The School Gate Battlefield

A Netmums survey out today reveals that 1 in 10 mums hates doing the school run due to bullies and cliques. Author Sarah Tucker who wrote The Playground Mafia, responds to the research with her views.  She writes candidly about the theme, identifying the various ‘characters’ you might meet in the school playground and giving her tips on how to deal with them. What do you think about her views? Do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and let us know.


Mummy Mafia

The Playground Mafia by Sarah Tucker

So mothers feel intimidated at the school gates according to the latest research. How little has changed over the years since I wrote The Playground Maifa, a fictional novel of playground politics that makes the Parliamental variety look like child’s play.  Dabble dads (my term for those dads who spend more time in the office than they do with their kids – even at the weekends) who I’ve spoken to about this issue  – mostly believe their wives are blowing issues out of proportion, as do many psychologists who regard women who complain of other mothers bullying them as a figment of their imagination and to ‘deal with it’.   Regardless if this is the case or not, perceived bullying has a direct impact on the self esteem of the mother being victimised and as a result her children as well.

As for the research, please don’t be intimidated by the yummy mummies, those women who have time to look impossibly polished for drop off and pick up.  This means they have too much time on their hands and probably some home help.  That’s why celebrity mums and supermodels are not real mums at all, whatever their PR spin machine claims.  Time they could be spending on their child they spend on themselves, so don’t feel intimidated by them, just see them for what they are – women trying to impress.

Secondly, how to deal with those mothers who talk about their child’s achievements all the time without you asking. They do this for one reason only –  to intimidate and make them feel better about themselves.  So if a mother tells you about how wonderful their child has done at this exam or that sport event, remember it’s because she needs to feel better about herself.

 Next, the cliques and how to deal with them. In my mother’s day there were never cliques because every one was too busy to hang about the playground and chat, and the children were allowed to walk to and from school at a very early age.  Now parents fearful of dangerous roads, dangerous people, dangerous anything, take them door to door. And just as girls in the playgrounds form cliques so do their mothers.   I devised the mummy mafia app last year in order to help new mums to identify not only themselves but potential mafia members.

My son’s first day at school was my first day at school, and as I walked in I saw the women who were the geeks, the nerds, the sports jocks, the cliquey mums etc, all of whom had all grown old, but not grown up. It was easy to identify those who were eager to know all about your business but unwilling to share their own.  If a mother asks you what you do, what your husband does, where he works, if your child has a tutor in the first, say, few weeks, it’s easy to stereotype them accurately as a mother who uses information like a child would use sweets to make friends with another, or more probably categorize you as worthy or unworthy of getting to know.   You get to know much more about a person by the questions they ask than the answers they give – especially in the playground.

Then there are the mothers who make it their business to gossip about other mothers. If these women are negative about someone else to you, they are probably negative about you to other mothers, it’s best to keep away from that one.  These women feed off negative energy.

How do you deal with this feeling of a potential school gate battle field?   Realising that the only thing you have in common with these women is that you have a child the same age as theirs.  That if you want to make friends with another mum at the school chose one that has a child a few years older than yours, so that they are not in direct competition and can tell you what to expect in future terms.   And just because your child makes a best friend, does not mean you need to make friends with the parents.   And above all realizing that your child’s childhood is all too brief.    Because one day they will be all grown up and at university and you will resent the times when you allowed another mother to make your life a misery because of her own insecurities.

I delivered my son to his new school last week. Thirteen and all 5’11” of him in his new school uniform on this first day at ‘big school’.  I cried when I returned to the car because I realised how it seemed only yesterday he was four and two foot nothing, with unbroken voice and life before him starting infant school.  I have loved every moment of watching him grow up and have met some interesting ‘characters’ along the way in the playgrounds – because that’s what they are – characters.

And for those mothers who have successfully made friends at the school gates, very well done!!  It can and does work, you just need to step through the mafia minefield just as my heroines did in the book.


THE PLAYGROUND MAFIA – the stage play is on at the Orange Tree theatre in Richmond next Spring.  

Read Sarah’s other blog on the Mummy Mafia (which we published last year) here.

Find out the results of the school gates survey on Netmums in our coffeehouse and if you are a new (or seasoned) mum in the playground and need some tips on how to break the ice we have put together some tried and tested ice breakers here.

About The Netmums Blog

The Netmums Blog brings you a behind the scenes look at Netmums, as well as some fabulous guest bloggers and an up to date look at what's new on our Parent Bloggers Network.
This entry was posted in Back to school, Bullying, Mums, School, The playground. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to The School Gate Battlefield

  1. Hmmm, I take issue with the concept of cliques on the playground. It could easily be perceived that I am in a clique, but I’m not. I will chat to anyone, but I tend to stick to the parents of my children’s friends, just because I already know them well, and there is only so much time in the day for chatting!
    However, I have been bullied (if you want to call it that – it was silent, in the form of a complaint to the Head teacher) because of my blog, and that is utterly unacceptable. I try to keep in mind that people who do that kind of thing have something they feel inadequate about themselves, so it’s not a reflection on me.

  2. Pingback: Bullies and cliques mean one in ten mums hate doing the school run

  3. I had my first ever encounter with the nursery gates gossip yesterday.

    Wow, some mums are vicious. Engrossing, but mainly vicious!

    To be fair, I can’t believe Jane did THAT! I’ve no idea who Jane is, but I think I like her already.
    I possibly should have kept that opinion to myself as I appear to have been alone in that view.

  4. MumintheMiddle says:

    I think this is quite a negative slant, I think the school gate is like any other social situation, there are people that you will gravitate towards and people you won’t. I’ve made a couple of good friends who happen to be mums of my little boys friends, I didn’t feel I had to make friends with them, we just clicked and probably would have done whatever the situation. We don’t compare our children but we do all celebrate the others childrens acheivements, we are quite a supportive little group and any of us would help the others out if needed and do regularly. I imagine there are some mums that can be vicious just as there are some office workers that can be vicious etc but this post makes me sad if other people think all mums at the school gate are lthe same.

  5. lou says:

    Hmm I think its a bit silly tbh anyone who has to categorise the groups of mums in to cliques such as geeks, yummmy mummies etc probably has a few issues themselves! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve encountered some gossips and some competitive mums at the school gates but tbh its human nature as the above poster says you would find that in any enviroment. Most mums I should imagine go to the gates to collect their children and drop them off and don’t pay much notice to any cliques! Its the kids who are at school and face all these anxietys not the parents!

  6. mel parkin says:

    I totally relate to this article as there are mums of every mentioned variety in our school and its very trying! i am good friends with one mum whos daughter and my daughter are friends, weve got very close over the years and shes now godmum to my new baby. However, we would have been friends whatever situation we met in. There are others who i speak to in passing but i would never have gravitated toward them in any other situation.

  7. workingmumof2 says:

    Totally agree with the article – as a working mum I find the non-working mums tend to stick together and women like me often stand lonely in the playground. It is hard to get to know people when you can’t go to all the coffee mornings etc.

  8. anon says:

    I avoided the school run last year , (full time student) and the kids went to wrap around care. I can not wait to be working so that I can stop doing it again. In my opinion the amount I spend on their after school care is GREAT VALUE compared to the hanging around in the playground.

  9. ReachUpHigh says:

    I see alot of truth in this.. Yes it is slightly exagerated too be a funny read but still true all the same.
    I have 4 children and i dread school runs. Im thankful my eldest is in Last year there and i dont have to wait arounbd in his yard. As the mums there are awful. Saying that its justb as bad in the primary end.
    As you walk in there are around 5 groups of mums say around 7 in each. You see them looking over, commenting and pointing and giggling like little girls …. all that is fine i dont bother or pay attention after years of worrying it may be aboutr me or my uniform etc ( i work for the police). But it becomes a problem when they intimidate or laugh at someone else. Last summer i came in to the yard with a new mum there she was shy, and had a disability i had seen her struggling looking for a place to park and had helped her to a great little spot.
    We walked in ( bare in mind i rarely speak to anyone, hello, you alright is as far as it goes as i8m usually on my way back-too a shift)One group of mums in particular looked over (m they all did really)…. One, the main’ leader of the pack’ said, in no way quite… ‘ oh great look at the rif raf freaks they are letting in can you imagine her kids!! to which her little pack laughed!!

    I was not shocked…sadened but not shocked as i had heard so many comments like this… given not as severe but simaler. And this type of thing i witness every single day from members of the public too others for no reason other than to be cruel
    You really do have it everywhere you go…I really dont understand mums though in particular appear to be so awful to other mums that are not like them. Judgemental,. and plain rude alot.
    Even on websites and chat forums you get it. Taking the mick out of someones spelling, or how they word things, Comments on how they parent, and there ‘opinions’ opinions seem to be everywhere as it always ends with ‘ i dont mean to be rude its just my opinion’ well to say that you know your rude… so just dont say it.
    I think if we all minded our own buisness, our own kids, our own lifes, and were caring and considerate and polite each day things would be alot better, But we all know that will not happen.

  10. lynn says:

    I totally agree with this and know how it feels, but amoungst all the bitchy looks, whispers and sniggers I remember what my mum always told me (and also what I tell my girls) they are all jealous – thats why they are nasty to you, so dont feel bad, feel sorry for them, they want to be/look like you!

  11. Barbara says:

    I agree with this too. When I was taking my children to the first school, beginning about 10 years ago now, there was one woman in particular who quite often made my days a misery. She was the type to speak to you all best pals one day and completely ignore you the next – to the extent of turning her back on me when I came into the playground or blanking me as I walked past her. I would spend the whole day wondering what was wrong with me and why didn’t she like me. I wish now I hadn’t wasted so much of my time being so miserable. Talking to others since it appears I was not the only one she was like that with. It probably depends on how sensitive you are how these things affect you.
    Also the “ymmmy mummys” made me feel inadequate – although I was always quite a bit older than most of the mums. They would arrive at school dressed in the latest fashions, slim, tanned, fantastic hair and always talking about the last great night out or whatever – then I went home to the dishes and ironing!!!

  12. Vic says:

    My days at the school gates were miserable. The stares, the social exclusion, the giggling etc all reminded me of the cliques when I was in primary school and the behaviour is similar. You’d think they’d have grown up but no, they were still behaving like a bunch of nasty 8 year olds.

  13. Pingback: Is there really a school-gate mafia? » WAHM-BAM!

  14. Becky says:

    I have experienced this first hand and then when they got bored of making my life hell witnessed it happening to someone else! What I find interesting is how, what can sometimes be a small clique affect so many people, you see everyone is so afraid of being targeted by the clique, that if you are the unfortunate one, then everyone else ignores you too as they can not risk being seen to talk to you. It is a very lonely place when you are the target. My lowest point was nipping back in to the school one day to re-check my parents evening appointment time to discover my name crossed out and someone else’s name there. This mum is the wife of a man who works in child protection, and often appears on television dealing with matters of bullying, I’m sure he would proud. She wasn’t really part of the clique, no one knows why they dislike/avoid you, they just join in to ensure they aren’t next.

  15. Pingback: Scared at the school gates? School gate cliques and rules

  16. JaneT71 says:

    These women are small of brain and know no better. Do not let their jealousy get you down as that’s what it is the majority of the time. Their own inadequacies. So let them deal with their own ‘sh*t’and you just get on with one school is about – your child’s/children’s education. Those that just hate also know no better. That’s why their kids are usually halfwits but i expect it’s a difficult concept for the chattering gossips to channel and their negative energy into their numb kids instead.

  17. Chris Allinger says:

    I’ve read through everything that was said above and still, it feels really bad. The discussions in front of me about invites to kids/grown up parties (has happened 3 times in the past few weeks) when my kids or I are not invited…the mums might be insensitive etc. BUT: they don’t come across like that. I’m 46 years of age, I’ve been around the block and thought I’ve gained some life experience. However, they all seem to be quite happy, but just don’t find me worthy. Don’t get me wrong, I know myself, I don’t beat myself up about not being worthy. I’ve had a very good relationship with myself which has now been questioned. I actually started off very well with everyone in reception, but got weeded out. Not sure why, I suspect cos I don’t seem to look/talk like them. As I say I have been tried and tested and not found worthy. And all that can be fine as well – it is really just how will it affect my kids? Sorry for rambling, but it’s good to write it down.

  18. Karley says:

    I have these problems everyday , I think it’s because of my ethnicity the school my children go to is predominantly white older working mums and they all judge me as a single mum on benefits I feel the media has a lot to do with this as the way they portray young mums . But I’m actually married and my husband has his own business some days I just want to wear a t-shirt saying this . And even if that was the case how dare anyone look down on you for anything. My kids are much better behavioured I see there kids not getting there own way they shout and hit there parents ,it just makes me so angry how people judge you without talking to you.

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