“I was scared of you guys in kindergarten, you were the cliquey mums.” One of my best friends said this to me recently and it really shocked me. I was a cliquey school mum and I didn’t even know it.
My friend explained that our group already knew each other, we stood in a circle and chatted and laughed and it felt like we didn’t want to meet new parents.
She was partly right. My friends and I did stand in a circle to chat. We did already know each other because our kids went to preschool together. But she was wrong about me not wanting new friendships.
It’s not intentional
Meeting up at 3pm was exciting. It was a chance to actually talk to adults after a day looking after our toddlers and preschoolers at home. We compared yogurt stains and tantrums and our efforts to gain one scrap of time for ourselves. It’s just the same as when you meet a group of your friends at a restaurant – you don’t tend to notice other people because you are so focussed on connecting with your friends.
My friend explained that for other mums, who know no-one, that circle is intimidating.
I get it, that group of women we all call the cliquey mums can seem like it is hard to break into. And as she said, if you weren’t part of the in-crowd at high school it can make you feel like you are back in the schoolyard all over again.
But here’s the thing – it’s not intentional. Cliquey mum’s aren’t high schoolers. They aren’t Mean Girls. They’re just women who already know each other.
So how do you break into the cliquey school mum circle?
It takes time
My friend was wrong about not wanting me not wanting to meet other mums. Our friendship is proof of that.
But our friendship didn’t happen at 3pm on the first day of school. It happened gradually and naturally because of shared interests, our kids became friends and we had similar schedules. Our friendship grew at times when we were together in class reading groups, kids parties and playdates.
Do you share common interests?
If you’re looking at that group of cliquey mums and you feel left out, ask yourself why you want to join? What about the other parents standing alone around you? Do you chat with them? Are you driven to meet the cliquey mums because you feel that’s the popular group and you want in? The circle may look fun – but you could and will create your own, over time.
Don’t expect help
My friend said to make friends she had to stop expecting that other mums would include her. Physically being in a playground can make you think that teenage rules apply. But friendships take time to establish and grow and they are a two-way street. She took a leap and just started talking to people and helping them where and when she could.
Eventually, I met her, I loved chatting with her. She made me laugh and our kids loved playing together. The circle starts just by parents talking to each other and finding common interests. One day, she realised she was in the circle and so were plenty of other new mums.
I met another really great friend in the first week when she tapped me on the shoulder and said: “My son has just told me that I HAVE to meet you, he’s been playing with your son all week and they apparently want a playdate.” She then introduced herself and we made a date to hang out and get to know each other. We’re still friends five years later.
So if this is your first year at school, remember no teacher is going to pair you up with a buddy. Friendships take time to develop and you need to be brave enough to say hello. Ignore the cliquey school mum circle. Give it time. You will eventually find your tribe.
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