Agony Aunt for Mums

Problem Corner: Tips for dealing with being intimidated by other mums at toddler group or school gate

A lovely Mum I know posted the following tweet oneday ‘Hate that I’m intimidated by toddler group. Need to grow some balls. Figuratively speaking.’ so I offered to do a question corner post for her, because what she doesn’t know is that we are all scared shitless of walking into those places (well 99% of us!).

She was ill during her pregnancies and has fallen into the habit of being a bit of a recluse, which has of course affected her confidence terribly.

Now the great thing is that she has volunteered to be a guinea pig for my new book ‘Six Weeks To A Sparkling You’, so I know that there is tonnes in there to help her out generally speaking.  But I wanted to give her some extra exercises, that I have done myself, which really help.

I too have felt nervous when walking into classes or toddler groups.  But there were two situations that I found more difficult than usual.  One was going to a church toddler group in order to meet up with a busy friend of mine, so I also had to face her extremely long term friends who belonged to the church.  I felt extremely awkward, because I knew I didn’t know all the politics and set up.  I remember making one awful faux pas at a party with them, and being very nervous afterwards!  The other was when Curly Headed Boy started at his second nursery, where the ‘Yummy Mummies’ were a massive step up from the ‘Yummy Mummies’ I’d met previously; I was terrified!  The good news is that getting myself more confident in that nursery situation got me prepared for the school gate, which would have been way worse otherwise.

Rules About Life

So first a couple of rules about how life works ….

1) You can never please all of the people all of the time: in fact you are going to appeal to about 50% of the people, so never worry about or attempt to be liked by everyone in life, as you are going to FAIL!

2) There are always people who are obviously, or quietly supporting you, whilst other people are being unpleasant or unfriendly.

3) If you don’t know why they would like you, then don’t expect them to know.  They will either think that you are nervous, shy, or at worst unfriendly, awkward and stand offish.  Hardly any will take the time to stand for a moment in your shoes and wonder how you are feeling.

4) Everybody is cliquee: It’s about numbers, that’s all.  I’ve found the Mums who are better dressed and richer can be unfriendly, but so can the more ‘normal’ ones.  Even you have been cliquee and scary to some people at some point in time!

5) No one is perfect, we just try to hide it, but if you look hard enough you will see the chinks in everyone’s armour.

So what to do about it?

1) If you are clearly ignored, disliked or blanked by some of the Mum’s notch them up to that 50%!  Now look around for the others.  They do not all like each other.  Stand back for a while, and watch.  Look for the body language and the cracks in the friendships.  Look for the people who are also nervous or shy.

2) Actually decide you are going to go, but be really quiet and watch for a while.  You must actively watch the other Mums, get there early and leave late.  Stop looking at your shoes; This way you will start to get to know what’s going on.  I’m amazed at the Mums at school who don’t do this, and turn up at the last minute, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they are shy, but they miss out on becoming friendly with the other shy Mums.

3) There are some exercises that you can do.  Get a cuppa and a notebook (you will want to be able to remind yourself of the answers sometimes when you lose your confidence again).

Changing Your Perception And Outlook

Step 1: Face Your Fears

You are worried, but what of?  Sit down and think about what the worst thing that could happen is?  For instance, they don’t talk to you, you spend the whole time alone, and no one wants to play with your son.  Apart from being a quiet and lonely hour, it could be quite chilled to not have to make polite conversation?  Look at it and see if it’s really as bad as you think?  Don’t exaggerate though, the likelihood that no Mum will ever talk to you and no child will ever play with your son is 0% (see previous points!).

Step 2: Work Out Why You Are Fab

  • Why are you interesting?  What have you done in your past that is unusual?  Where did you go?  Who did you meet?  What was/is your job?
  • What are you good at doing, that might help them out?  What are your skills?
  • What are you really interested in, so have spent time learning about?  You might have tips on meals, crafts, sewing, classes, what is it?
  • Now don’t argue with me, because I know that you are interesting and fabulous as everyone is; you can’t possibly be the only person in the whole wide world who breaks that rule!
  • If you struggle, then ask a partner or friend to help you get going

Step 3: Stop Being So Intimidated By The Other Mums

So you think that those other Mums are so amazing do you, in fact so amazing that they wouldn’t want to look at you?  Well I want you to look at the other side of the coin.  If you can see where they are great, you can also see where they are not so great or where their lives are not quite as perfect as it appears on the surface.  I don’t want you to do it until you don’t like them, just until they are not as scary as you think and you can see that they are just human beings.

Look for the obvious things: the week when they look more tired than usual, getting stressed with their kids, scuffed shoes, puke/snot on their clothes, being late, being too skinny, being over-weight.  Are they really stand offish, or maybe shy?  Are they divorced, is the husband away a lot, are they working.  If you can’t find it, it just means that it’s more deeply hidden, but it’s there: everyone has problems and everyone has weaknesses.

It’s not about being friends with everyone in the world.  It’s about not being intimidated or scared, and making great friends with the people who will really suit you and your son.

I’d love your comments or questions on this; feel free to post them below or on my facebook fan page.  If you would like to post your own question corner check here for more info.

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