This week is Anti Bullying Week where campaigners such as the Anti Bullying Alliance raise awareness to children, schools and parents alike to stand up and speak out about bullies. Obviously, this is a great thing but it is important to remember that adults also get bullied, in the workplace and in the playground itself.
Over the last 5 years, while standing in the playground I have seen it all. Not only seen it, but heard tales of other parents feeling lonely, isolated and panic stricken at having to go and collect their children from school. Mums feeling nervous about sending their kids to a new school, not because of whether their little ones will fit in, but how they will be accepted at the gates.
Sounds a bit extreme? Alas not. Here are just some ways to deal with the playground mums
You are who you are so don't try to change to fit into this new setting. You don't need to adopt the mummy uniform whether it be half of the Joules catalogue or a slummy tracksuit; continue to wear what you would have worn before your child started school. Some days you will wake up and want to grab yesterday's jeans, and the next you may fancy wearing a mini skirt; either are fine as you can wear what you want! You are an adult; you have delivered your children into this world but for some reason mummies feel they need to conform to fit in.
You don't have to be friends
The only thing you have in common is that your children are the same age so remind yourself that you don't have to be liked by everyone. In any other social setting, you would find a few friends and the rest would fade into the background so don't worry so much in the playground.
Avoid the cliques
Every playground has a clique or two that you may long to join, just to feel accepted. Don't. Unless of course it is filled with ladies that you have loads in common with, that are nice and that you are naturally drawn to. The clique always has a boss, like any mafia group, who will look you up and down to determine whether you are good enough to join. Don't. My way of dealing with those looks which tell me that I am not good enough is to bound over and deliver a jolly "hi", then walk off. Don't let them make you feel small. Don't let them win.
Speak to the new mum
I recently found out that a new mum at our school was spoken to by just one person in the first term that her child started our school. That's 12 whole weeks. Imagine a new person starting at your work and everyone ignoring them for a whole quarter. If you see someone you don't recognise tomorrow, say hello. You don't have to become best buddies (remember point two) but a simple smile can go a long way.
Avoid Facebook local mum's groups
Every school and village has a Facebook group where mums can share stuff, sell their unwanted kids clothes and arrange meet ups. While this is a great way to communicate be careful not to be drawn into the politics and the bitchiness. Also, you don't have to accept every friend request that is sent to you, which will be hard if you're trying hard to fit in. Reading their endless updates about their children's BFFs will only upset you especially if you're new to the school.
It is OK to stand on your own
I often stand alone in the playground yet sometimes I make conversation - it is fine to do either. I may be thinking about work and my deadlines so don't feel like chatting which is my choice. Don't feel that by standing alone everyone will think you are aloof - be confident to do whatever you choose.
Confide in your real friends
Finding it hard to deal with on a day to day basis? Then confide in your friends away from school, the ones that love you for you and know you are a lovely person! They too have more than likely experienced the same thing, so offloading on them will make you feel much better.
Your children are all different and learn at different speeds
"Did you see my Billy got another award yesterday?" Every child learns at a different rate and all children will get awarded at some point but often we are made to feel our kids aren't good enough by all the bragging. Yes, I share my kids with their certificates to my family and friends on Facebook, but some people go that extra mile to tell everyone about their child's success. If you are the one bragging - calm it down and if you don't have a fridge covered in certificates, don't let it worry you either. And take all the parents evening and end of year report status updates with a pinch of salt.
Lead by example and stop shaming women
It is so often women that make other women feel bad. If a mum arrives all dressed up, is more fashionable or more glamorous we start to bad mouth them. Stop. Now. Stop judging women by what they are wearing. Be the one that isn't drawn into the conversation. Be the one that says that you think she looks great. Which leads me to my next point.
Think about the message this is sending out to your daughter
Our kids pick up on everything and their behaviour often mirrors ours. Do you want your daughter to be bullied? Do you want her to be a bully? With research showing that women are more likely to be bullied in the workplace it is our responsibility to make sure that you show her that you are strong, that you won't accept it and that other people's behaviour won't affect you.
While it is not easy to cope with day to day, hold your head up high and don't let them get to you. Try and find the funny side of this group of women striving for leadership in a place where we are all equal. We are all mothers, we have all had sleepless nights, we have all cleared up the sick and wiped away the tears (theirs as well as our own). We are all doing the best that we can. And do you know what? We are awesome so don't let anyone tell you you're not.