“Have you ever felt wronged by another woman? Have you ever had your secrets shared without permission? I can’t see your hands, but I’m guessing they’re raised as high as mine.
Let’s call these women the ‘Barbara Walters’. They are reporters. Their job is to gather facts and share them. They listen to you talk, copying script on their invisible pad, and then repeat it back to anyone willing to listen. Sometimes they even attach the required prayers and worry so what they say seems less gossipy and more sincere.
‘We need to pray for Stephanie. I heard her marriage is on the rocks…’
The Barbaras are smart. The Barbaras are cunning. The Barbaras are our friends.
I graduated from high school eons ago, and somehow survived the sorority cliques of my college years, so I assumed that meant I was in the clear from cattiness. That advancing age automatically gave you maturity. That once you birthed a baby, us women were all on the same team.
But a few months into new motherhood, I learned the hard reality that mean girls still exist—they just become mommies too.
The majority of these women are easy to spot, they have closed-knit groups as oppose to close-knit groups. But I was so desperate as a new mother, so lonely and isolated, I was willing to conform. I was willing to accept friends that liked every single one of my Facebook posts, rather than truly liked me.
Last year was one of the toughest for me yet. My husband was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition, one with an unfortunate prognosis, and both of my children were diagnosed with autism. During this time, this extremely vulnerable time, I felt checked on and accounted for by the group of Barbaras more than anyone else. It was nice that someone was thinking of me during such hardships.
But then I started to notice that any tidbit I shared was leaked into the community. Faraway acquaintances suddenly knew intimate details of my husband’s heart and my mental health. Months later, when the dust began to settle, these TMZ mothers let everyone know that my child had switched schools.
You see, it didn’t matter what it was, they were reporters. Gathering my information, my stories that were meant for me to share, and exposing them to the masses. There’s a delicate line between caring and sharing, but when it crosses over into curiosity then small talk, it’s considered wrong.
The Barbaras were bored, and it came at my cost.
It’s the absolute worst when hurt comes from within our own camp. There’s no wrong like the kind from a close companion. I trusted her! I confided in her! We were friends!
I know. The Barbaras are bad apples.
But the good news is: we are allowed to excuse ourselves from the table. Isn’t that freeing? No permission slip necessary. Just get up. Adulthood allows us small privileges like wearing a one piece, or binge-watching Bravo, or telling old Bab’s to take a hike.
All you have to do is silently step away (likely this isn’t a friendship that deserves a grand finale anyway). Just create a little distance and allow room for newness to come in. Then reach out to that mom from the park you friended but never followed up with. Join a book club. Tell your own story, even if it’s just to yourself. YOU own the rights to your words and only YOU get to decide what and when to share.
Sometimes we all just want to be heard. It’s hard to get your footing in your new role as a mom. Many of us lose our careers, old friendships, free time—any identifiable marker of who we once were. And we start desperately blowing the whistle for help. ‘Come find me! I’m over here! I’m drowning and can’t find direction of who I’ll be next.’ But we must remember to be selective. To choose our words and our actions as carefully as we choose our friends.
Take your time and feel out authenticity. Let someone take a good look at you, and really see them too. Try not to judge (yourself included) and be patient. Not everyone will be a best friend. But if you can spark a similarity other than the surface, then run toward that light and tell Barbra to get her breaking news elsewhere.
We’ve got real friendships to find.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hanrahan. Follow Stephanie on Facebook here, Instagram here and visit her website here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
Read more from Stephanie here:
‘I wrote a stranger. ‘Help me. I’m scared. Please. I need to understand my daughter.’ I begged her to give me the secret. ‘Will we be okay?’ Real-life ‘princess’ helps ease mother’s fears over daughter’s autism diagnosis
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