To My Mean Mum Friend: We Need to Break Up

Dear Mean Mum Friend,

Once upon a time, when we first met, I bet we both would have laughed at that nickname. Part of how we bonded, in the beginning, was over how sick we both were of all this perfect-mummy stuff. Of the women in our mothers’ group who prattled on about their perfect babies or bragged about how breastfeeding was easy and the only way they saw fit. Who seemed to judge us for doing anything “un-mummy-like,” like that one time I brought wine to the group.

In fact, one of the things that initially drew me to you was how deadpan you were. How unfazed by all the trends and drama surrounding motherhood that suffocated me every time I would hang out in a group of other new mums. I loved that you were different, that you rolled your eyes with me when they criticised each other for the sodium content of a particular snack or declared that ring slings were the only way to tote one’s baby around town. Because really, it’s all just so silly. And I thought we agreed — that bottom line, the foundation of our friendship was a mutual understanding that mum-shaming is rampant and incredibly uncool.

But you know what? I was wrong. It took me about six months to figure out that you weren’t just rolling your eyes about those mum-shaming women. Actually, you were one of them. You’re just really sneaky about it. And after putting up with it for almost a year now, I’m ready. Ready to say goodbye to this toxic friendship and never, ever look back. Here’s why.

You’ve decided that not only do you dislike the mums in our mothers’ group who tried to make us feel bad about ourselves, you actually dislike just about everybody. You’re moody, nasty and rude. You talk badly about our mutual friends — yes, real friends, not mum-group acquaintances, when it’s just us. You gossip about their lives, suspect their husbands of cheating because “he’s just way too attractive for her. She’s let herself go.” It makes me wonder, Mean Mum Friend, what you’re saying about me when we aren’t together.

The eye-rolling I thought at first was reserved for other mums who were judging us, is actually for everyone. It’s for the mum at the park who asks to borrow a nappy because she ran out. When she walked away, you rolled them majorly and said, “God, who goes to the park without extra nappies?” I guarantee you, Mean Mum Friend, even the most prepared of us is bound to forget an extra nappy from time to time. Or have more poo-explosions than anticipated while out, annihilating even a surplus of nappies. I hope that when it happens to you, the woman who lends you one doesn’t do it reluctantly like you did that day, and that she doesn’t talk about you when you walk away.

Then came the day that you were actually, finally, mean to me. You see, we live in different worlds, you and I. We have different household incomes and lifestyles. I was okay with this for our entire friendship because this is not the kind of thing that would deter me from a friend. But when I was in a tough spot, working 40-hour weeks without childcare, and you, a stay-at-home mum who can rely on family for free babysitting any time, lashed out at me for having to cancel a playdate, I knew. I knew for sure, no questions asked, that you were not just mean to the other mums. That you are — plain and simple — mean.

And here’s the thing: I’ve dealt with the mean girls already. They tormented me in high school, and trashed my folders. They kissed my boyfriends on purpose to break my heart. They tore me down, and called me fat. They made my life miserable for years before I ever even met you. The one thing that got me through those times was the belief that when I grew up, I wouldn’t be locked into the social choices housed within one building. That I would be out in the world, meeting girls (well, women) more like me. Who would be kind. Who would love me. Who would not judge me and certainly who would be there for me in hard times.

I don’t want to believe I was wrong. I won’t believe it for a second. I won’t let you make me believe that mean mum friends are all I’m going to find, that my hope as a tormented teenager was false. So, you know what I did? I picked up the phone. I called one of our mutual acquaintances and leveraged that connection into a playdate, followed by another one and another one, and soon, a real friendship. She’s kind, and we share the same kind of good times together that you and I used to, without the trash-talk.

I will no longer be meeting you at the coffee shop to listen to you tear down other women, whether I like them or not. I will no longer bite my lip and hold my tongue while you make nasty assumptions about their character, their children, or their husbands. I will break up with you the only way I know how — the way a mean girl deserves, and just slip away. I can only imagine what you’ll say about me now, but I choose to no longer care. I hope the next friend you meet is bolder and better at standing up to you. I hope she tells you about yourself. That friend just won’t be me; I don’t even have any more time left to waste on you.

So, goodbye.

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