We talk a lot about bullying these days.
Mostly, in relation to kids and teenagers. We hear stories every day about kids who are tormented by their peers for everything from their shoes to their sexual orientation to the type of house their parents own. Bullying itself is not new -- not by a long shot -- but in the era of the 24-hour news cycle and smartphones, it seems like stories about bullies are everywhere.
My kids have assemblies and workshops and peer building activities dedicated to teaching them about standing up to bullies. They have been taught what to say if they feel bullied and how to recognize bullying so they can help a friend. The anti-bullying campaigns of recent years are reminiscent of the "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign we GenXers grew up having indoctrinated into our brains. We now focus our energies on teaching our children how to behave nicely to other children.
But, for all the time and energy we spend cultivating non-bullies, we fail to realize that the kids are learning this behavior somewhere.
What about grown-up bullies?
What about the adults who make other adults feel intimidated, belittled or excluded?
Where's the anti-bullying campaign for a mom who feels bullied at a PTA meeting? Or a fundraiser? Or by the mom at dance class?
Where's my role-playing assembly?
It's no secret that I'm actively involved in my kids' school and activities and I do that by choice. I love the connection you gain as a parent with the teacher in the classroom, the joy that my kiddos have on their faces when they see me enter their classroom and I'm not going to lie: I loves me some crafts. And construction paper. And glue sticks.
What I don't love? Mom Bullies.
Yep. I said it. Out loud.
The moms that make the day-to-day volunteering, schlepping, helping and donating miserable. The ones who judge and roll their eyes and talk behind backs. The ones who openly exclude other moms from volunteering activities or snub less popular moms publicly. The moms who feel that it's OK to blast people on their Facebook pages and hide behind veiled, vague snarks about another mom's commitment to an activity. The moms who are nice to your face, but who barely wait until you are out of earshot before they say rude things that somehow always make it back to your ears.
No matter how much we like to say that bullying problems end in high school, I'm here to say, uh, not so much. Mom Bullies are alive and well and trolling the halls of schools and sidelines all across the country. No matter how strong your self-esteem is, no matter how high your confidence level, an encounter with a Mom Bully will leave you feeling exactly like you did in fifth grade when Little Miss Popular Pants made fun of your clothes from WalMart. We may have grown-up lady parts but deep down, we are all still those little girls who want people to like us. We are still those little girls who have hearts that bleed when someone thinks that we are less than worthy.
We are all still the kid who is praying they won't be picked last for the kickball team.
Mom Bullies Suck.
And we wonder how we wind up with child bullies. What with apples falling from trees and all.
Last weekend, I had the honor and privilege of attending a conference in Baltimore, MD called The Blog University. Primarily, the conference was designed for women bloggers (and one dude... hi, Mike!) from around the country to come together and learn the ins and outs of blogging (Yes, there are things to learn about blogging, if you can believe it). Blogging rockstars Jen of People I Want To Punch In The Throat, Ilana of Mommy Shorts, Karen of Baby Sideburns and Susan of The Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva came together with other amazing faculty bloggers to teach classes on everything from marketing to Pinterest graphics tactics (which I aced, thank you very much, Hollow Tree Ventures!).
Now, one would think that for all of their NYT Bestsellers list success and the celebrities that hang out in their kid's bedrooms, they'd be a big, fat, pretentious bunch. One would think they would have rolled onto campus in their limos like Blogger Casino Whales with a list of demands that included Cristal, fine china and red M&Ms only. One would even think they'd be holed up in a five-star suite somewhere, only gracing us with their presence when they swooped in, uncovering their Hermes scarfs in clouds of Chanel No5.
One would be wrong.
These women came in airport shuttles and packed minivans and became my friends. They drank sh*tty coffee in the morning with me, they walked to classes with us and SQUEEEEED with me every chance they got. They laughed with me (and AT me, I'm pretty sure), encouraged my writing, boosted my confidence and called me "Rookie of The Year" (Seriously. Jen from PIWTPITT actually signed my I Just Want To Be Alone book that way... no joke). They opened their arsenal of contacts to me, helped me find my inspiration point for my upcoming book and showed me that the '80s are not dead. They were their true, authentic selves to me as was every other woman who came (and the dude didn't suck, either).They taught me the phrase that was seemingly the anthem of the weekend: "A rising tide lifts all boats" (Props to JFK, to whom this phrase is most often attributed).
Not a bully in the bunch. Not a single Mom Bully in the whole, blessed 250+ person bunch.
Let me repeat that: 250 women at a conference together for three straight days and NOT A SINGLE BULLY MOMENT.
Miracles do happen, I tell you.
I left that conference with a new-found confidence and a profound desire to tell Mom Bullies to suck my big left toe.
I realized that women CAN work in concert together and be nice. Women CAN raise each other up by combining their collective talents for the good of the order. There's absolutely no need to be mean, to snark or to step on someone's head as you are trying to climb the ladder of success. Women CAN create a ladder together, help each other over to the other side and vow to catch you when you take that leap of faith.
Can you imagine what PTA meetings across the country would be like if we put our time and efforts into building each other up? If we spent the time just being kind, non-judgmental and practicing what we preach to our kids about bullying? Can you imagine what it would be like to know that school activities, PTA meetings and sports teams were filled with moms who actually had NICE things to say about each other?
I can imagine it because I've seen it with my own eyes.
And I can think of 250 women and one dude who'd show up on the school playground to back me up the next time a Mom Bully messes with me.
Follow Christine Burke on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FruitLoopKeeper