Dear Bitter Butch,
How do I handle my kid’s BFF’s mother? I’m having an issue and I can’t figure out how to approach it. My kid will confide in her BFF, and the BFF will tell her mom– all of that is fine. Then the BFF’s mom will join me in a group of chatting parents and will bring up what my daughter said. Often what she brings up is some months-old complaint my daughter had about me, and I find myself explaining a conflict we had ages ago, that 1) we had already worked through and 2) is no one’s business.
I could ask her to approach me privately, but I don’t want to talk to her about this stuff at all. The issue from her side is that she believes I am not sufficiently responsive to my kid’s feelings/thoughts/desires, and therefore suck as a parent, and somehow it’s her job to point this out to me. In public.
Our kids are very fond of each other, and I don’t want this issue to mess that up. Ideas?
Dear Seeking Ideas:
First of all, I am sorry that your kid’s BFF’s mom is a total fucking asshole. Really and truly. What a horrible position for you to be in. Here’s the thing: this woman is a shitty, shitty person. She’s an insecure, judgmental, snarky bully. Now, like all bullies, she is depending on your desire not to make a scene so that she can continue to berate and judge you. In public. She is probably also depending on your desire not to make waves because your kids get along so well.
The good news is that anyone hearing this who is a decent person (and she is NOT) is judging her for her total assholery. Not you. So please rest easy on that point.
And the only response to someone who is depending on you not to make a scene is to make a scene. Not to pull her aside privately. Do it in front of everyone. It does not have to be a huge scene. It can be very small and chilly. Your region will probably dictate how ape-shit you can go on her. I also suggest you do the ‘broken record’ technique with her, as I assume she will continue on for at least a few more sentences.
First, you look truly pissed off and say: “Excuse me?” As if you cannot believe your ears. And when she continues, you say: “Really?” Again, hands up: shaking your head at her total lack of regard.
And when she continues (and she will), you say dismissively: “Thanks for your input, I guess,” and change the subject abruptly, maybe even laughing a little at her astounding rudeness. Do it again and again. When she realizes that you are not going to fall all over yourself trying to explain your personal business to her in front of other people but instead are going to point out her rudeness, she will eventually give up.
Now this is the most important part of my response: she is also preying on your fear that you’re a bad mom. You fear this, right? Like all women do?
Well, you aren’t.
A bad mom would not allow this friendship to continue; she’d just tell her daughter to stop playing with that kid who tells her mom everything. But you are valuing your daughter’s friendship over your comfort. This woman thinks she’s a bad mom, too, which is why she is doing this: trying to deflect her desperate conviction that she is a horrible mother onto someone else.
Most of us really aren’t horrible mothers, but our society tells us so constantly in large ways and in small by setting up unrealistic expectations of what a mom should be involving lots of naturally-dyed and hand-decorated cookies you deliver to your kids’ St. Paddy’s Day celebration during your weekly volunteer stint at her school after negotiating a make-or-break deal at your fancy job someplace.
So say it to yourself, like a mantra: “I’m actually a pretty good mom. I’m a damn good mom. Sometimes, I’m even a GREAT mom.” And if you believe it yourself, really and truly– you will not be as bothered by the busybodies of this world who are trying to puff themselves up by making you feel small.
P.S. Fuck her. Seriously WTF
BITTER BUTCH aka Haddayr Copley-Woods is a queer, a cripple, a nerd, a mom to two kids with neurological differences, and has a truckload of opinions on everything including sex and relationships, parenting, disability issues, family relationships, work dynamics, gender/sexuality issues, and etiquette. You can reach her with all your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org