The Other Mothers

Other mother It’s bad news, I’m afraid.

I’m raising a freak.

An Other Mother told me this recently, and I’m sure she’s right. She has manicured nails, highlighted hair, a cleaner and a husband, and is therefore almost certainly better than me in every way.

I’m sure you have your own Other Mother. Maybe even more than one. They’re the women who say things like: “Now I’m only saying this because I’m your friend,” or “Well, it’s just my opinion of course, but…” before completely eviscerating your parenting abilities.

In my case, the Other Mother is horrified that Flea doesn’t watch Hannah Montana, and I’ve no intention of introducing it – even if she asks.

But she won’t have any friends. You’re raising her to be a freak, Sally,” says the Other Mother, tipping her head to one side so I know she’s only being a complete witch because she truly, honestly cares.

Well, I explain, Flea regularly asks for a motorcycle and a live monkey, so she’s generally okay with the idea you can’t always get what you want.

But the Other Mother is going to prove her point. “Olivia darling,” she asks her eldest. “What would you think if someone at school didn’t watch Hannah Montana? Weird, right?

Other Mothers proliferate in small towns. In cities, where you can’t turn around without bumping into a different culture, nationality, religion or sexuality, there’s a far greater tolerance of diversity. Small towns seem to breed a herd culture that’s borderline fascist in some cases.

The Other Mother isn't identified by anything she does or doesn’t do. It’s more the certainty with which she does it – because the Other Mother knows that there’s only one approach to life that’s ‘normal’ (hers) while everything else is ‘worrying’.

So you want to send your child to a school with  small classes? “Oh, she’ll be under terrible pressure. Olivia loved being in a class of 35, so she could really mingle, didn’t you darling?

Or you try and teach your child that there’s no such thing as girls’ and boys’ toys, just toys anyone can play with. “Oh, nonsense, it’s how we make sense of the world. Everyone knows little girls wear pink, don’t we?

Of course, what I’ve worked out about the Other Mother is that secretly she’s terrified. Under all that judgement and phoney concern is a fierce hope that I’ll validate her choices by making the same ones.

The problem is that I don't care about making the same choices as anyone else – if that's a character flaw, then it's one I hope Flea's inherited. Because if all you ever do is make the same choices as someone else, how is your life ever going to be extraordinary? Where does the spontaneity, the magic, the passion come from?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 5th August 2009 / 4:27 pm

    I’d have punched her in the nose.

  2. Sally
    5th August 2009 / 4:30 pm

    Oh Dan, that made me laugh! Thanks. You’re quite right, of course.

  3. 5th August 2009 / 5:11 pm

    Oh my goodness this is a familiar one. I live in a small town rife with Other Mothers. In fact, I’ve just come back from having a cup of tea with one and as usual left feeling slightly more of a failure as I did when I arrived.
    We have babies born on the same day so I guess comparisons are inevitable but she always delights in pointing out her son’s latest achievments while Kai sits there looking distinctly unremarkable (why is it he always turns into a clingy silent lump whenever we’re around her? I swear he does it on purpose). Anyway her son has just started walking while Kai shows absolutely no interest in doing the same yet. “Well Kai” she announced to him, “Sam is running rings around you now, you are going to have to do some serious catching up”. She then turns to me and says “of course Sam gets so much one-on-one attention, it makes the world of difference”. As if I spend my whole day ignoring my child!!
    Grr. Apologies for the rant. Thanks for reassuring me I’m not the only one who has to put up with this annoying affliction.

  4. Rachel Pattisson
    5th August 2009 / 6:21 pm

    Grrr! Those Other Mothers make me feel so mad! Luckily, I don’t know any, personally. If I meet one, I’ll run away!!

  5. 5th August 2009 / 7:42 pm

    What a cow!! I really dislike other mothers, thankfully I haven’t meet to many yet. I want BG to make her own choices in life and not follow the crowd

  6. 5th August 2009 / 7:47 pm

    Cripes, I’m raising a freak. Some of my friends might be raising freaks too. What should we do? Form a support group?

  7. 5th August 2009 / 8:08 pm

    Good for you, raise as many freaks as you can – the world needs them.
    Funnily enough, mums don’t say things like that to me. Possibily because I would tell them to naff off.

  8. 5th August 2009 / 10:03 pm

    Brilliant post.
    I want my boys to be happy, spontaneous, extraordinary, passionate, magical freaks too.

  9. 5th August 2009 / 10:16 pm

    I’m for magic everytime!
    My ‘other mother’ things I’m selfish because during my depression I didn’t call her. Her favourite saying is ‘We don’t do that’.

  10. Deb
    5th August 2009 / 11:17 pm

    Blimey Josie, I’d be running in the other direction whenever I saw your “friend”.
    I often think the worst thing about having children is the other parents….

  11. Sally
    5th August 2009 / 10:25 pm

    @Rachel – run fast. Don’t stop for personal posessions. Just get out.
    @NewMummy – fair point.
    @Kat – Yes, I think we should call it “The League of Proto-Freaks”. I’ll be president.
    @notSupermum – my problem is I spend 20 minutes thinking “I actually can’t believe you just said that” by which time it seems a bit late to tell someone to naff off. Annoyingly.
    @Sandy – thanks – I quite agree!
    @Surprisedmum – My favourite thing that my Other Mother ever said to me was: “I worry about those children in Brighton. It seems there’s so much pressure on them to be individuals”. Doublethink in action.

  12. 6th August 2009 / 1:12 am

    I live in a small town, too, and there are so many Other Mothers here! They have convinced my son he can’t wear pink (he LOVES pink) and they definitely think we’re freaks. Just because I suggested that maybe it’s not clever to give kids the choice of chocolate milk twice a day at school.

  13. Sally
    6th August 2009 / 9:17 am

    @Deb – yes, but just sometimes if you’re very lucky, it’s one of the best parts, too. I made some gorgeous friends through having Flea, and I’d never have met them otherwise, so I try to look (mostly) on the bright side.
    @Mwa – Chocolate milk? Twice a day at school? What’s your problem??? Tsk, these neurotic mothers with their overly fussy ways. Never did me any harm.
    Something like that, right? I got a similar response when I once declined the offer of a Pepperami for Flea’s breakfast.

  14. Miss Leslieanne
    6th August 2009 / 9:45 am

    Amen to all of that!
    My little boy is only 15 weeks old, but frankly, I hope he will be a freak.
    If freak means finding your own way in life, making your own choices, deciding yourself what you love rather than being a clone of all your peers, then I’m definitely a great big freak, and have every faith that my little man will be too!
    And Hannah Montana is just awful anyway!