Confession: I am a mothers group drop-out

I didn’t do mothers group very well. I was OK in the beginning, making conversation, inquiring after babies and husbands and sick fathers-in-law but, before long, I became self-conscious and, kind of, distracted. While I really liked the other women, the structure of mothers group wasn’t for me.

I have always been plagued with the comparison disease, that condition that compels you to compare yourself to everyone around you, and which ultimately results in you feeling inferior (and that’s the main symptom). This is bad enough on a personal level but it’s not pretty when you start doing the same with your divine little newborn.

The Abomb did not sleep through the night until 5 months. When I write those words now I can only laugh and laugh and laugh. Why? Because I used the word ‘until’ like he was late or something. And I laugh because Lbaby is nowhere near sleeping through the night at 8 1/2 months of age and Sdash didn’t sleep through until about a year ago. How little I knew as a first-time mother!

See, when I was attending my mothers group each week, the Abomb was behind most of the other kids in terms of sleeping through and I was obsessed by it. It was the thing that each mother announced each week when we first met. ‘Taylor is finally sleeping through’ (when our bubs were 10 weeks old), ‘Jackson still isn’t sleeping through’ (at 12 weeks), ‘Charlie was sleeping through and now is waking 3 times a night. He’s totally regressed’ (at 14 weeks). And at the time, I didn’t have the inner strength to ignore this talk. To change the subject. To be grateful I was still getting that beautiful feeding time during the night. To relax and sip my latte. No, I kept quiet, but not because I wasn’t interested, not because I didn’t want to join the conversation, but because if I spoke I’d have had to admit that the Abomb and I were not ‘succeeding’ at this aspect of babyhood.

I don’t like the comparison disease at all and I hate the way it makes me feel. It’s the one thing I have worked to change in myself. And this disease is completely self-perpetuated. My discomfort with mothers group was not the fault of the other lovely mothers in the group (and they were really lovely), it was my own. Attending mothers group exacerbated this weakness in myself  and I didn’t like it so I stopped going.

But also, mothers group really bought home to me another aspect of my personality, something which had been brewing inside me for a while but which definitely came to a head at this time. Fact: I am an introvert. I’ve spent a large part of my life behaving like an extrovert but never enjoyed it. Realising that I do not get energy from being around a lot of people, acknowledging that I find it really hard, has been probably my most important life lesson thus far. This will shock a lot of people I have known. Suffice to say I play extrovert really well. But mothers group made me realise that I don’t actually find it easy spending a few hours at a time with 15 other women all sharing our babystories and our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I have awesome friends who I love spending time with one-on-one or in a small group. And I do enjoy speaking about our babies (at least with those 3 friends I have with children) but the conversation is so much more satisfying for me because we can actually delve into issues. Because I am more relaxed and myself, we can engage on a more personal level.

S0, I felt instantly better when I stopped going to mothers group. The pressure I’d felt each week just lifted. I realised that in the hours before our weekly meet-up I would get out-of-breath, my heart would race and I feel distracted. This all stopped when I ‘dropped-out’. I was able to focus on my beautiful unique new baby rather than on who he was in comparison to his peers. But ultimately I felt truer to myself and therefore to my baby, and that was the most important thing of all.

What about you? How is or how was your mothers group? So many friends of mine rave about their mothers groups, and I’m always jealous (and the comparison disease flares again).

20 thoughts on “Confession: I am a mothers group drop-out

  1. Two thoughts: one, those parents who claim their babies are sleeping through when the baby’s age unit is weeks have to be lying, I really believe that! And two, I was a drop out too but for me it was because my group didn’t gel. The fact is that sometimes ‘groups’ don’t work. J

  2. Hey there, all babies and styles of parenting are so different and the biggest challenge all women need to tackle is the ability to accept this and not be judgemental about what others do in order to justify their own parenting. I think this inability exists everywhere and nowhere is it more obvious then in a mothers group. How could you not compare yourselves in a mothers group where the obvious choice of conversation will be birth choices, feeding choices, milestones, disipline, school choices etc… I’m glad you left and didn’t go back , I say congratulations on being a mothers group drop out!!! I’m one
    too and i raise my glass to you – cheers xxx

  3. Thanks for your replies, it’s honestly reassuring to know I am not the only one who decided that mothers group was not for me. I honestly see its value and I think, if I could have relaxed the negative self-talk, then I would have got something out of it (like not feeling so isolated with the whole mothering thing) but I also know deep down, the whole way mothers groups operate is really not my thing.

    Imagine forming a group of mothers group ‘drop-outs’ – what a laugh!

    • Hallelujiah!! Women speaking the truth about how Mother’s Group can actually make mothers feel (NB sarcasm with capital letters of Mother’s Group)! I perservered with mine because I did like the women and I didn’t know anybody else in my area with children. Thankfully, I didn’t feel like the women in my group compared or competed too much when it came to the children. However, when it came to assets, then the race was on!! My Mother’s Group was in a very affluent area and much of our time was spent discussing real estate and the purchase of multi million dollar properties. As I was just ‘merely’ renting in the area at the time, you can imagine my anxiety when it was time to meet at my house (sorry, small three bed townhouse) for morning tea! Then, when my husband and I finally brought a house out in the ‘burbs’ for about 1/5th of what some of their houses were worth, most didn’t even bother turning up. The situation got worse when the ‘private school discussion’ came up. The babies were not even one!! How do we know anything about our children’s academic abilities at this stage? Look, I am all for planning for our children’s future, but I just found the conversation quite conceited and boastful. This is coming from a teacher who was teaching at one of the private schools being discussed before my first child came along! I can tell you, they are not always quite as amazing as some people from certain circles may think! But I still found it quite embarrassing. Schooling for your children should be about finding the right school for the needs of your child. It shouldn’t be about status, or about being able to say that your child goes to a particular school. Every child’s learning needs are different and some schools cater for that better than others. Not long after, I buried my head in my suburban sandpit recently purchased in a sale from Kmart, and left the group. I couldn’t and didn’t want to compete anymore.

      • That’s such an interesting take on it Ally. I didn’t hang around long enough to get to the education discussions but I suspect that the mothers in my group would have been generally in support of public education whether they used it or not. You’re so right, I’ve taught in private schools also and I have to say that I found the kids behaviour in one school incredibly challenging and in the other school, the school room activities seemed to fall far behind sport and cadets in their value. I totally agree about finding the right school for your child. With my first at school this year for the first time, I’m realising there is no education formula for children. And finding the right ‘fit’ is paramount. I really thought the status that people attach to private schools is a myth, that people who could afford private schools chose them because they seemed to be the right school for their child. When your child attends public school so many choices are taken away from you regarding their education but I think that’s a good thing because it makes you value different aspects of their school experience. It also makes you focus on what education you can provide for them at home. Schools are not meant to be the be-all and end-all for your child’s education. They are simply one, albeit, important facet. Whether that is a private school (many of which are amazing as institutions) or public school (many of which are also amazing as institutions).
        Thanks for the thought provoking reply!

      • Oh my, you have articulated my exact reservations with my group and as much as I like everyone personal (our bubs are nearing 1 year old and the talk of real estate, upsizing to bigger houses and private school lists are all on topic). It’s exhausting and yes we are moving to the cheaper suburb now too! I suppose the distance will sort the problem in the end…

  4. Thank God I found this post. I left my mother’s group yesterday almost in tears. I have tried to persevere with the group because i dont know any mothers in my area and like comepar2, i am an introvert. I am terrible at small talk and find it boring discussing at length baby weight gain or if she’s holding her head up well. My little babe is about 5 months older than the other babies, and as a result, I feel like the other mothers don’t really include me because my baby is at a different stage to theirs. It’s kind of crazy because 5 months is a small difference, but this is the problem i perceive. Anyway, i left the group feeling like there was something wrong with me because i found it so hard to enjoy the mother group experience. I came home & jumped on the internet to find out if anyone felt like me and i have to say it has made me feel a little bit better. i acknowledge that being an introvert hasnt helped my cause but at the same time, this is who i am so i shouldnt look at it like it’s a bad quality. I have decided that i am going to drop out of my group too. It’s not to say i’m not going to try other mother’s groups. I will keep putting myself out there and hopefully i will find some mums that i can connect with. If i don’t, it doesnt matter & i will try not to beat myself up about it. Thanks for creating this forum girls!

    • Jane, so glad you found the post and it bought some kind of solace. I wish I’d found a similar thing when I was ‘breaking up’ with my group! Women can be quite awful can’t they? And I think there is something overwhelmingly depressing when they begin using their children to compete with each other. It saddens me. It’s not just being an introvert. As I said, I can ‘do’ extrovert well and in fact, I often found that I was the one making all the conversation. Few seemed to make the same kind of effort with me. But because I’m an introvert this really exhausted me and probably made me more emotionally fragile! All the best finding another mother community that resonates with you. And remember, we always here as well! Come over here for a chat or a lament or a whinge any time!

  5. The group dynamics of the mother’s group can be a challenge and I have felt similarly sometimes (about ditching the group) but other times I’m so thankful and really enjoy it. Yes the comparison factor is confronting, sometimes I’m teleported back to school days ala Mean Girls. But that’s more my issue, and the funny thing is everyone in the group feels like that sometimes albeit for different reasons. And ironically the most “comparisony” mum is the most fragile. I think the key is to communicate about how you’re feeling, I think the Mothers group is worth fighting for!

    • I agree, the premise of mothers groups is fantastic. Supportive, collaborative and generous. One’s enjoyment of mothers group comes down to the dynamics of the particular group and the individual’s personality. If these don’t gel, that it won’t work for you and may even make you feel worse about being a new mother. But if they do, hallelujah, what a wonderful opportunity it is. I suspect the inherent competitiveness is what you’d find in most all female group situations – perhaps I’m being cynical but it seems that women need to make an effort not to be competitive rather than the other way round. And when they do, the energy is wonderful and supportive. Inherently we care about each other but we also seem to be totally insecure and need to feel ok about ourselves by feeling that we’re keeping up to speed with others in the same situations as ours. Thanks for your input, these is proving to be a really interesting conversation about mothers groups!

  6. Hi Girls, just wanted to let you know that after i dumped my previous mother’s group, i tried another one & it’s much, much better for me. The mothers seem nicer, friendlier & more down to earth. I guess the group dynamic in this group is a lot more compatible for me. I’m glad i tried another group as it would have been very easy for me to not bother & feel jaded by the whole mothers group thing.

    • That’s awesome Jane! So glad you found a group which feels ‘right’. I too knew that another dynamic of women would have worked better. The mothers were lovely themselves but as a group, I think it just bought out the worse of them. I really am so happy you’ve found another community. It makes being a new mother SO much easier!

  7. aha! i too am an introvert. thank you for this post. every friday we attend a moms group and i find that i am filled with anxiety and sadness this day. I always envisioned the moms group as a warm nurturing place, and while there are some non judgy, open mamas in our group, it has been offset by the four or so moms who have formed their own little group within the group. I truly feel like I am in highschool and am not cool enough to be a part of the ‘in mama crowd’. i have wanted to leave this group since I joined it, but felt like I should give it a try as maybe there was something wrong with me. Also I struggle with how to leave the group. there are a few moms who i like and would like to see as a group but i think if i leave, then i probably would need to let those ties go as well (these moms don’t seem bothered by the weird dynamics). our group is rather large (11) and i can’t help but wonder if smaller groups are a better model. it’s easier to connect with fewer people and no one person feels left out

  8. Aha! you have given me so much insight into why i feel the way i do about my moms group. i too am an introvert. each friday that we attend our moms group i find that i am filled with anxiety and sadness. the women individually are great, but something about the group brings out the worst. there is also the group of four or so moms who have formed their own clique within the group. i feel like i am in highschool and not a part of the ‘cool kids’ all over again. i struggle with how to leave too. do you tell them why you are leaving or simply disappear. it is unfortunate as there are about six moms who i like, but some how the other four have thrown things off. by nature i am not a large group person so i shouldn’t be surprised. i just always pictured the moms group as a warm, open non judgey place.

    • This seems to be a common theme, that individually the women in mothers groups are lovely but something happens to everyone in the group dynamic. The cliquey thing is the worst. I’m sure they don’t mean to be this way but because something ties them more strongly than the rest of the women in the group, they appear as insular and exclusive. We had this too. I spent half my time wondering why I wasn’t a part of it and half my time grateful that I wasn’t (they seemed to have more expectations on each other).

      If you read some of the comments, one of our readers found another mothers group which really works for her. What a great move! I’m so happy for her. It is possible.

      On the other hand, do not feel like a failure if you ‘drop out’ like I did. No, I didn’t tell anyone ‘officially’. I just stopped going to the meetings and occasionally would provide an excuse. It very naturally petered off. I think a few kept seeing each other and do to this day, but not me.

      I think it is pretty desperate that mothers group makes some of us feel like we’re back at highschool. I would NEVER voluntarily choose to go back there. We have to change it! All the best with it and please keep checking in to let us know how you’re going. As I said, I never looked back after I left. Psychologically it was one of the best things I ever did.

  9. I know I am joining this discussion late in the game but I have to say that I love my mother’s group! I have felt supported and able to show my worst side to the same group of moms for over three years now. We know we’re safe to say whatever we need to, and to share whatever struggles we are having. Also- we’re able to enjoy our kids, too. With some groups it is hard to show that you enjoy time with your kids, when the common discussion centers solely around how difficult and tiring childrearing is, how the kids are just so draining, etc etc.

    Anyhow. Not trying to be all Polly Sunshine here about my super duper mother’s group. Just- I guess- feeling fortunate to have found supportive mothers to go through this crazy thing with!

    • This is EXACTLY what mothers group should be like. I’m so pleased your group managed to gel and that you bring out the best in each other. That’s fantastic. And thank you for explaining why it works as well – the notion of feeling ‘safe,’ ‘supported,’ and that you’re able to enjoy your kids and don’t have to pretend all the time that you find it so hard. I agree, sometimes it becomes a competition to see who’s doing it the hardest, and really, that doesn’t help anyone.

      Sometimes group click. I think it’s when no one in the group is trying to be someone they’re not. I always wonder what my group was like after I left. I expect it was better because they didn’t have me around who would have been acting awkwardly since I felt so out of my comfort zone. I think some people need a group like this for support but can’t find the right one. Other people (and I may be one of them) are not good in a group situation so even if the group was cohesive and the women great, I suspect they wouldn’t feel comfortable anyway.

      Thanks so much for sharing a GOOD experience!

  10. Ugh! MOM groups. Ugh! helicopter comparative neurotic moms. I will never ever join a mom group. I don’t even utter those words, playdate. Eewww…You know you are all thinking this same thing you are just too scared to admit it.

    Take your child to another country, teach your child a foreign language and travel with your children. Have more sex and relax. Be a unit with your family, not a bunch of weird, over concerned moms in mom groups. This is so American. If you see European children, specifically French children, they don’t rule the parents. The parents don’t FREAK out over anything. The children know 3 or 4 languages and usually play an classical instrument or two. Because the moms don’t sit around gossiping or comparing kids, husbands or telling sob stories to each other for hours a day and calling it a mom support group or playdate. I shun the word play date.

  11. LOVE this! I am going to my first today and already wondering why. My daughter and I are perfectly happy and busy with my existing friends, some with kids, some without. And even when we aren’t, I enjoy just being with her. I had trouble breastfeeding and I just know I’m going to feel inadequate as a result – despite coming to terms with it already. And very well said, christianna.

    My husband has an excellent theory – that mother’s groups were designed for that gap between the old fashioned village and the internet. For when mother’s found themselves alone and without feedback on this whole new way of life. With online communities, from the comfort of your own home (where baby is safe, happy and warm), who really needs a meeting? With women you’ve never even met before?!

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