Ask Dr. V, Mean Moms

Venus Nicolino holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Her column addresses Love, Life and Relationships. This week: mean moms.

Dear Dr. V,

My family rents a house in an affluent area outside of NYC. I have two little boys. My four year old is in preschool. One day it had occurred to me that my little boy wasn’t invited to any of the other children’s parties during the year — well let me explain this: three children approached my son asking why he did not attend their parties. So the children did invite him but after doing further research, I learned that the mothers crossed him off the list.

My son is a very kind and well-behaved little boy, so I investigated further and found that it wasn’t because of my son but it was because these particular mothers didn’t like me! These particular mothers don’t even know me! I realize I’m a younger mother so maybe this is an issue for them. I realize that we’re renters not owners so maybe this is an issue for them. But who cares what their issue is!? How can another mother intentional ostracize a defenseless child whatever the issue??

These mean moms will take a swing at me by hurting my child?! What fascinates me is all of this talk about “bullying” without addressing the mean moms. Remember the movie “Mean Girls?” They came from Mean Moms! Remember the true story of the young girl who committed suicide because she was being shamed over the Internet from the mother of one of her “friends” (posing to be a 14-year-old boy who liked her).

Please help me protect my son from these Mean Moms! What is going on!!!??? Please help me understand this behavior.

Mean Moms No More!

Dear MMNM,

You are not alone in this dilemma. As a mom myself, I have encountered this “Mean Mom” syndrome. What I find especially regrettable here is that these Mean Moms’ issues are trickling down into your son’s reality with a negative effect. It’s a delicate situation to handle, yet at the same time this is also an excellent opportunity for you to model positive problem solving for your son. I completely empathize with the anger and frustration you must be feeling, but I would also advise you to vent these emotions in a healthy manner before taking action on the situation; in this way you can be sure you’ll be acting with a clear head, rather than reacting from a place of resentment.

If you plan to keep your son at his current school then we can assume that, for the time being, the current group of kids he’s moving through school with will more or less stay the same, give or take new kid in class here or somebody moving away there. This being said, if you believe the friends your son has made at school are worth keeping, then perhaps you can address the issues with their parents directly. I’m not sure how you found out about whatever hang-up the Mean Moms have regarding you; however, if it wasn’t from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, you might want to address the matter directly with the Mean Mom in question. It is possible that there was a misunderstanding or misperception that led to the current hostile state of affairs that, once cleared up, could resolve the problem for everyone concerned.

Of course there is also the distinct possibility that we are just dealing with, for lack of a better phrase, a pack of fools who aren’t worth the effort. This is not to diminish the Mean Moms as human beings, but there’s no reason for you to go chasing after anyone to try and convince them of your worth, especially when I get the feeling from your letter that you are coming from a strong and assured place inside yourself. Try expanding the social circles both you and your son move in, as this will open you both up to meeting new people. From how you describe him, your son sounds adept at meeting people and making friends. He may also welcome the chance to expand his activities and the people he knows.

Summer is almost here; maybe you could find a day camp that caters to your son’s particular interests to enroll him in, such as art, music, computers, sports, etc. This could provide a clean slate not just for him, but more importantly for you to meet more down-to-earth parents. Of course there’s always the old standbys of little league sports, scouting, and church or synagogue youth groups that could also widen your “friend net.”

I have no doubt that you and your son will make your way through this predicament and come out on the other side thriving. What concerns me more, believe it or not, are the Mean Moms themselves. You compared them to the characters in the movie “Mean Girls,” and I think it’s an apt comparison.

We are dealing with parents functioning on the psychological level of teenagers. What kind of behavior is being modeled for their kids? What lessons are learned when a child witnesses his mother’s hurtful behavior that’s cruel not just to the friend who can’t come to the birthday party, but to the child himself? And to serve what end aside from reinforcing class or socio-economic based prejudices that, I’d like to think, most of us desperately want to see left behind. Who is teaching these children the importance of empathy, kindness and giving?

Our beloved media makes much out of when a movie star gets pregnant or adopts a child; for the moment it has been deemed fashionable and “in” to be pregnant. But what of the years that follow? Maybe the actual work of being a parent isn’t always as alluring as “sporting your new baby bump” (though to be fair, the phrase “sporting her tantrum throwing two year old” doesn’t really fall of the tongue as smoothly). Maybe we should examine our perceptions of parenthood and what we really value about the idea of being a parent. To my way of thinking, I know of few other jobs that carry as much honor, responsibility and importance than being a good parent. Pregnancy, while no small feat in and of itself, is really the warm-up act before the main event.

It is rather ironic that in trying to manage your child’s social calendar the people behaving the most like children are apparently your fellow adults. While certainly an issue that needs to be dealt with, for you at least, this instance may make you laugh once you’re through it and can look back. Avoid internalizing any negativity you may feel directed at you, and remember that these people’s opinion of you is worth as much as it costs. By redirecting your energy into positive, productive channels, you’ll not only find a great new set of friends for both you and your son, you’ll be teaching him a valuable lesson in how to deal with the inevitable challenges we all face moving through this life.


Dr. V

Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.

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