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I know I’m supposed to pick up my daughter at the school’s back door. All of the second graders’ parents know that. But on this particular day, I needed to pick up my daughter from a side door, per her teacher’s instructions.
The moment the side door opened, a mom I'd never met yelled at me: “You can’t do that!” I didn’t say anything. I just looked blankly at the angry parent. She yelled at me: “I know exactly who you are!"
I nervously found my daughter, and tried to make our way to the outdoor popsicle party. Big mistake. The mom bumped my shoulder, “Hey! I’m going to call the police! You can’t go through the side door!” I told my daughter to keep walking. “You have no friends, you know,” she continued. “I have friends. Lots of them,” she said, adding: “And why are you always with your husband?” Things were getting creepy. “I know where you live!” she yelled.
It’s hard to talk about, even write about, months after it happened.
“Hi, I’m Cathy and I’m the victim of mom bullying.” Where do these mom bullies come from?
“They’re not new,” Dr. Irene S. Levine, a professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, told me. “[The bully moms] are just new to you.”
Bullies, Levine said, exist at all ages. A PTA mom bullying other parents was even the main plot of the recent movie hit “Bad Moms.”
“These bullies put down other women to make themselves feel better,” Levine said. “Everyone is striving to be the perfect mom and they [the bullies] criticize others.”
It turns out, parent groups such as the PTA can be perfect breeding grounds for the bully parent: “The PTA is a built-in clique," Levine said. "They’re stronger as a group.”
What makes a mom, or anyone really, resort to bullying behavior?
According to Levine, the adult bully may have been bullied as a child, teenager, or even adult; they likely lack self-confidence; and feel unsure about themselves. These types of personalities have always been around, but the rise of online discussions and forums has given them new outlets.
Levine has some tips for staying safe in the face of a bully.
- Avoid them!
- If you can’t completely avoid the bully, then distance yourself to the extent that you can.
- Do not take anything personally. You’re not alone. The bullies are probably bullying others.
- Don’t rally others to your team. Fighting a bully with bully tactics never works.
- Protect your child. Don’t let the bully hurt your child with his/her words or actions.
And, most importantly, do not try to change a bully -- it never works.
Cathy Areu is a New York mom who has written for the Washington Post, People magazine, and USA Weekend, and appears on TODAY's web series “Red Mom Blue Mom."