In elementary school, the principal is merely a figurehead.
The school is really run by a tightly knit group of women – a gung-ho group of stay-at-home Power Moms.
They establish themselves in the very first year – The Kindergarten Mom Mafia.
The KMM (Kindergarten Mom Mafia) hated me.
I’m used to not fitting in.
But when you have a kid – and the other moms ostracize you – your child suffers.
And it’s BRUTAL.
Kindergarten is an enormous milestone.
People were actually going to take my kid for a whole day, and I didn’t have to pay anybody?
There must be a catch.
The school encourages the kindergarten moms to volunteer.
I use the word “encourage” lightly.
Every day there were 10 more emails asking for help with the buses, at lunch, in the art room, with the pretzel sale, at the book fair, in the school store…
Volunteering for kindergarten is a full time job. And I already had a job.
But my schedule was flexible, and my kid really wanted me there.
Plus, I was hoping to meet other mothers.
About half of the moms in the class signed up to run all the activities for the kindergarten year.
Of this group, I was the only one who worked outside the home.
I know I’m a little different from the average suburban kindergarten mom.
I dress differently.
I didn’t show up looking like some Goth Punk Princess.
Maybe I was in destroyed skinny jeans, a Pink Floyd tee-shirt, some black booties.
I’m sorry. I don’t own frocks and cardigans.
Maybe I had a little ink here or there. A tat on my foot. It’s not like I had “fuck the police” emblazoned across my neck.
Maybe I’ve led a pretty different life than most of the women in suburbia, but what of it?
I don’t smoke crack and run a phone sex business out of my kitchen.
My house is always immaculate, I’ve got good grammar, and I bake a mean cupcake. I figured I was qualified for admission to any kindergarten clique.
I joined the volunteer squad, even though hanging out in the lunchroom with 50 raucous kindergarteners hopped up on fruit punch and Ring Dings was about as fun as having a root canal – without the Percocet party.
And I dialed down my personality a bit.
It didn’t work.
I don’t know why. I’m adorable.
And it’s not like I did anything off-putting, like referring to my son as “that douche bag.”
At least, not right at the beginning.
But I was emphatically denied admission to the KMM.
And just like that, my adolescent insecurities reawakened like a dormant virus.
In the “hierarchy of the clique,” the core members are the leaders.
The two leaders of the KMM had zero interest in me.
They were both named Tracy. Convenient, right?
I’ll just refer to both of them as “Tracy.”
The same way when I was growing up, the neighborhood referred to my entire family as “The Jew.”
Tracy wasn’t openly hostile to me. It was more passive aggressive.
First, she ignored my Facebook friend request, but it was early in the year so I assumed it was just an oversight.
But then I noticed she avoided any eye contact with me.
This is no small feat when you’re working at a school event.
It takes talent to ignore someone sitting across from you at a kindergarten table the size of a shoebox.
At birthday parties she made sure I was excluded from the momversations.
She would actually turn and position her body while speaking to someone so that I was physically barricaded from the conversation.
But I caught snatches of their latest lunch escapade, or their Friday night Applebee’s adventure. I was like a kid standing outside a bakery, with my face pressed up against the glass.
Able to see, but not partake.
It was ironic. When I lived in Manhattan, the only feelings I had towards the Bridge and Tunnel crowd were annoyance and disdain.
If my friends and I went to a club, and there were too many badly-dressed Jersey-ites, we left.
And now I was hyperventilating because a gaggle of New Jersey housewives were going out to lunch without inviting me.
Because it wasn’t just about me.
All the play dates hinged around the moms who bonded.
And my own unrelenting outsider status had a trickle down effect on my son’s social situation.
If you’re a part of the “in” crowd, you get asked for play dates.
If not, you can chase a piece of string around in your backyard, alone, until you rot.
In this respect, I completely failed my son.
He was left out of everything.
In school, Tracy was EVERYWHERE.
Even events that she wasn’t scheduled to help at, she showed up for.
She suffered from what I refer to as CVS: “chronic volunteer syndrome.”
It’s a disease that afflicts some women who, because they don’t work or have interests outside the home, measure their lives and sense of self worth in their children and what goes on at their children’s school
I work with the kids of those vicariously living moms, fast forwarded to high school.
Those kids who were given absolutely no breathing room.
And those are the kids who grow up and escape their parents faster than you can say “out of state college.”
I tried even harder to be nice to Tracy at school events.
I never called her a bloated, culturally barren, intellectually-stunted suburban fucktwit, but maybe my innermost feelings were not as well-hidden as I thought.
Or maybe it’s like I’ve always suspected – people in a tribe can sniff one another out.
Even though I spoke and acted like THEM, I clearly was not one of THEM.
Of course, my friends tried to make me feel better about the clique.
“You wouldn’t even want to be friends with them anyway” was the constant refrain.
Yes, outside the kindergarten arena I would have no reason to befriend Tracy.
But I didn’t want my son excluded, punished really, because Tracy had decided not to like me.
My gym friends warned me, “They’re never gonna like you – you’re too skinny.”
Well, it’s not my fault Tracy hadn’t lost the baby weight – and her baby was six.
Maybe if she wasn’t living vicariously through her kindergartener by organizing the lunchroom schedule, she wouldn’t be stuffing all her unfulfilled desires with Dunkin’ Donuts.
“It’s because you’re Jewish,” my Italian girlfriend warned me.
Okay – next Halloween I’ll dress my son up like Hitler.
Will that help him fit in better?
“It’s because you’re a single,” my male friend told me. “They think you’re after their husbands – or their husbands are after you.”
Really? I didn’t want my husband. I certainly don’t want yours.
After speaking about this for several years, it appears that many people believe it has a lot to do with the invisible line drawn between working and non-working moms.
If so, this pointless and nonsensical line needs to be erased.
After kindergarten, you’re not asked to come in on a daily basis.
And now, I volunteer for many events, but I’ve developed a thicker skin.
I don’t know if I have outgrown the politics of cliques or I simply do not care anymore.
Little Dude had a really rough go making friends the first couple of years.
All because of the Kindergarten Mom Mafia.
But – because he’s awesome, and because kids eventually outgrow the friends their mothers designate for them in kindergarten, he has a full social life.
That social life is HARD WON.
He knows it. We’ve discussed it.
And I have never stopped feeling guilty for that.
What’s most irksome about Mommy cliques is that they’re harmful to the very children those passionately involved parents are trying to help.
This type of exclusivity sends our children all the wrong messages.
It fails to teach them important social and emotional skills.
Bullying has become one of the most prevalent and widely discussed topics pertaining to school age children today.
Maybe the focus should be off the KIDS – and on the PARENTS.
Who do you think is teaching them to be bullies?
Do you ever feel left out or ignored by other school parents? Has your kid been affected by this?
Should the schools be addressing the Mom cliques, and the trickle-down effect it has on our children?
Talk to me. I’m listening.
Samara is a die hard New Yorker. Every day she wakes up in suburban New Jersey, her soul dies a little more. She blogs at A Buick In the Land Of Lexus. Samara can occasionally can be found on Facebook, and Twitter. But only when she’s supposed to be working.