I was driving my daughter and her friend home after school and, when talking about weekend plans, I learned that her mom was going out of town for the weekend. When I pulled up to her house, I saw her mom and two other friends of mine talking in the driveway. I rolled down the window to talk to them and learned my three friends were waiting for a husband to get home so they could go away for the weekend. I commented I sure knew what it was like to wait for a late husband and told them to have a great time, waving and smiling as I backed out.
I drove toward our house, hot tears welling up in my lower lids. After a moment, my empathetic eleven-year-old quietly asked, “Mommy…did that hurt your feelings?”
Two big tears spilled over and I choked out an honest, “Yeah. I wish it didn’t, but it did.”
You see, I’m not part of the “in” mom group.
I like each of the women. They’re always nice to me. Our kids are friends. But, I don’t get invited to their gatherings.
And for a long time, it bothered me. I think it was partially because I felt like I missed out or I messed up. I used to get invited when the kids were young. So, I’d ask myself where I went wrong. I’d replay events from four or five years earlier, and I’d wonder if I would still be invited if I’d done something different. Most of all, though, it bothered me that it bothered me.
I’d learn that a couple of the moms were hanging out with each other when they’d pick up their kids from my house. And my husband would ask, “That doesn’t bother you, does it?” And I’d desperately want to say, “Pshh, of course not!” But it did. And then I’d get mad at myself for letting myself feel like a left out middle schooler when I have such an incredibly wonderful life. Plus, I’m the mother of middle schoolers. I lived through my own middle school years almost three decades ago. It seemed ridiculous that I’d feel this way, especially when I’m constantly trying to help my own girls navigate their middle school years without so much emphasis on being popular.
It’s been two years since the incident I mentioned above, and I still go through phases where it bothers me, but for the most part, I’m doing better.
So, what’s a full grown adult with kids of her own to do when feeling socially left out like a twelve-year-old?
Realize it’s not just you
Most important for me has been realizing it’s not just me feeling this way. I’m someone who loves intimate conversations…maybe one reason I’m not in the cool group? I’ve delved into this topic with several close friends in the last couple years, and I’ve learned that many women feel this way.
Consider your social media use
I cut way down on my social media use the last year or so. I found that I was feeling less happy when I was scrolling Facebook than before I’d went on. I finally deleted the app and only use it a few times a week for work related needs. I recently read a book that cited studies that found that for adolescents and teens, social media led to more unhappiness. Since I was feeling kind of adolescent-y myself, I guess that makes sense. But, really, pay attention to what you feel when you’re on social media. If you find it brings you connection, great, but if you find that it leaves you feeling more left out, consider limiting your use.
Let yourself feel it
I also realized that getting annoyed with myself for feeling upset wasn’t helping, so I let myself feel sad sometimes. It’s okay to feel a little bit left out when people you like are having fun without you. But, after letting myself feel sad a while, I’d find what brought me joy. A cuddle with one of my kids, a phone call with another friend, or taking the dogs for a walk.
The grass isn’t always greener
One more thing that helped was realizing that life isn’t quite as picture perfect as it might look, even in the “cool mom” group. I was talking to someone who I’d always considered one of the cool moms, and, after my own confession of how upset something had made me, she confessed to me her own feelings of being left out of within the group and fallings out she’d had with some of them. Of course, from the outside, I’d never have guessed.
Recognize (or find) your place
I know it sounds cliché, but it was key for me to stop focussing on where I didn’t fit in and focus on where I did. It started one day when my husband asked me, “Would you want to go out with them all the time?” I realized I wouldn’t. Yes, I like them, they’re tons of fun, but I really like being home with my kids in the evenings and on the weekends. I didn’t want to give up much of that time, even if I was invited. I also realize that I have people in my life who I dearly value. It doesn’t look as pretty as the cool mom group looked to me from the outside, but like we learned above, things don’t always look as pretty from the inside. So I’m learning to appreciate what I have and not feel like I need to be one of the “in” group.
Thank you so much for writing this! I have had those same exact tears and it is so painful, and at the same time, maddening that I care so much, but i DO! It’s funny because so many of my friends always say that I know everyone everywhere we go and that I have so many friends and that I’m the cool mom or the fun mom, but it has happened to me more than I’d like to admit. I assumed it was just me that this happened to and I would wonder for hours at night what it was about me that they didn’t like. Thanks for being so open and honest, I’ve always kept to myself and my husband because I was so embarrassed about it.
I felt this post deep in my heart. I needed this sooooo much…thank you!!!
This is such a brave article. I have felt this way many times and know I probably will many more in the future as my children are still small, but it is comforting to know that there are amazing moms out there struggling with it too. Thank you for sharing and being so strong!
I love this open sharing of real situations. I have felt this and realized I didn’t want to be the gone many nights and out drinking myself silly, or be out every night or even 1/week but I wanted to be the one to put my kids to bed and read stories or chapter books to them. Building memories of spending time w/ my kids. Now I’m planning these same memories w/ my grandkids. Life is so rich when you invest In the ones who want to be w/ them.
Did you ever invite them to do anything whith you? Did you ever ask to join them? Did you look for a group of moms you fit in with better? As a supper extroverted person im always planning things with other moms and have found that most the time I’m not leaving people out intentionally. Sometimes it’s because they never showed an interest or turned me down a few times so I misread that for not being interested. And as a more social mom I even get frustrated that I always am planning and not always being asked by others. Im not trying to excuse rude behavior but also wish that moms who talk about feeling left out realize that you also have to be proactive; you can’t just wait to be asked all the time. We are also were taught as girls to be super passive aggressive so we vent to others instead if just saying hey that sounds fun count me in please next time. I also taught middle school and found this advice helped kids as well. And I wasnt ever a cool kid in school myself but I did learn in college that it was partly because I never asked to be included. There is a balance. And if those moms are just shitty then like you said (bc let’s face it mean girls do exist) in the article let it roll off and find your tribe or select intamite friends and enjoy that you can be happy not going out all the time.
I went through this and it is very hard and painful but it always gets better. My beloved friends broke my heart over and over again for a year by leaving me out. I cried so much for them and grieved our close friendship of 10 years. It hurt me so bad because I considered them family, until one day I realized all the new beautiful friendships I had made since then and my broken heart healed. I see them together without me and I finally feel ok with that. I am putting my energy and love in my family and on people that want to be with me.
I so totally needed to read this! I was left out of the cool mom group the whole time my daughter was going to school. I would cry bitter, sad, hateful tears and wonder what was wrong with me. Then like a light switch being turned to the on position, I realized it truthfully didn’t matter! My daughter wasn’t really friends with any of their kids I was just jealous because they always got together and appeared to have so much fun! But now, after much soul searching and realization with so many things in my life, I realize I love to be my own best friend! I was never one of the cool kids so why be one of the cool adults? I AM cool with myself and that is truthfully all that matters!
Thank you for sharing! I think the key point for me here is that I prefer to be home with my husband and kids anyway so I shouldn’t feel left out by these cool mums. Still hurts takes me back to school days but I’m a mum of three almost 4 kids and don’t have time to maintain these type of friendships anyway so just have to try learn not to care! Thank you for your insight! Xxxx
Thanks for writing about this. I was feeling this way tonight when I saw a bunch of Moms I know had a virtual Xmas party. I have know for a while that I was not a part of the group but it still hurts because at one time I considered these moms to be friends. I don’t know why they don’t include me but I no longer try to be friends with them and hope to make some new friends after Covid.
I too feel your pain. Just today saw that all the kids my daughter has gone to school with for 7 years and the moms had a beach party (it was also a big birthday for one of the moms I am super close to) and we weren’t invited. Lots of tears and I don’t even dare to tell my daughter…she would be heart broken. For all these years I have put on endless fun themed parties for their girls (Christmas, halloween, valentines, birthdays, virtual scavenger hunt) and have arranged gatherings for the moms….I am so incredibly hurt by this exclusion. This is what we teach our kids….hopefully inclusion….not exclusion.