6 Strategies for Nipping Mom Gossip in the Bud
We're all friends here, right? Let's be honest. Some days, you get together with your mom friends (or even those "survival" friends that you hang out with just because your kids are the same age), and the talk turns negative. It happens, it's probably almost inevitable. We moms are often tired, and sometimes it seems to help us feel better when we can point out the faults of other moms.
Maybe you're in a mom group that actually makes an effort to look nice, so it's all too easy to make snap judgments about the mom in your neighborhood who wears a stained t-shirt and yoga pants every day. Or, perhaps you're in the mom group who makes fun of the other mom group at McDonald's because they're dressed up like they're going out on the town--when they're actually just going to McDonald's. Whatever issues you have with another mom, or moms, let's just stop and remember one thing: we're all in this together. We're all the same, just trying to make it day by day. And while some days some of us look like really crappy moms, or others appear to royally have their crap together, just remember that looks are all-too-often deceiving. This whole negativity-mom-gossip thing? I realized just how messed up it was when I moved to a whole new state, and felt like I was just getting my bearings in a mom group. But at a playdate, everyone started to talk about a certain mom who was also fairly new in the neighborhood, and my heart ached for her. Is she a little strange and over-eager? Maybe. But no mom deserves to be ridiculed, especially when she's just trying so hard. You get me? Good. So the next time you hear (or even start to participate in) mom gossip, I would encourage you to follow these simple strategies:
1. Redirect the Conversation
This might sound complex, but it doesn't have to be in practice. If you sense the conversation is taking a negative turn, steer the conversation in a new direction. Ask about someone's recent vacation, or commiserate about the woes of spirit week. You don't have to spurt sunshine and rainbows out of your bum, but just be proactive and talk about something else that's sure to nurture a healthy, uplifting conversation.
2. Refute the Claims
Although some moms really might be truly crazy, all types of gossip are damaging and non-productive. So if you feel comfortable, say something like, "Yeah, so-and-so might be a little intense, but we all are when it comes to something we care about. She's just trying to be a good mom in the best way she knows how." It's possible to "join in" the conversation without bashing on the subject. For all you know, your wisdom might offer a new perspective that other moms hadn't thought of, and can save your group from falling into a merciless pit of mommy mocking and judgements.
3. Get to Know Her Better
Do you know someone that moved in a week ago and her house already looks like something out of a magazine? Still, her achievements don't have to make you feel bad about yourself, and can even offer a new way to get to know someone. If you feel overshadowed by someone's accomplishments, consider asking them for some lessons in their area of expertise. You might be surprised at how much you learn, and how each person has their own struggles to deal with---some are just more hidden than others.
4. Find a Different Outlet
Sometimes it just feels good to go on about how annoying the mom down the street is. But you can spend your time much better building things up than tearing them down. The truth is, gossip is toxic, and it can become quite addicting. If negative talk is a struggle for you, find a different way to connect with people. Consider volunteering, or starting your own co-op preschool. All too often we find that gossip helps us feel better because we are insecure about our own image. Work on yourself, and don't be afraid to include some serious self-care. This will help you be happier and more well-rounded.
5. Focus on the Good
Even if you don't particularly like a certain mom, you'll always see what you are looking for. Try and focus on the good that comes from that mom. Is she outspoken and doesn't let anyone get a word in edgewise? See that as a skill that should be put to good use; she can help tutor your kids on public speaking! Is she the type of person who always brags about how fit she is? Ask her to teach a church or community exercise class! There are almost always good things to find in even our least favorite people if we're willing to keep an open mind.
6. Avoid tempting situations
If you have a friend that loves to gossip, try to do things with them in larger groups or mixed company. Avoid people who make the conversation about tearing others down, and gravitate to those that lift each other up. And if the mom you tend to gossip about is just all-around awful, try to avoid interactions with her, too, so you don't have fuel for the fire. In the end, she's probably just as frustrated or feeling alone as anyone, and needs friendship just like everyone else does.