Mean Girls Grow Up: How to Remain Sane Amongst the Alfa Moms
By Ellen Feig
The mom clique also forms because its members are going through similar situations. Motherhood, one of the most difficult jobs in the world, can be lonely, and accordingly, we reach out to others who, we believe, can empathize with our day-to-day lives. The desire for acceptance begins early and does not end when we are adults. Rather, that desire becomes stronger when our children are involved. If we are accepted by the popular clique, then, ipso facto, our children will be popular. In many instances, who you’re friendly with determines the social status of your child. D, a single mother with two children under the age of 12, recently enrolled her children in a new private school and was shocked to discover the hierarchy involved in social standing. “The first month at the new private school I went to pick up my son from a friend’s house. The friend’s mother said, ‘Welcome to the popular group! It’s not common that a new student gets in-it usually takes a year or two’.” D, disgusted with the comment, showed her disdain and soon neither her child nor she was invited back to the group. “My face gave away my strong dislike for her obvious choice to raise a bully.”
We’re Friends Because They’re Friends; They’re Friends Because We’re Friends
Even a place as mundane as the school parking lot can look like a caste system. My children’s elementary school parking lot would have been perfect fodder for an anthropological dissertation; Margaret Mead meets the women of Scarsdale, New York. The tennis moms, dressed in their finest whites, chatted about their children’s physical prowess and the amount of sporting events they had attended that weekend. The working mothers, always in a rush to catch the 9 am train, fixed their suits as they confirmed meetings via Blackberry and advised the nanny on the week’s events. The type A moms, former executives, huddled together to discuss the latest educational research and to confirm that their children were busy from sun up to sun down. The granola moms, few in this predominantly Jewish upper middle class area, held on to their brood (at least three with one on the way) as they carted trays of home baked cookies and discussed PTA meeting times. We were cartoon characters: what became remarkable over time was how much the children began to look, talk and act exactly like their mothers, dividing into groups and excluding others.
The birthday party (from an early age on) becomes the outward indication, the scarlet letter, of whether or not a mom is part of the clique. “When my son wasn’t invited to the cool kid’s bar mitzvah, I felt that it was a clear statement on my outcast standing. I was the single parent living in an apartment and they were all living in the big houses on the hill,” states A, a single parent living in Chappaqua. “I didn’t feel badly for myself as much as I did for him. It broke my heart.”
Lisa, a mother of three in Pelham, relates a similar experience. “Last year, my daughter was invited to a birthday party thrown by two of the super mothers for their extremely popular daughters. These moms actually rented out an expensive restaurant, had a full course meal, a DJ and swag bags that were filled with IPod shuffles. Being unable to compete as I had just given my last cent to my divorce attorney, I threw my daughter a party in our backyard. Needless to say, she’s been ostracized since.”