Question: I recently got involved with a group of moms because I was carpooling for an activity that our kids are all involved in. Most of the other moms are very nice, but one of them is quite painful. Not only is she a know-it-all and very annoying, she is also extremely ambitious when it comes to our children and who is the best at this activity. She constantly makes comments about her perception of everyone’s abilities, claiming that her children are the best. I thought it was just for the other adults but my daughter tells me she does the same when she drives all the kids home. She also talks about the size of their houses when she brings them home and all sorts of other things I really don’t want my kids to be exposed to.
My husband thinks I’m overreacting when I say I’m thinking about getting out of the carpool, and maybe he’s right. She triggered something in me and I don’t understand why I’m so upset. How do I find out and how do I explain to my child that what this woman is doing is pathetic without saying it?
Allison replies: The great thing is that you know that it triggers something in you. What you can do with this helpful information is work on why it bothers you and process that. This is usually the part where people get stuck because they “should” realize for themselves that “this woman is misleading me, but I shouldn’t be as upset as I am”. This narrative is then reinforced when your husband says you’re overreacting, although I’m sure his words are coming from a good place of wanting to help you.
The problem is that we didn’t get the How to Process Emotions manual and it’s like trying to figure everything out without the instructions. Don’t get stuck on step 1 ignoring your feelings as it feels like overreacting (the words “I shouldn’t” keep popping up) as that is the root of the emotion.
Put “should” aside and tune in to how that emotion presents itself to you, how would you label your feelings? Get your pen and paper ready and get started – no analyzing whether or not you should feel this way and writing down what you’re feeling.
As a friendly prompt, see if any of these questions help: Is there frustration? What’s the trouble? Be specific. Has this anger surfaced at other times in your life and why? Take note and write it down.
Are there personality similarities in historically similar situations? What happens to you when you hear someone explicitly say such judgments out loud? How is your inner critic? are you judging yourself Is your inner critic your voice or someone else’s? Do you have fears or worries that you are not good enough or not doing enough? I’m not claiming that this is true, but are these thoughts there? When a tough inner critic hears your own fears from another person, it can feel like an attack, and the first way to deal with it is to have a strong reaction to that person.
If you carefully dig a little deeper, see if some of the judgments pop up for you. Female friendships, or even ones made for convenience like this one, can be about status rather than connection. We’re talking about toxic masculinity, but there can be toxic traits that women engage in to make themselves feel superior to one another.
You know, and I know, that this always comes from a place of inferiority, and that’s how you can neutralize the stab.
It is immature and somewhat socially inept to boast of your children’s “achievements” as your own. The same applies to the comparison of house sizes. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for her, but out of compassion a contented person doesn’t feel the need to do this to another person.
Sometimes being straight forward with kids is useful and you could say that you’ve noticed that there’s been comparisons to the kids and other things and it’s not about what the sport is about. You could talk about the importance of being on a team and making friends and getting along. Evaluate what you say based on their reaction and don’t make personal comments about them, and then expand it into a more general discussion about things that are important to you.
You could ask how they feel when someone makes such comments and give them permission to respond in a way that maintains a healthy boundary. Honestly, there are things here that have growth potential for everyone. I’ve been really debating whether or not to suggest unsubscribing, it’s almost as difficult socially as leaving the nightmare whatsapp group. What’s your gut feeling saying? Did you tell the other moms? How about telling that mother? How do the children feel when they are with the other children?
Strong phrases that start with “I’ve noticed” can help set boundaries between what works and what doesn’t work in a group. In your opinion, what would be the consequences if you left the group? Sometimes it’s worse to think about than to face it. It would be good to post it in a constructive way if you feel it will be received.
Most of the time, the hardest part of setting boundaries is the discomfort of upsetting someone else, but when the values are completely misaligned with your family’s values, you don’t need permission to leave.
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https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/health-features/ask-allison-im-happy-and-confident-why-am-i-so-bothered-by-a-competitive-carpool-mum-41605895.html Ask Allison: I’m happy and confident — why does a competitive carpool mom bother me so much?