah, When I first started reading through these posts I was quite keen to share my experiences with you. However, my children are now at secondary school and I am no longer coming into contact with the mummy mafia on a daily basis. I’ve realised that I don’t want to think about that negative side of taking my kids to school. Yes it did exist and it did upset me at first but I soon realised that I wanted to enjoy those few precious years with my children at primary school. Both they and I made some lovely friends who we still have now. Don’t let anything stand in the way of enjoying your children’s school experience – especially some misguided gossiping mums.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Deb, after primary school, parents have less contact with each other, so it doesn’t impact as much. the teachers and parents I’ve interviewed say this. With toddler groups, infant and primary, I just feel there’s a wasted opportunity to fully enjoy that time of your child’s development when they are at that gorgeous age – although every age is gorgeous.

  29. Sheena says:

    Normally I would have agreed with the ‘rise above it and do your own thing’ school of thought, until my son, aged 4, came home from school one day saying that his best friend had said ‘my parents do not like you’. This coincided with the cancellation of a playdate and a voicemail from the boy’s mother instructing us not to ask for any more. She works full time and has had minimal interaction with my son, who is a popular, nicely behaved child. We are still flummoxed by what has happened and I have dreaded the school runs she does. I can only think that the woman is a bully, training her son to be a bully and is somehow jealous or insecure. I have concluded it is up to us, the victims, not to tolerate such behaviour and push back on the perpetrator (firmly but diplomatically) so that at a minimum they might refrain from repeating their behaviour and perhaps even feel ashamed.

  30. Cath says:

    After reading the posts wether you feel it is or is not a problem for you and your children, it is still an issue that affects a lot of people and makes them very unhappy and isolated. It can also isolate your children when at school.

    If you are part of a large group of friends please try and include people that you see are new, are often alone at pick up time. You could make all the difference to someones life.

    Being kind does not take alot of effort but can mean the difference to someone who is suffering and made to feel that they are not good enough. Being a parent these days is so so hard because they may not be further family support, people are out of work and financially struggling. Mental illness through stress is increasing all the time and some people just are not able to cope with these groups of people when they are alone. It;s not about judgement, it’s about putting yourself in other peoples shoes and treating everyone equally regardless of looks, clothes or where someone lives.

    Cath.

    • H says:

      Well said Cath. My sons have just started a new school in yr 3 as the last school they went to was full of some undesirable children (and parents) where my children were picked on or beaten up by their so called friends in their class – just for a laugh. New school is more “normal” and teachers are lovely. I feel a bit out of it as I don’t know any other parents, but at the end of the day I am there to take my children to school and not there for a social life and the children are so much more happier it is amazing to see the difference. It would be nice though for people to maybe put themselves out and speak to new parents (would help me for a start as I have low self esteem). Any advice?

    • Ada says:

      Great comment Cath.

    • Becs says:

      well said Cath – our school doesn’t really have a mafia and most people are friendly enough but I do sometimes find it intimidating and unless I can find someone I know well in the playground I tend to stand alone. This is getting better as I get to know more people but some days it can be hard.

  31. Visitor says:

    I can’t believe that grown women are allowing themselves to be made to feel small by women in the playground that they see for half hour a day.
    Why do you care what they think of you and your child? Its not ALL of them, your child will still be friends with the other children. I do not give a monkeys whether the other parents like me or not, and yet my child is still very popular and invited to many peoples houses because she is a lovely child and a good friend their children. I would rather she hung around with people who value that over the superficial.
    I just don’t understand why peoples self esteem hangs so much on what other people think. If it bothers you so much that they look better than you in the morning, get up earlier and do something about it. If they are portraying themselves as a better parent than you the likelihood is that they are good actors. Everyone is in the same boat – learning as they go along, its just that some people feel the need to pretend they are perfect, others prefer to tell the truth!

    • Ada says:

      If your child comes home and tells you that every playtime last week the other kids sent him to Coventry, will you show some understanding or will you tell him/her you don’t believe they are being made to feel small by someone they see in the playground for 10 minutes at a time? I’d like to think you’d show understanding and help him/her address it. The people who feel brow beaten today probably never really learned how to deal with conflict when they were younger, either because they didn’t have any, or because they just had to put up with it.

      I had an overweight mum at the school gate make a derogatory remark about me because I was in running gear. Strike 1. To me it was obvious the comment was borne of her insecurities & she was being a bit defensive (I’m no skinny minny myself). So I genuinely and warmly suggested she join me as she’d probably enjoy it (now it was a comment that could have sounded bitchy if I wanted it to, but I was extremely careful to use a nice friendly tone). She grabbed her boobs and said she couldn’t run with these {{wiggle}} but pointed out I was ok because I was flatter. Strike 2. Now I have enough self esteem to realise that if someone is being mean I don’t need to put up with it, you don’t get a strike 3 with me! But someone who has low self esteem or even just a shy person, would be mortified, embarrassed, big surge of adrenaline stops them from being able to speak up or think straight. They’ll probably hang around for the 3rd insult, especially if (as in my case) other people there appear compliant and don’t say anything to suggest they think the comment is out of line. The point of this article I think is to give mums who do feel brow beaten some tools to deal with it and perhaps along the way some mums who do the bullying (intentionally or otherwise) may have a think about how their behaviour affects others.

    • Becs says:

      I don’t really give a stuff what most people think of me but I still suffer from low self esteem sometimes and big groups of people can be intimidating and standing alone can feel very isolating. If you have never been shy or had low self esteem maybe you cannot understand this but maybe next time you notice a mum that’s always on their own you could try talking to her – it might make her day.

  32. Vicky says:

    Im having a terrible time at my childrens school. I hate taking them and I have got to the point that Im considering moving them to another school to avoid the other mums. They make me feel so terrible and I spend alot of the time after drop off/pick ups crying. I thought that bullying only happened when you were a teenager……it certainly does not!!! I do my best to be a good mum and wife and work full time shift work. I have three beautiful children who are happy and healthy and two are doing well in school. Is this not all I can hope for them? Im not sure where it is that im going wrong for people to hate me or my children so much.

  33. kim says:

    In March I had to move my son to another school, it seemed the best solution to the horrid situation I had found myself in, I had been friends with these two mums for about six years or so I thought, then for some unknown reason one of them stopped talking to me when we returned to School, after the holidays last September, our children were all friends & in the same year, I was being completely ignored by one of these friends & although I tried my best to resolve any issues she had about me, I thought it best to text & e- mail her, invite her for a coffee & see if we could sort things out, but my pleas were ignored, approaching her in the playground while she was standing with our usual crowd, was in my mind not the best place to deal with any issues, so I was excluded from the crowd, I felt very alone, sad & rejected, by all my buddies, huddled together gossiping, giggling & sniggering as I walked pass them , The three of us had been due to have a night out at the ballet, the day before we were due to go, I so wanted to put things right, so we could enjoy ourselves, without any bad feelings & atmosphere, but she once again ignored my pleas, I was becoming so distraught, depressed & felt utterly excluded, ostracized & lonely, I decided not to attend the ballet,& let my other friend know my reasons, from then on both women joined forces & ignored me, The situation was made me feel so bad I ended up taking my son out of the football club he attended, as one of these women also went, the whole playground situation made me so ill I dreaded taking & collecting my son, most days I walked home in tears, I ended up in hospital for several weeks, due to all the stress, So I made the discision to change my sons school, Some may think rather an extreme discision, He is very happy with his new school & has made some great friends, I feel I have done the right thing, in getting away from a suppressing atmosphere, I am once again happy when I take & collect my son, I have made new friends, but It will take along time for me to let these new mums too close, I will always remember the Mummy Mafia I endured, sweet to your face & bitches as soon as your back is turned. My tip would be, Beware of the Mummy Mafia!

  34. Rose says:

    Bullying is defined as repeated systemic behaviour designed to upset or hurt others. Clearly there are some examples of where this has happened but I fail to see how categorising mums is in anyway helpful.

    Some mornings I look great-others like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. Some mornings I float in to the playground with three angels in tow – others I’m willing to swop them for some magic beans. Some mornings I’ll say hello and others I might not. Some mornings I might wear my trainers and go for a run on the way home before work. Who does that make me? And why does it matter? By reinforcing ‘types’ you are creating a context where everyone judges everyone else-is that what you are trying to achieve? Or is it a pocket liner for you-I won’t know what ‘groups’ people belong to if I don’t buy your app? If you genuinely cared so deeply there are ways to influence policy and procedure that could make parents lives better especially those who are isolated without me paying you to do so

  35. Sue says:

    I just happened to mention today in the company of some other mums I know from a local toddlers group that I make bread in a breadmaker (I may have said make ‘my own’ bread) and was instantly ridiculed. The person who ridiculed me knew nothing about me or my circumstances either now or when I started to make bread with a breadmaker and she also did not know I am a recovering depressive. I’ve been feeling GREAT, lately, for the first time in years, in fact possibly for the first time ever, and my depression has been greatly exacerbated over the years by put downs in society at large (a lot of tv humour is based on put downs of one sort or another – I can’t STAND Little Britain) and on a more individual level (I’ve actually had the breadmaker lazy mum argument levelled at me before- I wish they’d change the record). She mistook me for someone who gave a **** about her smallminded petty smug warped unintelligent joke which was supposed to be at my expense and I don’t think she was expecting the response she got. Nobody else said a word. She went down in flames on her own. Of course I could later find out I am the baddy and everyone has ‘sided’ with her but if that’s the case they won’t see me for dust. I don’t wanna know.

    There’s a lot of this about.

    Wicked jibes and put downs cause nothing but heartache. We’ll all go to *hell if we don’t stop thinking it’s funny or that it’s unimportant. It causes a lot of pain for a lot of people. (*I’m not religious).

  36. Em says:

    I used to love taking my daughter to school the mafia mums have ruined it for me, i never seem to never fit in, either too young, or i have my own house and they don’t, or my house isn’t in a good enough area for them, it depresses me and i moan to my hubby about it. they will compare what reading level your kids are on to theirs, they make look at you oddly with a puzzled look on their face every time you speak, they will openly tell their kids to sit next to so and so on the school trip in front of your kids leaving them out. They will say say they are taking the kids to see such and such at the theatre when it obvious your not invited, when your kid is invited to a playdate they will say afterwards that it was hard work all they did was bicker, oh i could go on and on i hate it. I got a nasty txt once saying from the mum who was coming to my hosue to play with my dd saying, she doesn’t want to come to your house today, i don’t know whats wrong with her today; i thought that was really hurtful. I’ve learnt though that when they are working – playdates are arranged at that time as its free childcare for them. Nasty vile people. I hate it.

  37. Nicola Johnson says:

    My two girls have recently moved to a lovely school which they both enjoy going to however, there is a group of witch bitches that stand around their cauldren making snidy comments about others. There does seem to be a ring leader who will speak one morning and then stand and talk about you the next. I too sometimes dread picking my girls up from school if I know the chief witch will be there. What is wrong with these women. I just want an easy life you know, take my girls to school, be pleasant, say good morning etc. Is it so difficult?

  38. J Morfey says:

    I was very nervous about this sort of playground goings on / behaviour when my son started a new playschool last week due to me having a disability and using crutches or walking stick (I’m only 24). However, I have been pleasantly surprised by everyone. The first morning I did get looks and stares but I could sense more intrigued than malicious. Now I’m a normal parent at the playground interacting with everyone and even though nobody has asked (which doesn’t bother me) I feel accepted by the school community.

  39. ktmorton says:

    Having just adopted a five year old and am now going to the school gates I’m amazed at how some mums behave. I have been ignored, stared at and quite obviously talked about. However there have been a couple of mums who have made me fell welcome. All I want is to make some friends with children of the same age.

  40. kim says:

    I am an older mum, with four boys, when my 21,19,& 15 year old went to primary/ junior school, It was a small village school with only about 25 family’s, so we all new each other reasonably well. most of the mums were around my age, lived in the same area & all had children of similar
    age, I didn’t experience any conflict of mafia mums, yes, there were the odd remark about who’s child was in a higher reading group, or picked for main parts in the school plays & awarded cups at the end of year assemblies, one of my sons won the top silver cup for science & maths, for four years running, so I got a few snide remarks from time to time. Mothers are protective of their children & they do take things personally, it’s only human nature no mater how good a friend you have, jealousy creeps in at times. My youngest child who is seven and in year three, started at a new much bigger school in march, I am a very shy person & find it hard to approach the other mums, especially as they stand in their close,congregated,little groups in the playground, I am a new outsider, and that makes me feel a little intimidated, However I have found that the best way to break the ice & meet some mums, was to introduce & join the PTA (Parent Teacher Association). That way I meet the mums that are more involved with the school raising money, so the school & all the children benefit, I have meet mums from all year groups & I am now beginning to belong & have familiar faces that I can now approach in the playground, it helps that some of our children are not all in the same class or year, we tend not to have any Parent / child competition between us. Its nice to meet up for coffee,all with the same agenda, to organize & provide extra money & events for our children & their school.

  41. mum says:

    Does anyone else think it’s likely that part of the problem lies in the fact that being parents of young children leaves many of us feeling a bit frazzled? I know that I am usually lacking in the va-va-voom required to be the kind of sparkling wit whom everyone wants to know at 9am. This general sense of exhaustion, in turn, leaves us feeling a bit glum when we see others who appear to be coping better. Chances are, the apparently more organised sorts feel much the same as we do deep down… worn out, worried about lots of disparate things while being concerned about ‘letting the side down’ for our children. Maybe they dedicate more of their energies to putting on a show of perfection. Perhaps this spills out into a form of selective sociability (or an antisocial selectivism) as a form of self defence; punching out with cliquiness in order to defend against anyone who may find fault in them first. They only socialise with people who appear to be in a similar position… as many of us do. Whether that position is one of well-financed comfort surrounded by a mulititude of support systems or the polar opposite, it’s fundamentally the same, it helps a person feel ‘normal’ to be around folk with similar things going on in their lives.

    I am a 46 year-old mother to one 6-year-old boy with Aspergers and I am variously intrigued by and disinterested in a lot of the people I see in the school playground. Whether I speak with other parents on any given morning depends on my mood much of the time. It depends on whether my son and I have had a good start to the day or if it’s the usual round of ‘I don’t want to go to school so I’m not getting dressed/not brushing my teeth/not moving from this sofa…’. Mornings with young children can be quite challenging and it may be that some people need the solace of the same set of people each day to pep them up and others may feel that they need a bit of head space. I swing both ways on that front and wholeheartedly apologise if I have ever offended anyone with my contrary behaviour.

    Let’s not create an agressive atmosphere by over engaging with the mind-games of others. We are there primarily to deliver our children safely to school, let’s do what is necessary to keep our own heads above water and if we find ourselves feeling left out let’s make a determination to do something about it or else ignore it, tomorrow’s another day. Just don’t seethe silently and allow yourself to be beaten down by it all. If you feel alone in the playground, look around and you will probably see someone else who looks similarly alone… talk to that person. Even a simple smile will make a connection which might lead to a conversation another day.

    My final words are: let’s try not to do ‘school face’ all the time. This is my phrase for the set expression that most of us do when within 50 yards of the school gates. It is a bizarre, automatic, ‘cheerful’ face, a kind of rictus grin which says ‘Hi! everything in my world is great. I’m happy to be here. My kids are just super. Lovely to see you. I’m really excited about everything and parenting comes naturally to me’… It’s ok to be a bit more real and just say hello. That flaming ‘school face’ just perpectuates the discomfort that we have all been discussing here.

  42. Fiona says:

    No matter where you go there is always going to be one person or a group of people who just like to stir things up, it’s not a phenomenon only found in the school playground, it’s everywhere. Some people just can’t mind their own business. Some people think they’re better than everyone else, like someone else suggested above, for some people it is just sport. I’ve never had an issue with bullies, I’m extremely capable of standing up for myself, however, recently after a fun, late and rather drunken night out with friends, which I chatted about in the playground, one of the other mothers later approached my husband asking why I was allowed out, did he trust me to be out on my own, wasn’t he worried about what I might do when I was out of his sight? I was absolutely LIVID when he came home from school and told me this!! How dare she cast doubt on my integrity or my commitment to my marriage? How dare she introduce notions into my husbands head that he would not for some reason be able to trust me. So …. I marched straight to school and confronted her, loudly but not aggressively, asking why she felt she had the right to ask questions like this when she does not know me or my husband, asked if there was a particular aspect of my character that lead her to believe I was untrustworthy …. and invited her to explain to the assembled group of HER friends what is was that she had actually been trying to get at and what motives were behind it. After much stuttering, stammering and lack of support from her little group, she apologised in front of them all, said she wouldn’t say anything about me again etc etc. And needless to say she hasn’t spoken to me since, I don’t know if things would have been different if i had not confronted her, if the rumour mill would have ramped up or if they would have forgotten it after a day. Either way, I’ve had no problems since, from anyone …… I think the general consensus now is that if I have a problem with anyone they will find out about it quite quickly !

  43. Pingback: Staying together for the sake of the children | Netmums Blog

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  45. Tribute says:

    People who say there is no ‘school gate mafia’ are obviously part of it themselves.
    Over last couple of years suffering with PND. At first my personality started to change while I was pregnant and I began to think people were saying nasty things about me so stopped talking, looking and generally interacting with people. The other Mums have been horrible and even through having had CBT for the past year it is still very difficult to interact. There are a number of the mums who think it is their right to sneer and stare me down – quite threateningly at times. Last week 2 of them purposefully moved into my way as I was wrestling with my youngest son and sneered.
    One mum – exgirlfriend of a c-list celeb. is a real bully and seems to take great delight, especially when there are lots of people around in staring me out. I do not know what their real motives are but I am pretty sure that they must feel quite secure and perfect to treat someone this way.
    So,- to all non-believers – the school mafia is alive and well.
    What is their need to have someone they feel they can bully? Why can’t they just be kind?

    • cath39 says:

      Believe me when I say that they do this to get a feeling of power and superiority. Their lives away from the school gates are bad, empty, missing something. It is done with mallice and is calculated, by working on yourself with the CBT it gives you a coping mechanism. When you find caring and kind people you won’t be feeling so on guard and judged. Also try and remember that you are only there for very short periods of time. They are very real and do exsist but try and make them a small part of your day and don’t let their immature antics ruin your whole time and thoughts. You are strong and have come along way, you saught help. Feel sorry for them, they are stuck like this and with each other, you are free from it. I hope you find a group of Mums that suit you and give you the friendship that you deserve very soon.

  46. Pingback: The School Gate Battlefield | Netmums Blog

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