Braving the school gate - what a challenge. We've all read about cut-throat playground politics; the different 'tribes' of mum at the school gate and how difficult it is to break into the cliques.
However - despite my eldest only being six, we have, for various reasons - mostly an international house move - encountered three schools so far. Three school gates, two preschool gates, two countries, and I'm here to break it to you: the school gate is not the judgemental bear pit it's made out to be. The school gate struggle is a myth.
In fact, the school gate is made up (almost) entirely of really great people,all trying their best to be good parents. The school gate is actually a hotbed of lovely people, all navigating similar parenting struggles as you!
That mum that ignored you last week? She's really nice! She's just exhausted/stressed/busy/shy and didn't say hello. The mum that said something that sounded judgey? She didn't mean it like that! She worries about her parenting too but she's tired/stressed/busy/shy so she said something weird and then either obsessed about it for hours afterward OR didn't even realise she sounded judgey because she was tired/stressed/busy/shy. I say stupid things I don't mean all the time.
The mum that shouts, the mum that looks very busy and important, the mum that wears uggs, the mum that would never wear uggs - they are all just being mums on the school run, trying their best - and I don't know why we insist on taking it so personally and thinking it is about ourselves.
Either I am totally missing the subtleties of the crowd (admittedly, possible) or I can confirm that everyone is totally friendly and happy to chat. If there are groups that seem less inviting - well, I think we'd all have to admit that there are times that we aren't overly receptive to new people - because sometimes it's just easier to chat to the people we already know. Sometimes we are too tired to string a sentence together (just me?). Sometimes we feel too lazy. Sometimes we are intimidated. Plenty of reasons why we aren't always immediately welcoming of someone new.
But we are, equally, often so ready to assume more than that - to assume the worst, that a mum doesn't chat to me because she secretly dislikes me - that we misinterpret situations and use them as proof that mums are cliquey.
Helped along by the type of newspaper - the type with with a pretty comprehensive showbiz section - that likes to pit women against each other in their spare time, with inflammatory articles about stay at home mums raising one type of child and working mums raising another, we are doing an excellent job of reinforcing stereotypes. (You'll notice that no one focuses on the dads in this situation - no coincidence). Let's give it a break!
It's time to assume the best; to give each other the benefit of the doubt. The school gate is just the gate at which we collect our children. It doesn't need to be layered with any additional stress - we all have plenty of that in our lives already. We frequently tell our children to be resilient, to feel confident and to see the best in people - it's time to listen to our own advice. Let's stand together on this and reclaim one section of female interaction from the grips of boring cliche. Enjoy the school run.
This post originally appeared on the Mum and the Mom. Hannah Jull is an expat mum - mom of 4, freelance writer, regularly blogging on life with a large family, parenting toddlers, and expat life, after relocating from London to Vancouver Island.