Raise your hand if you have ever felt wronged by another woman. Or if you have ever had your secrets shared without permission. I can’t see your hands, but I’m guessing they’re raised as high as mine.
Let’s call these women the “Barbara Walters.” They are reporters. Their job is to gather facts and share them. They listen to you talk, copying script on their invisible pad, and then repeat it back to anyone willing to listen. Sometimes they even attach the required prayers and worry so what they say seems less gossipy and more sincere.
“We need to pray for Stephanie. I heard her marriage is on the rocks…”
The Barbaras are smart. The Barbaras are cunning. The Barbaras are our friends.
I graduated from high school eons ago and somehow survived the sorority cliques of my college years, so I assumed that meant I was in the clear from cattiness. I thought advancing age automatically gave you maturity, that once you were raising a baby, we women were all on the same team.
But a few months into new motherhood, I learned the hard reality that mean girls still exist — they just become mommies too.
The majority of these women are easy to spot. They have closed-knit groups as opposed to close-knit groups. But I was so desperate as a new mother, so lonely and isolated, I was willing to conform. I was willing to accept friends that liked every single one of my Facebook posts, rather than truly liked me.
Last year was one of the toughest for me yet. My husband was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition, one with an unfortunate prognosis, and both of my children were diagnosed with autism. During this time, this extremely vulnerable time, I felt checked on and accounted for by the group of Barbaras more than anyone else. It was nice that someone was thinking of me during such hardships.
But then I started to notice that any tidbit I shared was being leaked into the community. Faraway acquaintances suddenly knew intimate details about my husband’s heart and my mental health. Months later, when the dust began to settle, these TMZ mothers let everyone know that my child had switched schools.
It didn’t matter what it was — they were reporters, gathering information, my information, my stories that were meant for me to share, and exposing them to the masses. There’s a delicate line between caring and sharing, but when it crosses over into curiosity and then small talk, it’s wrong.
The Barbaras were bored, and their entertainment came at my cost.
It’s the absolute worst when hurt comes from within our own camp. There’s no wrong like the kind from a close companion. I trusted her! I confided in her! We were friends!
I know. The Barbaras are bad apples.
But the good news is: we are allowed to excuse ourselves from the table. Isn’t that freeing? No permission slip necessary. Just get up. Adulthood allows us small privileges like wearing a one piece, or binge watching Bravo or telling old Babs to take a hike.
All you have to do is silently step away (likely this isn’t a friendship that deserves a grand finale anyway). Just create a little distance and allow room for newness to come in. Then reach out to that mom from the park you friended but never followed up with. Join a book club. Tell your own story, even if it’s just to yourself. You own the rights to your words and only you get to decide what and when to share.
Sometimes we all just want to be heard. It’s hard to get your footing in your new role as a mom. Many of us lose our careers, old friendships, free time — any identifiable marker of who we once were. And we start desperately blowing the whistle for help. “Come find me! I’m over here! I’m drowning and can’t find direction of who I’ll be next.” But we must remember to be selective. To choose our words and our actions as carefully as we choose our friends.
Take your time and feel out authenticity. Let someone take a good look at you, and really see them too. Try not to judge (yourself included), and be patient. Not everyone will be a best friend. But if you can spark a similarity other than the surface, then run toward that light and tell Barabra to get her breaking news elsewhere.
We’ve got real friendships to find.
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