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Why do moms meangirl each other?

“Hi. I’m feeling like I just got meangirled by a mom. Can you call me?”That was me, tapping out a late-night text to a mom friend last week. I’d just had my first brush with a Mommy Mean Girl, and frankly, it sent me into a bit of a tailspin.“Don’t worry,” came the reply. “Moms can be so freakishly catty.”Really? I thought that only happened in the movies.As a new mom, I have ple
Woman Holding Screaming Baby, motherhood, and msnbc.com stock photography
Woman Holding Screaming Baby, motherhood, and msnbc.com stock photographyJennifer Leigh Sauer / Today

“Hi. I’m feeling like I just got meangirled by a mom. Can you call me?”

That was me, tapping out a late-night text to a mom friend last week. I’d just had my first brush with a Mommy Mean Girl, and frankly, it sent me into a bit of a tailspin.

“Don’t worry,” came the reply. “Moms can be so freakishly catty.”

Really? I thought that only happened in the movies.

As a new mom, I have plenty to worry about: Feeding. Diapering. Sleeping. Childcare. Dinner!

I had no idea I had to worry about mean moms, too.

“I think that by the school years, the meanness actually dissipates -- it becomes your garden-variety cliques and gossipy circles, like eternal high school,” says Natalie Singer, a Seattle mom who blogs about parenting at Puget Sound Mom.  

“But the real meanness mushrooms in the early years: birth to kindergarten.”

Who knew? Not me.

For the past six months, since my sweet baby C. arrived, I’d been cocooned in a state of dreamy bliss. (Or maybe that’s just sleep-deprivation. Semantics.)

I emerged looking to connect with other new moms, and ready to embrace this “sisterhood of motherhood” everyone kept talking about.

In my city, as in many others, neighborhood mom groups -- where moms exchange nanny referrals, arrange playdates, and trade parenting tips -- are very popular. Strangely, I couldn’t find a group in my family-friendly neighborhood -- so on a Saturday morning, I decided to start one. I clicked through the steps online, and within minutes, my group was up and running. Membership: Me.

I sent a quick email to the moderators of other mom groups in town, thinking they would welcome another group into the fold and be willing to help me spread the word. Seems reasonable, right?

Nope. Shut down.

In fact, the lone reply I received referenced “some of the other group moderators chatting” about me, as if to let me know there was a Mommy Moderator Mafia that I would certainly not be allowed to join.

“There are elements of the whole mom thing that are very sorority rush,” says Jamie Strait, who is part of a tightknit community of moms in Hoboken, N.J. “It’s crazy.”

In a small suburb of Boston, even a drop-in play group organized for the purpose of making new friends made one mom feel like an outsider.

“I went in, and the moms were super clique-y, standing around and drinking their Starbucks,” recalls Maisy Fernandez, mom to a 2-year-old boy. “Nobody said hello to me, or even looked in my direction when I walked in.”

Becoming a new mom brings out emotions we probably felt when starting middle school, says Singer, the Seattle blogger.

“Everyone is new at this, we’re all uncertain, awkward, self-doubting,” she says. “We don’t know our new roles yet. We don’t know if we look good in our clothes. And as a result, we’re on the defensive.

“That’s the big, dark secret: A lot of times as new mothers, we don’t feel very good about ourselves. So sometimes, we judge each other in order to feel better.”

But this story has a happy ending. After the not-so-friendly email, a couple others trickled in from moderators who were happy to help. So maybe Mommy Mean Girl wasn’t speaking for all of them, after all.

Now my “mommy group” is 20 members strong, and growing by the day.

And I think I’ll institute a new rule: No Mean Girls Allowed.

Pamela Sitt is a freelance writer who, along with starting a moms group, created this website for Seattle-area moms: www.clarasmom.com.