Most of the moms I know are pleasant people. Sure we all have our quirks and flaws, but that’s just part of being human. Overall, the other moms in my life are kind and supportive. But every once and a while I run into a mom that…isn’t.
Lurking in the neighborhood, on the PTA board, at your child’s preschool, or even at church, there are the occasional mean moms that leave us scratching our heads and wondering how on earth to deal with them.
There are several “types” of mean moms. Do any of these sound familiar?
The Rude Mean Mom This mom is incredibly opinionated, blunt, forceful, and generally lacks a filter. She says whatever she’s thinking, no matter how rude, and doesn’t really care how it’s received. Some rude moms do “apologize” often but do so in a way that isn’t sincere. For example, “I’m sorry if this offends you, but -insert rude comment here-.” I’ve noticed that most rude moms can’t tolerate the dissenting opinions of others. They can dish it out, liberally, but not take it.
The Well-Intentioned Mean Mom This mom is the wellspring of unsolicited advice meant to enlighten those around her. She probably thinks she’s being helpful, but she tends to come across as arrogant, bossy, and judgmental. I recently announced that my elementary school’s yearbooks were for sale on a neighborhood Facebook page and received a message from a total stranger about how I should look into the area’s magnet schools because they are much better academically than the school where my kids attend.
The Snobby Mean Mom This is tricky since some people seem aloof only because they are shy or uncertain of themselves in social situations. I’ve been accused of snobby behavior before when I just didn’t feel brave enough to initiate conversation. There are some moms, however, that are not shy at all, yet they don’t want anything to do with you. Most of the time there isn’t a clear reason why. It can feel like being left out in middle school all over again.
The Critical Mean Mom This mom is doing everything right (in her opinion) and feels morally obligated to point out whatever it is the moms around her are doing wrong. She doesn’t see any value in differing parenting practices because it’s all black and white. Often dramatic and tinged with an air of self-righteousness, the critical mom can wreak havoc on an innocent play date gathering.
The Secretly Mean Mom This mom is all smiles and warmth in person but constantly talks about people behind their backs. If someone is consistently gossiping about or bad-mouthing others to you, you can be certain they are doing the same about you. These moms missed the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” lesson.
How do we deal with mean moms?
I think the first step is to recognize that we all have a bit of meanness within us. Which of us hasn’t been critical before, or gossiped about another person? Have we ever made a cutting remark with good intentions? When we are mean to others, it’s almost always because of a deficit within ourselves. When we are afraid, lonely, hurt, angry, or have low self-esteem we tend to push others down to help ourselves feel better. Acknowledging where mean behavior comes from can direct us toward appropriate responses.
When a fellow mom is mean to me, I admit my knee-jerk reaction is to want to match that meanness. But if I allow myself to respond that way, it adds gasoline to the fire and spirals out of control on both sides.
Instead, I try to remember the acronym FLIP when responding to mean behavior. If I can follow these points, I’m more likely to “flip” mean behavior into something more positive.
Forgive: Everyone does mean things sometimes. Holding it against people or seeking revenge just continues the misery.
Limit: Don’t invest yourself in relationships with moms that continually exhibit mean behavior. Limit your interactions with them.
Ignore: Not every comment needs a response. Practice letting things go. I didn’t respond to the stranger that told me I should change schools. What use would there be in that?
Peacefully respond when necessary: When a response is necessary, don’t do it in the heat of the moment. Take time to calm down and think of a way to express your feelings in a peaceful, respectful way. It might not be received well. If so, move on and limit future interactions.
The good news is that when we appropriately deal with the mean moms in our lives, we are modeling positive behavior skills to our kids. Even when we think our kids don’t notice our interactions, you better believe they are soaking it in and forming ideas that will impact them for the rest of their lives. A gracious response in the face of mean behavior not only makes life easier for us, but prepares our kids for handling conflict of their own.