school

The book that taught me there are alpha-bitch mums at every school.

I drove home feeling sick, sad and slightly relieved. Unbeknownst to me a group of alpha-bitch school mums (and a couple of dads) had staged a coup that resulted me in being kicked off the school parent’s committee.

I’d been president of the committee for exactly one, traumatic year and spent most of it ducking for cover. There were many poisoned arrows flung in my direction.

I bet you think I’m exaggerating. That Jo Abi is such a drama-queen.

Well I’m not, and any parent who has been on a school committee like this understands that it is perfectly reasonable for me to still be suffering from PTSD rendering me completely unable to attend any meeting at this particular school, no matter how benign.

Salvation came in a few forms. Firstly the time (and money) I’d devoted to the school and the committee was suddenly freed up and I discovered a whole entire life I’d been missing out on such as resting, relaxing, binge-watching TV shows and sleeping.

That’s when I wasn’t doing housework, raising my children and working.

Salvation also came in the form of overhearing a hilarious conversation and a children’s birthday party during which my overthrow was discussed like a plot from Game of Thrones and instead of marching up to them and setting them straight I just giggled.

I was no longer a part of that world and thank goodness for that.

But my true salvation came in the form of a book called Big Little Lies by Australian writer Liane Moriarty and I’m not at all surprised it’s being developed into a TV series by HBO.

Nicole Kidman and Reece Witherspoon filming Big Little Lies (left). Image: YouTube and HBO. Big Little Lies book cover (right). Image: Booktopia

I love HBO. They'll do the story justice. Only they will be able to properly balance the ridiculous of some of the school-mum types with the dark humour of having complete and total strangers jump to really odd conclusions about you.

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At one stage I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd tried to run me over with their car, thus was their hatred of me.

Big Little Lies follows the lives of three women - Madeline, Celeste and Jane. The story is based on the experience of their children starting kindergarten at Pirriwee Public School. This book has everything - drama, intrigue, joy, tragedy.

However my first read of it - fresh from being spat out by aggressive parents on my children's school committee - led me to zoom in on the mum types described in the book, how manipulative some of them can be and I felt comforted.

It was nice to know that I clearly wasn't the only one who had suffered at the hands of alpha-bitch mums at my children's school. Enough parents had obviously been through similar dramas which is why this incredible book rocketed to to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers List.

If the book Big Little Lies doesn't soothe your bullied school-parent soul then the movie Bad Moms will. Image: Bad Moms, STX Entertainment

Issues such as domestic violence, bullying, sexual assault, the challenges of marriage, love and life are all addressed and it's one of those books that will have you laughing one second and crying the next.

The funny thing is that I didn't relate to one character in particular but saw a bit of myself in all of them.

Madeline is amazing. She's strong, confrontational and unafraid of bullying parents who try and manipulate and control others. She stands up for the week and never backs down from a fight. I tried so desperately hard to be Madeline but fighting back seemed to make my situation worse.

Culminating in the coup I mentioned which shocked the hell out of me. I couldn't believe a handful of parents at a large school could wield such power and that my so-called friends on the committee wouldn't protect me.

Then there's Celeste who is beautiful and fragile and tragic. She's easily startled and dislikes attention. She reminds me of my first year on the school committee. I knew I wanted to be there but was so intimidated by the confidence of the other parents that I hid in the corner of the room eating biscuits all night.

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Jane is the most damaged of the characters, owing to the assault she suffered and the quest she finds herself on to find the person who abused her so badly, if only to say, "I'm okay, despite your efforts to break me. So there." She is who I became and the kind of school parent I now consider myself to be.

The past is the past and now I concentrate on improving myself and enjoying my children, leaving all of that ridiculous drama to others.

One of the best things about being on a bad school parent's committee is that moment when you realise you no longer have to buy into their bullshit and can either move on or rebel. Image: Bad Moms, STX Entertainment

I should point out that the school committee I speak of is very different these days, made up mostly of incredible parents selflessly giving of their time to improve their children's school experience and many of my real parent friends still participate in meetings and events.

I can safely say that I will never darken the doors of a school parent's committee every again. Life is too short for all of that bullshit.

I'll leave the "blonde bobs" Liane Moriarty describes in her book to someone else. The Madelines of this world can defend the Janes until they manage to rise above all of the ridiculous drama and we can only hope that the Celestes of this world manage to free themselves from any shackles stopping them from being the women and mothers they truly want to be.

Big Little Lies is a fun read for non-parents and an essential read for school-age-parents, if only for shits and giggles and a bit of solidarity.

If you are struggling with alpha-bitch mums at your children's school you are not alone.

The Mamamia Book Club is the easiest book club you'll ever be part of. There's no set meeting date, and we will always wait for you to finish the book. Subscribe in itunes to read along with us or listen in, here:

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