I wasn’t sure I should write this post then I met a bunch of blooming lovely readers at one of my tour events recently who were complaining of cliquey mums at the school gates and I knew I had a duty to share my own experience along with some tips to help others.
Let me kick of by stating the school my sons are currently at in Windsor is UTTERLY AMAZING: the staff, the mums, the Head Teacher. I was embraced by the community there with open arms when my sons joined the school in September in our move to Windsor, and I’ve made lifelong friends with some of the parents there, and I’ve never felt happier. Nor have my children.
I’ve actually felt this way about Windsor generally from the get-go be it the service from the shop assistants to the lovely Windsor locals. There’s a real sense of obvious pride that Windsor is a Royal borough and while I wasn’t sure what to expect here when we moved, I’ve never witnessed a friendlier town.
Now that’s not to deride Yorkshire either.
I’m proud of being a Leeds lass and the majority of people there are truly wonderful but my experience of school life when my eldest started school in a village primary close to where we used to live was far from positive. So much so, I used to dread the school drop-off and pick-up if I’m honest and my husband usually took the reigns there.
The saddest thing is, other mothers with children there would confide in me that they too felt the same. That the parents weren’t friendly, they were ignored and excluded. Particularly if they were working parents. The school was an odd one to be fair. Their ethos was kindness yet the Head Teacher at the time was anything but, to the extent she would go out of her way to try and upset me and others e.g she tried to prevent my family and I from watching the much-anticipated Nativity when I lost our tickets knowing I had bought them but I still supported the school donating to them and persevering.
The school receptionist was positively vile to new and old parents alike too, she was rude, abrupt, flippant and every request or question would be met with ‘look at the website’- all in such stark contrast to the receptionists at my children’s current school who collectively go above and beyond with every single parent so everyone feels part of their children’s education and valued.
I shockingly remember the kids’ former school not allowing my younger son to use the bathroom when he desperately needed it due to some sort of rule which incidentally doesn’t apply to their current school!
Anyway enough of those particular bad memories and onto to others (!)…
There will always be cliques in life be it at work or inevitably at the school gates, and while it’s important to remember that most people are KIND, it doesn’t make others’ bad behaviour any less painful. Often nastiness manifests when others act from place of fear: fear of new mums or losing their friends or even power within a relationship/group. I’m truly lucky that hand-on-heart, my own large tribe of pals are the most open, welcoming and loving of people you could ever wish to meet, and it’s why I have such a wide circle I suppose- with all, mixing and bonding be it at school, at networking events or even cocktails with the girls.
EVERYONE CAN FLIPPING SIT WITH ME!!! It’s how I’ve always rolled.
So as you can imagine, when Oliver, 8, started school aged 4 in Yorkshire, I was rather shocked at the bitchiness I was faced with in the school playground. I felt like I was the one who’d started school, not my child. I understand that my public facing job might seem weird to some (many knew who I was and what I did for a job) but I’m a down to earth, warm person who wants to make friends just like the next person. I actually recollect starting a conversation with a group of parents only to have one physically block me from conversing sticking her elbow out. Another behaved like a bully, shouting at parents and behaving as if she ruled the playground. Madness.
Funnily enough, when we moved to Windsor, some of those very people tried to add me as their friend on Facebook and others left endless comments on my Honest Mum FB page. It’s laughable really.
I did make some wonderful friends there too though (it wasn’t all dismal) with some I even saw recently at my Leeds book launch party, and I got over the upset long ago but I wanted to share some tips here in case you’re in the thick of it right now, because I know how unpleasant it is.
Here are my Top 5 Tips:
- When they go low, we go high Michelle Obama style so even if no one makes eye contact with you or chats, YOU MUST smile, be polite and remember that drop-off and collection times don’t need to take long and that before you know it, you can get back to your fulfilling, abundant life around people you love. Use your phone to distract you if you feel awkward in the playground too.
- Don’t allow bad experiences to shape new relationships. People who don’t know you, DON’T FREAKING KNOW YOU so remind yourself that their behaviour is about them and their own insecurities, NOT YOU. What other people think of you is none of your business. Equally, you must not allow negative experiences to shape how you act when you meet new people who will hopefully deserve your time and energy. Trust your gut, be nice and don’t let a few bad eggs ruin potentially glorious relationships with others.
- Deep breaths. I feel so grateful to yoga and meditation in every aspect of my life. Let deep breaths centre you before drop-off and collection and even practice breathing in for 4 and out for the count of 6 while in the playground. No one will be able to tell what you’re doing and you’ll feel like one chilled out mother before you know it!
- Don’t let other parents stop you for being their for your child. Attend assemblies, school fair days and anything else the school puts on because you are doing it FOR YOUR CHILD. Don’t miss out because of other people who don’t matter.
- Make the effort. New situations are scary but it’s important you reach out and make the effort as there will always be a handful of awesome mum and dad friends who can make, whatever the perceived power of cliques in the playground.
I hope this post is useful. Leave me a comment if you have any questions,