Something magical happens when you become a mum. That invisible social boundary that stops strangers talking to one another vanishes and you find yourself having deep personal conversations with other mums without even exchanging names.
And for the best part, these chats are fuelled by a camaraderie that comes from a shared experience of childbirth, navigating life with a newborn and surviving the whole parent thing. Really, there’s nothing more levelling than parenthood.
But sometimes you stumble upon a bad apple. A rotten egg, let’s say. A mamma who takes on the snivelling superiority of a competitor. Someone who thinks they’re winning and you’re losing, and is happy to let you know this.
I met one of these unsavoury types recently. It was the first day of swim school for our two-year-olds and we were sat like a pair of half-dressed lemons, waiting to be called into the pool with our toddlers.
The usuals were swapped. Age of child; temperament; where we lived; had we slept; had we forgotten the horrors of childbirth yet. And with each exchange, she appeared to be gaining momentum in her marvellousness as a mother.
This in itself isn’t a bad thing. I like mums who are owning it. It’s often a revitalising alternative to the usual tired-off, where two mums battle to the death about how sleep deprived they are.
But then I asked, is he in daycare? A simple question, really.
“Oh no, I’m one of the lucky ones,” she said smugly and with a heavy dose of condescension. “I don’t really believe in having kids and then paying someone else to look after them. Do you have to work?”
I outwardly winced at these words offered so casually but oh so critically. Annoyingly though I didn’t get to answer because we were beckoned into the class. But as I swished my child around that highly-chlorinated, highly-urinated pool, I kept thinking about her scornful words.