The anxiety starts the second our car enters the school gates.
Blood racing. Heart pounding. Palms sweating.
My child’s school has a bullying problem.
Behind the impressive façade of manicured hedges and wrought iron fences is a cohort of deeply entrenched and impenetrable cliques. The membership of which is judged solely on one’s ability to conform to a set of predetermined values (mainly of the monetary type). Stay with me here.
The target of this vicious bullying campaign is not my five-year-old son, it’s me — his 32-year-old mum.
For the uninitiated — the school gate is like fight club. But more blood is spilled. Facing a swarm of competitive and critical mothers twice a day is enough to cast a profound sense of paranoia and self-doubt on even the healthiest of egos.
There's no hiding either. These mothers will have you sized up and pigeon holed by week one.
And I was a marked woman.
You know the type. The leader of the playground pack. The cut-throat class mum. She chairs every school committee and is the first to volunteer at the charity cake store. She organises the holiday play dates and intentionally leaves certain children off the list, in a twisted mini-Hunger Games of which she is the puppeteer. She indulges in her own child’s success; nurturing her brilliant little humans with organic lunches and a raft of extra-curricular activities. The preferred mode of transport for her polished brood is a late model Range Rover Sport (most likely gun metal grey). After the two-minute commute, she arrives on home turf. It is now -- among her tribe -- that the “mum bully” (let's call her "mully" from now on) really comes alive. The school gate gang congregates outside the classroom. Sizing up those who dare to enter their lair. They turn to smile at passing prey … their voices hushed.
Look. I have thick skin. But while I can shrug off the slander of key-board warriors and Twitter trolls, I'll openly admit the comments by the mullies get to me. Take these recent gems (relayed by a neutral third party):