Hunting in Packs

14 Nov

Today I was sat with Max in a cafe, we have taken to bringing crayons along and he now happily sits on a stool and draws pictures. He will scribble away and then point at the resulting chaos and say “car”, he will point at the most frenzied scrawl and say “wheel” and then scan for the most circular scribble and make a steering gesture. I do what any parent would do and pat him on the head in congratulations of his fine work. He will then start eating the crayons and art class is over.

When I’m not critiquing Max’s artwork I tend to listen to the conversations that are taking place around me. I listened to the cyclists, you can’t not hear the cyclists they seem to talk louder than is required, get overexcited about their respective bikes – it was like a conversation with Max I understood the odd word here and there but most of it was technical bike gibberish.  I listened to the couple who only seem to disagree on things, I listen to them most days and they are yet to find common ground on anything. I listen to the girl on her I-phone strategising her night out, from outfit to venue and back to outfit.

The real action was going on at the table next to us, three mums were deep in chatter about a fourth Mum. It started off fairly tamely, with one mum explaining why their usual quartet was reduced to a trio, number 4 was meeting up with other friends that day. Boring I thought to myself, but probably more potential than the cyclists indulging in bike porn, the couple that shouldn’t be and the girl with a fabulous new dress.

My ears pricked up when one of the mums began to question Absent Mum’s decision to return to work and call on childcare. I discretely drop Max’s crayon and shuffle my little stool across to be closer to the action, blame Mrs Under she has taught me all I know about earwigging. With first blood drawn, the 2 listening Mums, smelt blood and sensed it was time to move in for the kill. Poor Absent Mum was stripped bare and left for dead as the trio set about questioning, mocking and generally attacking a series of Absent Mum’s parenting choices – her choice to still breastfeed and her decision to let Absent Child cry it out. Things then took a more unpleasant and vicious tone as her wardrobe was ridiculed (not the piece of furniture but its contents), her age was brought into question and even poor Absent Husband found himself in the firing line, apparently he doesn’t earn what he should. It was along and drawn out affair that required me to order another soy latte.

I recently opened an unintentional can of worms on my Facebook site by asking Mums for their thoughts on mothers groups and some of the lively debates that are prevalent. I was shocked by the response and received more comments than I have received for any other update I have posted and the comments were bristling with emotion. There was a real mixture of positive feedback about Mother’s Groups and some negative stating all manner of potential flair ups. It seems to be ingrained in the human psyche to analyse and criticise things that are done differently to our own.

In the early days before I found me some parent buddies to call my own, I found staying at home with Max to be isolating and lonely, but I would take isolating and lonely over what I overheard this morning. I love that me and Max have largely got acquainted without unwanted outside interference or judgement. Perhaps I still crop up in some bitching circles for letting Mrs Under go to work whilst me and Max have a grand old time getting up to all manner of mischief, but on the whole I’ve been allowed to make my own parenting decisions without prejudice. Every parent has the right to decide what is best for their child, that’s sort of our job, and to have something so personal and important torn apart by others must be humiliating and belittling. I have lots of my own ways to humiliate and belittle myself and don’t need any outside help!

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32 Responses to “Hunting in Packs”

  1. Wendy November 14, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    Great post :-) I have a four month old daughter and our mum’s group is great!

    • daddownunder November 14, 2012 at 7:50 am #

      Thats great Wendy, I am sure they are a life line for many parents. More a general observation than a blanket statement on my part. Goo dluck with the bub!

  2. Vicki November 14, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    Welcome to the World of Women – acid tongues and two faces at their best. But not all women are like that, as it only takes a few bad eggs to portray that image. Great post by the way and Max’s lunch looks really tasty too :)

    • daddownunder November 14, 2012 at 8:57 am #

      Hey Vicki, its certainly not a blanket statement, I imagine a good mums group must be hard to beat. His lunch is generally better than mine, I’m lucky if I get the leftovers : )

  3. SarahMac November 14, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    I hear you. You’ve got to find your own peeps and just hang with them or you’ll go mental, that’s my theory.

    • daddownunder November 14, 2012 at 8:58 am #

      Yes its far better to take your time and pick out a few like minded’s that wont judge OR just hang out with the other parents at your fave cafe like I do

  4. Beck November 14, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Well said. Nastiness and criticism are the last things we parents need. It’s bad enough to get it from family/in-laws who’ve forgotten how tough it was, we don’t need it from so called friends as well. They are meant to be a support, not the opposite. I really value my great, supportive mummy friends and I did not waste much time or emotional energy on the negative ones.

    • daddownunder November 14, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      I think your right Beck, you need to gravitate towards the like mindeds and protect yourself from the narrow minded’s.

  5. Me November 14, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    So totally true ! I never got into the whole Mothers Group thing as I went back to work when K was 4 weeks old – and to be honest, I didn’t miss it but maybe that is because you can’t miss something you never had.
    It really annoys me when people tear others down because at the end of the day – we are all doing our best with our children – we just have different opinions on how things should be done.
    Have the best day !
    Me

  6. thecontenthousewives November 14, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    AGGHHH that’s so disappointing! We should all just be encouraging and supporting each other. And to think they were her ‘friends’, what rubbish friends they are! btw – I would have ‘totes’ been earwigging too, ha, brilliant! (cute pics of Max too!)

    • daddownunder November 14, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      Hopefully they don’t read this otherwise I’ll have to find a new cafe

  7. Mumabulous November 14, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Miii-oooow! Looks like you’ve encountered some good old fashioned women’s bitchiness. I am happy to report that I found my mothers group to be a wealth of support and encouragement. I was lucky to stumble upon a particularly nice group of people.

    • daddownunder November 14, 2012 at 10:55 am #

      I’m sure thats the case for most parents, I was just in the right cafe at the wrong time

  8. Aly November 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    And this is why my best mate is a bloke! He tells me when I’m being ridiculous (and when my wardrobe needs to be rid of a particular item) without offending me or bitching about me behind my back… But I guess that’s why I married him ;)

    I’ve never been a fan of mothers groups but that’s probably because I was ultra sensitive when my first was a newborn so quickly retreated after feeling inadequate. I am lucky to have such a great support network of friends around me I’ve never felt like I’ve missed out.

    Have heard of a number of wonderful experiences but there are always bad eggs and gossip queens (and kings) out there, ready to put you down to make themselves feel better. Better to pity them I say. I’m too busy enjoying my life to worry what their problem is. Though if I were in your position I’d probably be eavesdropping too, makes for good blogging fodder :)

    • daddownunder November 15, 2012 at 12:45 am #

      The cafe is an excellent source of blogging fodder Aly ; )

  9. Julie November 15, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    I have opted for isolation over Mother’s Groups. So many of them focus on the Parent and sitting around drinking coffee, personally I would prefer to focus on the child and activities for the child. Also added to this I tend tend to fit into the ‘norms’ of mother’s groups.

    http://iliska-dreams.blogspot.com.au/

    • daddownunder November 15, 2012 at 12:47 am #

      So true Julie, although I still need my coffee

      • Julie November 15, 2012 at 3:55 am #

        Lucky for me I am a tea drinker!

  10. itsacircusinhere November 15, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    It is saddest to know that said mother will join her ‘friends’ non the wiser over lattes another week and no nothing of what took place.I know how she feels!Friendship need to be a unit of people who can bear all their emotional baggage and their choices in life without having to then worry if their friends are bagging on them behind their back.Friendship is harder too find now I am a mother.

    • daddownunder November 15, 2012 at 3:15 am #

      It is harder Jessi, but its probably more special and significant, you are sharing so much more. I’d rather have a couple of great mates than a posse of fairly shit ones.

  11. Lisa@RandomActsOfZen November 15, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    It can be so tricky Matt. I joined a mum’s group and some were lovely, some best left behind. But I did meet one of my dearest friends, who I still see almost 9 years later.
    So glad I’m not the only sneaky coffee shop listener :)

    • daddownunder November 16, 2012 at 2:51 am #

      I’m sure its invaluable for lots of parents. Keep snooping Lisa ; )

  12. iSophie November 15, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    I could never do the ‘Mum’s Group’ thing. I did go to playgroups when the boys were older, and there was a clicky group that you could just feel your skin prick when they were talking about you.

  13. Lydia C. Lee November 15, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    Chicks, man! Men just say sh*t to each others faces, women do it behind their backs to be ‘nice’. Go figure.
    Funnily, this mum at school constantly bitches about me (and it gets back to me, always) yet gets upset if I organise something and don’t invite her (ie something with the parents of my elder son’s year, not our shared year). That’s what I don’t get – if you don’t like me, aren’t you meant to make up reasons not to spend time with me? Not get upset when I do something without you??? Anyway, I don’t mind cos I’ve rhino skin (and butt, unfortunately) and I like her son and I guess I know it’s about her, not me because if it was about me, she’d avoid me,right??
    Anyway, that was a long story to say that I think women’s insecurities come out in a weird way – yet women have so many other great qualities they are forgiven….:)

  14. Lydia C. Lee November 15, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    That said, I know a group of cyclists and they spend a lot of time talking about one of the men who is very well endowed in their peleton (sp?). Without fail that comes up every time we have dinner together. I find that really weird. Maybe men are just as guilty but they don’t do it around me so I don’t notice…
    Humans, man! Too weird!

  15. Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions November 16, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    Fabulous post! I am not a member of a mothers group for two reasons. One: I have enough friends that I struggle to catch up with on a regular basis, both with and without kids, and I don’t need something or someone else to try and fit in.
    Two: I have always heard such horror stories about them that I was too scared to go to one lest I be judged for the choices I have made. But then by the same token, you only ever really hear horror stories when you are pregnant and it’s not always that bad so maybe I should have given it a go.
    Nah, who am I kidding, I’m too lazy to be bothered trying to get somewhere else on time every week!

    P.S. After that little facebook chat about Smooth FM, every time I have been in the car with it on, bloddy Otis Redding has come on and every time you have popped in to my head. Which isn’t an entirely bad thing, except that I used to always think of a young, hot Top Gun-Tom Cruise whenever I heard Sitting on the Dock of the Bay and now I think of you and I don’t think it would be right to imagine you in that particular scene that I always think about when I hear that song! You’ve ruined my fantasy! Lol!

    • daddownunder November 16, 2012 at 2:57 am #

      Sorry Kylez, I’ve been ruining womens fantasies for years, its what I do ; )

  16. Sonia Life Love Hiccups April 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    I think I love you Matt! In a totally platonic way of course. You get it! And you see us women for all our good and our down right rotten.
    This is exactly what I am talking about – woman savagely going for the throat of a fellow kind while the pack waits for their turn to jump in and shred any remaining dignity from the poor victim. Flipping makes me go crazy!
    On another note – so glad you introduced yourself. I had an awesome time last night reading a whole lot of your posts to my hubby. He was a stay at home dad to our 3 boys for a few years so he thought it was brilliant to see a Dad blogging the experience.
    You have a real knack Matt – you are headed for big things! x

    • daddownunder April 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

      Shucks Sonia you say the nicest things, from talk of platonic love to big things – I’m very flattered and blushing a little even though I’m in bed and the lights are off. Stay in touch

  17. Robyn (Mrs D) May 11, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    Fabulous post Matt! It’s sad to think of how easily we can judge and attack each other for our parenting (or general life choices) when in fact as mums (and dads) we are all in exactly the same boat. No two children are the same – if you judge someone else on something, you may very well find yourself that in that very situation with your next child. Resulting a real case of ‘eating words’!! I had a very bad experience with my mothers group in the UK and it was enough to put me off for life!! But when we moved to Aus I HAD to join a playgroup as I didn’t know a single person and luckily that has turned out to be the best decision I made. xx

    • daddownunder May 11, 2013 at 8:25 am #

      That’s fantastic that it paid off for you Robyn, I’m sure when you find the right one they are real sanity savers. Your exactly right, its hard enough without others casting dispersions on your decisions. Thanks for stopping by

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