By BERN MORLEY
I stood there, eagerly waiting to scope out that cheeky face in the throng of identical navy uniforms. The bell sounded and out came 500 scruffy, hot and bothered primary school children bounding towards their daily freedom.
This was a bit of a rarity and privilege for me, to be honest – I work a lot and I rarely get the chance to pick my son up after school.
This particular day, Jack ran out from his classroom, his eyes lighting up as he spotted me in the crowd. He then proceeded to launch himself at me and wrap himself around my leg.
That was when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see an immaculately groomed woman in what can only be described as “high performance workout wear”.
She spoke quickly, like her mouth was a rapid-fire machine gun. She was clearly on a mission.
“You’re Jack’s mother, aren’t you?”
You would think that the child named Jack wrapped around my thigh would be a dead giveaway but instead I answered her with a nod and a smile.
“We don’t see you in the classroom very much,” spat over-enthusiastic Jane Fonda.
I fumbled and tried to explain that I worked and that I didn’t have the time but I’d really… She cut me off.
“You have VERY large hair don’t you?” I felt my hand instinctively reach up and touch my wild curls. I went to answer that yes, I do but before I could, she cut back in and said ‘We’ and with that she turned and directed her gaze towards a group of doppelgangers wearing black Lycra, “can help you make it more, err, more manageable, calm it down a little, make it smoother, you know?”
That’s when I turned on my heel and politely told her to go fuck herself. No I didn’t. I inexplicably THANKED her and said that “I’d think about it”. I’d THINK about it? I’d think about letting her control the way I looked? Who were these women? And why was MY hair a topic of their conversation? Why on earth did they care?
In hindsight I realise it was simply because they had nothing better to do with themselves and that they probably wanted me to join their judgmental posse. Right after I fixed my clearly DISGUSTING hair of course. It also dawned on me that their lives revolved around that school gate and the school pickup. It was all about who they would see or more importantly, who would see them. Silly me, I thought we were all there to you know, JUST PICK UP OUR CHILDREN.
Yet if the figures streaming out of the UK are anything to go by, the market for ‘School Gate Mummy Makeovers’ is not only increasing, it’s booming:
‘Having a “Mummy Makeover” is part of a trend toward women wanting to look refreshed again after the summer holiday break,’ Dr Naylor added. ‘We aren’t creating beauty, we are simply restoring it.’
The news comes after it was revealed in MailOnline last week that mothers spend an average of £87 to make sure they look their best at the school gates.
They will have spent a collective £658m on clothes, jewellery and beauty treatments.
One in five admitted in a survey that they feel under pressure to look glamorous on the school run.
Forums on parenting websites are awash with mothers lamenting their dread at the school run resuming – not only for the challenge of getting children dressed and out the door on time but because they’ll have to face other ‘judgmental’ mothers again.
One such thread on netmums.com is entitled ‘hate the school run – the mums are so mean!’, where members share their horror stories of the cliques they’re left out of and the animosity between working and stay-at-home mothers.
Meanwhile, on mumsnet.com, the situation has led to members offering their survival tips for the school run. One advises: ‘Park round the corner from school, so it looks like you’ve walked’ and ‘time it so everyone’s just going in and you don’t have to mingle with the other parents’. Another warns: ‘Never go out in your pyjamas, however late you are”.
Oh. Fuck. Off.
I guess I’m lucky that I have enough self esteem not to care what these women think. Because I have a life. But seriously, for those new Mums out there wanting to make friends, and believe me, I do understand how important this is, let me tell you, you will make true friends and they will be happy to meet you at that gate for your conversation, not your latest Tiffany piece and smooth forehead.
Are there any mums at the school gate that you tend to avoid?