My daughter is one, and we’ve been going to our community center a couple times a week for a toddler playgroup. I’ve become good friends with some other moms there, and I like that the center is close to my house and the playroom is clean. We have coffee and talk while we watch the kids play. It’s been nice because I don’t get much time to talk to adults these days. Now I’m feeling uncomfortable because one of the moms in our group recently went back to work, so she’s not there. After she went back to work the other women in the group started talking about her. They talk about how they can’t believe she went back to work, and that her daughter will suffer because she’s in daycare. One of them said that she shouldn’t have had a baby if she wasn’t going to be around to raise it. I feel so uncomfortable talking with them, but I do think that staying at home with my child is important, and I wouldn’t have gone back to work either. That’s the problem. I think that being a stay at home mom is best, but I don’t want to talk about someone that I like to hang out with behind her back. How can I tell them that even though I pretty much agree with them I don’t want to talk about her like that? I don’t want them to start talking about me and I know that some of them would disagree with some of the things I do as a parent. I want be able to go there without feeling uncomfortable, but I’m not sure I’m ok with the whole thing.
– Conflicted Mom
Ah yes, the Mommy Wars shit-talk strikes again. Whether it’s breastfeeding or formula, daycare or stay-at-home, disposable diapers or cloth, attachment parenting and whatever you call other types of parenting, mothers with strong opinions wage war on other mothers with strong opinions, and they fight for the right to feel superior over the other. What a crock of shit. While everyone has an opinion on these parenting choices, and everyone has the right to voice their opinions regarding them, somewhere in there, a number of women have decided that their opinions are the correct opinions and have commenced a full on attack of those who disagree.
If the women in your playgroup wish to voice their opinions in front of you, that’s ok. They are entitled to do so. In that case, you could choose to share or not share your opinion as well, and get back to blah blah blah and suck down your Starbucks. All is well. However, nasty remarks that accuse other mothers of bad parenting, such as the comment that the absent friend shouldn’t have had a baby if she wasn’t going to be around to raise it is, quite simply, someone being a straight bitch. I don’t think you’re upset with the nature of the conversation, but with the realization that you have been spending your mornings with assholes.
The situation you’re in really isn’t about this particular parenting topic. It’s about women talking shit about another woman behind her back. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that you can bet your ass they’d do the same to you. You have to ask yourself whether or not you want to spend your time with people like that. Maybe you do. Maybe your daughter’s playgroup setting is worth putting up with them for a few hours a week. Only you can make that call. If you do, you probably want to keep in mind that these women will probably continue to say things that you don’t like. You have to choose whether or not you want to tell them that you’d prefer that they not talk about your absent friend. Just remember this, if you sit there quietly, not saying anything, then you’re being a shitty friend, too. Since it’s bothering you enough to write me, I’d guess that you probably aren’t a shitty friend. So, since you’re a grown-up and value friendship, let the bullies know that their shit talking isn’t welcome when you’re sitting at the table. Yes, they’ll probably turn their fangs on you later, but at least you stood your ground. If you’re scared to rock the boat (as many people are), look over at your daughter. Someday, someone’s going to bully her behind her back. Wouldn’t you want someone to stand up for her?
Like I said, I think your issue is really about how these women are behaving, and not so much the topic they chose. They happened to have chosen a very emotionally charged topic, one that brings out some seriously judgmental attitudes. But, no matter the topic, slamming someone who disagrees with you behind their back is just a dick move.
Good luck, and I hope for better coffee conversation in your near future.
I will briefly remark on this whole ugly issue of parents attacking other parents for having opinions that differ from their own, because this is my column and I can do whatever the hell I want. A note to the parents that know what’s best for everybody else:
Dear Judgy McShutyourface,
Don’t approve of another parent’s parenting choices? Feel the need to pass judgement on them because your choices are the correct choices, and anyone who disagrees with you is obviously a bad parent? That can really suck time out of your already busy day. I’m here to help, and I’ve got great news for you! It will free you of your self-imposed duty to inform other parents that they are (clearly) doing it wrong. Here it is…
It’s none of your fucking business. Period. Go spend your energy being the best parent you can be to your own child. You could start by setting an example for your child by not disrespecting others and/or saying shitty things about them behind their backs. Be a good role model and show your kid that Mommy’s not an asshole. That just might be the best parenting advice you’ll ever get. You’re welcome.