The modern day is all about connection, from social media to our always-on network phones we are communicating and meeting new people at rates never seen before. Being a mom in this day and age is amazing, anything you need to know is at your fingertips and support from all directions is available 24 hours a day. There are still a few problems that surface though, and ones you may not expect. Bullying, once thought to be a problem only in elementary schools has become a virus sweeping through mom groups and nobody is immune to being on the wrong end of it. While it may be tempting to throw in the towel and just give up on having a social support system of other moms, it’s important to step back, breathe and actually confront the problem.
Why moms bully other moms is a question for the ages. There are many causes, from having low self-esteem to coping poorly with stress. Whatever the reason it’s good to remind yourself that it’s definitely not your fault that they are treating you this way and you didn’t do anything to deserve it. In all cases of bullying, the victim is never at fault. Working on your own self-esteem and realizing that you’re not the one causing a problem can help remove some of the stings of being bullied, but it won’t completely fix the issue.
What doesn’t work
It’s time to come to terms with the fact that the advice you were given as a child to “just ignore them” isn’t actually helpful. While childhood bullies may lose interest and go on to victimize a different kid, adult bullies are relentless and with the help of the internet, they can now bully a whole host of other moms without much effort.
It may be good for your mental well-being not to put much stock in their words and not to react to their actions with equal vitriol but it’s never going to be possible or even healthy for you to try to force yourself to ignore it. Your feelings don’t go away just because you push things under the rug.
Additionally, continuing to let them behave this way unabated is just going to escalate the situation to a realm that you’re going to be unable to write it off as them just being horrible.
Bullies feed themselves on negative attention, and while you can’t just ignore them and hope it works, you do need to be aware that participating in the drama isn’t a viable option either.
What to try
The first line of defense is to set strong boundaries. Setting expectations for how to interact with you early on can nip a lot of problems in the bud. The first time you see a hint of bullying behavior, shut it down. Don’t let people disrespect you or attempt to get under your skin. Make it clear that you’re not here for these types of games.
Keep your own nose clean. Don’t talk about others behind their backs, engage in gossip, or criticize other moms. Being a paragon of virtue can help protect your rep against accusations and gossip. If you are an encouraging, thoughtful, respectful individual, your bully may find you above reproach and even if they don’t it will make it really difficult for others to believe the nasty things that are said about you.
Be an advocate. If you recognize bullying happening, even if it’s not about you, do what you can to help the victim. Reaching out to them to just check-in will go a long way and while it’s just a nice thing to do, it also helps you build a bunch of like-minded moms who are there for support and not tearing each other down.
Call them out. Bullying isn’t much fun if there’s no profit. Don’t be afraid to be frank with your bully and state that you’re not interested in that kind of interaction. Keep it simple and factual. Don’t stoop to their level, but let them know you’re not going to keep their secrets or let them run around behind your back or the backs of your friends. Darkness fears light, so be ready for this to get a little dicey before it gets better.
When to walk away
Realize that because you didn’t cause this problem, you can’t exactly always solve it either. While you may be able to insulate yourself from the worst of it by setting boundaries and decreasing opportunities for drama, you can’t actually make another mom into a better person. Whatever is causing them to act this way towards others was deep in their psyche before you met them and it will remain there until they do the work to fix themselves.
If you’ve done all you can to let them know where the line is and they keep crossing it, you might need to walk away. If the bullying is affecting you greatly, if it’s interrupting your day, causing you to lose focus, or just making you feel awful more often than not, it’s okay to cut contact.
While this may seem like the nuclear option, especially if your bully is a big part of your friend group, it can be important for your own mental health. Be prepared that this will often seemingly backfire as friends who feel pulled in two directions can often be found siding with the bully out of fear of repercussions.
Making new friends
The sad fact is a bully can wreak havoc on an entire friends group and while you may be in the right, the abuse, bullying and other actions of the bully can help them control people through fear. Eventually your friends may come around, usually after one or two also decide to cut contact and the cost of leaving isn’t outweighed by the fear of being cast out by the bully.
In the meantime, it’s good to branch out and make more friends. You can still keep friendships with your old pals, but if the group is becoming strained making your way into a new group can be helpful and supportive to your healing.
Keep in mind that mom bullies exist everywhere and solving this problem once likely won’t solve it forever, but each time you encounter one you’ll get better and better at recognizing problems early, making it less painful for everyone when you stop the bullying in its tracks.