“Oh, I see that you’ve pushed a baby out of your vagina too. Let’s be friends.”
There are many things about motherhood that I find tedious and painfully dull. One of the things I detest most of all are those social situations in which you are co-opted into a forced camaraderie with other women based solely on the fact that you have produced your own biological offspring, and nothing else.
Playdates, playgroups, preschool.
Mother’s groups. Antenatal groups.
Breastfeeding meetings. Story time at the library.
I hate them all, because they tend to be populated by people I’d never voluntarily elect to hang out with in the real world. Some of them are boring, some of them are self-righteous, some of them are even downright crazy, but you don’t realise until it is too late and you’ve been trapped in a conversation about sleep training for 25 long minutes.
Here are some of the more common types you need to be wary of:
1. The Breathless Oversharer – Having finally escaped the solitary confinement of her infant-imposed house arrest the floodgates of adult conversation are open, and nothing is off limits. Her health problems, her kid’s health problems, her finances, her fractious relationship with her husband, her menstrual cycle, her sexual activity, unusual fungal conditions. A tsunami of uncomfortable detail unleashed time and time again, you will marvel at the furious onslaught of run-on sentences as she stampedes from one inappropriate non-sequitur to the next without drawing a breath. She doesn’t get out much.
Talks about: Literally everything. You want it to stop but it never will.
2. The Neurotic Routine Mum – This mum is overly interested in your kid’s sleeping and feeding habits in a way that is borderline creepy, and with the burning fervour of a fundamentalist. They are always quick to mention that Little Johnny slept through the night from 3 weeks of age and credit their success to a combination of controlled crying from birth and sleep “gurus” like Tizzie Hall and Gina Ford, cult-like in their one-eyed devotion to the God of “self-settling”. They are full of condescending pity for you if your kid dares to behave within the normal spectrum of infant behaviour and, heaven forbid, wake up during the night.
Talks about: The joys of “self-settling”, “routines” and “controlled crying” and reels back in mortified horror if you admit to rocking your baby, demand breastfeeding or co-sleeping.
3. The Uptight First Time Mum – Helicoptering madly as her child clambers onto a two foot high plastic slide on the grass, the uptight first time mum is always easy to spot. She makes anxious comparisons with her peers, speaks in concerned tones of milestones, can reel off an impressive list of growth stats from her child’s first twelve months and has the local MCHN on speed dial. She rocks up to the emergency department for the most innocuous looking rashes and bruises to rule out meningitis or concussion, has used the antenatal period to obsessively research and read up on every trend and study on child rearing and can talk for hours on the pros and cons of such arcane and niche parenting subjects as baby-led weaning, baby wearing, controlled crying and attachment parenting. She bores everyone senseless with her obsessive fear that she is going to f**k her kid up despite all her best efforts because she hasn’t done this mothering gig long enough to realise that you are going to f**k them up no matter what you do, so you should just stop worrying about it.
Talks about: The fact that Little Johnny only put on 535 grams last week and has slipped back to the 97th percentile for weight so she has scheduled an emergency meeting with the child health nurse first thing in the morning to browbeat her into writing an urgent referral to the state’s pre-eminent developmental paediatrician.
4. The Insouciant Free Range Mum – You are doing well if you can even find this woman. She is the one that is never in eyesight or earshot of her children. Her kids are usually the ones climbing six foot fences and falling face first off the top of playground equipment because a) her interactions with them are characterised by an excessively casual unconcern that borders on negligence or b) they aren’t actually being supervised because she is nowhere to be seen. Stay away from her kid unless you are in a good position to catch them.
Talks about: Nothing, because she is never around. Might offer an exasperated “thanks” for comforting her inconsolable child whilst a search party of six had been dispatched to find her because Little Johnny split his head open after falling off the roof of the church hall while she was chatting in the tea room. Then she asks for a band-aid and goes back to the tea room while Little Johnny continues scaling the walls and pushing younger babies face first into the sandpit.
5. The Milestone Braggart – Super-competitive, this is the Mum who regales you about their supernaturally precocious child who is smashing every developmental milestone and is supremely gifted in every way. All her sentences seem to start with her child’s name. “Little Johnny was walking SO much earlier than all of his clearly stunted peers”. “Little Johnny was the first baby in my mother’s group who used coordinating conjunctions to connect two independent clauses, when all the others were still dribbling ‘dada’ and ‘mama’ into their morning weetbix”. They are not beyond making ridiculous and patently false claims to make their children seem superior to others. This kid even shits better than other kids.
Talks about: The perceived superiority of their child. Constantly.
6. The Overzealous Organic Mum – This new-millenial “hippy” mother is all about breastfeeding advocacy, babywearing, baby-led weaning, gentle discipline, attachment parenting and a zealous commitment to never using the word “no” within earshot of their child’s precious self-esteem. Rolls her eyes at your ergonomically-unsound Baby Bjorn “crotch-dangling” carrier and tries to convince you with dubious personal anecdotes that amber teething necklaces really work. Earnest to the point of sanctimony, she will raise her eyebrows in condescension and horror when you send Little Johnny for a time out after he hurls that vintage Tonka truck into oncoming traffic for the third time in ten minutes.
Talks about: The merits of the Ergo sling vs the Manduca carrier vs the Peanut ring, as your eyes glaze over with catatonic boredom and you pray that you choke on your next bite of home made rice bubble slice.
7. The Bitchy Gossiper – Often found arrogantly lounging at the centre of a closed huddle of several other regular mothers, the bitchy gossiper is matriarch of this clique of ice-cold shoulders to all but the oldest serving members of the local mummy Mafia. It’s like she never left high school. She seems to control all of the social interactions by stealth and freezes out the newbies until they have served an appropriately long apprenticeship, graduation determined by the depth and quality of their servility to the reigning mummy monarch. Rude and dismissive, she archly ignores your polite attempts to make awkward small talk about your offspring, mortified by your ignorant breach of social etiquette.
Talks about: She’s probably talking about you right now. You’re such a loser. And your kid is ugly.