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How to survive the dreaded “Mommy Clique” (and share your own stories)

How to survive the dreaded “Mommy Clique” (and share your own stories)

Now that my kids are in school, they are adjusting to an entirely new social hierarchy. Fortunately, they’re still young enough that friendship prerequisites center around if their peers are nice or if they have the same taste in clothes.

The latter was illustrated on the first day of school when my daughter Hadley met her new BFF: a girl who had the exact same pair of shoes.

In a few years, such trespasses will result in a cat fight.

But there is a murky side to the social hierarchy that is rarely discussed: the Mommy Clique. These are formed when moms are brought together while waiting for their children to emerge from school or in playgroups and at activities.

I’d like to think that moms are mutually-supportive and that is mostly the case. But often, there are deep-rooted undertones of judgment that, if not confronted, can result in a full-blown Mommy Clique.

And no one likes Mommy Mean Girls.

From my “extensive” 10 years as a mom, I have compiled a few ideas for banding together as moms. Because let’s face it: no one wants to feel like they’re the only kid in the junior high cafeteria who doesn’t have anyone with whom to sit.

Obviously, I still harbor deeply-rooted insecurities.


1) Start early. I was clueless to the whole Mommy Clique phenomenon when my kids were in preschool. I’d come, I’d go, I’d pick up my daughter and call it good. It wasn’t until the middle of the year I realized friendships were forming without me and I was that loner in the school cafeteria. Again.

2) Compliment. I am the queen of small talk (OK, any talk) but for the shy people out there, you can’t go wrong with a compliment. Praising a cute baby is a sure-fire “in.”

3) Reach out to the loners. Once you form friendships, it’s easy to stick with the same crowd. Try to include people standing by themselves including other moms, grandmas and fathers. My husband assures me dads have feelings, too.

I’ve also made some mistakes over the years.

Do not:

1) Judge. Moms come in different shapes, colors and backgrounds but we’re all in this together. You never know what you can learn from someone with whom you’d normally never associate.

2) Tease a mom you don’t know. Hypothetical scenario: Do not joke that she looks like an abominable snowman, even if she is dressed from head-to-toe in Michelin-Man-esque winter wear. Despite your sincere apology at your light-hearted attempt at humor, this offended mom will then ignore you the rest of the year. Hypothetically.

3) Think it’s too late to form friendships. Even if Mommy Cliques have already developed around you, stand nearby and offer constructive comments. If they’re a Mommy Clique worth knowing, they’ll embrace you in their group.

If not, nurse your wounds while watching Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls as you down a gallon of Breyers’ Triple Chocolate Ice Cream.

Your Opinion: What are your tips for surviving Mommy Cliques? What have been your good or bad experiences?


Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.


  1. Doesn’t matter what the clique is, seems dad’s are universally shunned. Been seeing this since before schiol when I’d take my daughter to the park.

  2. i have never had problems making friends but when i first moved to denver, that is exactly what happened. we moved into a nice area partway through the semester and it was crazy–the other moms wouldn’t even talk to me despite my best efforts. it took 2 years to get accepted into the mix and even though i’m cordial to these women, i could never be bffs with these women because of the way they treated me…and every other “outsider.” sad it has to be that way in some groups.

  3. Awesome Article Amber! Crazy how this stuff still goes on even though we have moved way past high school. I try not to get too caught up in it, I find it exhausting. Thanks!

  4. Thank you so much for the article. I am just going to be a mom in January… and although my (future) daughter will not be attending school for a while, this is definitely helpful insight. Its tough being on the outside looking in.

  5. To avoid being a victim of Mean Girls, one must pre-emptively beCOME a Mean Girl.

    Kidding. Surely your less-drastic solutions are better, especially the ice cream.

    My dad always taught us to “draw a wider circle,” meaning to include yourself and not assume you are excluded from a group. I still hear his voice sometimes when I’m feeling like an outsider. And then I march up to the group and introduce myself or something.

  6. So far, since we’re just on our 3rd year of Preschool (and the first year was only one day a week), I haven’t run into any problems. All the moms (and dads and grandparents) chat with each other at pick-up and drop-off. Since we’ve changed classrooms from some of the other moms, we’ll stop in each others’ lines and chat before heading to our current line.

    Who knows what will happen next year in “real” school! 😉

  7. Great article Amber. I’ve been examining this myself recently. It is such a natural thing to socialize with parents while waiting outside the school. But you do find so many different personalities – standoffish, super friendly, gossip queens, cordial, mean girls or just plain friendly and nice. It at times makes me feel like I am back in high school with the pressure to fit in and be accepted vs just picking my child up and being friendly. It all is a lesson in socializing and motherhood.

  8. At my kids’ school, I never get out of the van to pick them up. They hop in the van and I’m off. I do it out of necessity, not because I am standoffish.

    I found it more of an issue when my older kids were in preschool when I did have to go into the school to sign them in and out. There were snarky, gossipy moms in the bunch who judged people (even kids!) based on clothes, cars, neighborhoods.

    But here I am, gossiping about the gossipy moms.

    There were some dads who SAH or worked different hours. They were always much more laid back.

  9. I once worked for this boss, and his wife was really clickey towards anyone who was not Mormon that worked with her husband. When her husband got fired for secretly monitoring all of his teams email, she then posted a blog announcing what incompetent workers and mother’s those who worked for her husband were. You can’t hide from the persecutions of an angry religious mom.

  10. Great post! I admit I’m not good at this kind of thing. Once I see groups forming, I tend to shy away. At the current school my son goes to, the parents tend to use the pick-up and drop-off line in front of the school that allows them to stay in their cars, so I have met only one mom because we are apparently the only ones who actually (GASP!) walk their children to and from class!

  11. I generally tend to lay low on the school grounds and disappear altogether during the colder months. When the weather is nice, the children will stay after school and play on the grounds while many different ‘clicks’ of mothers gather to talk about ‘cougar’ trips to vegas (the divorced and single), or potty training tips (the not divorced), pilates, trips to europe, BLAH BLAH BLAH…ect. 🙂

    I’m a floater. I’ve never been into really ‘getting in’ with a group because I think it’s silly. I just try to be kind and cordial but have very few actual friends that I met at my child’s school (2 to be exact). BUT I will say that those friendships that I formed from getting out of my comfort zone and talking to them have been completely worth it. I really cherish both women and always keep an open mind when it comes to playground socializing. The playground politics? Not so much.

  12. I stay in my van when I pick up my kids, so I rarely get in on the chatting the other moms do.

    On the rare occasion I’m standing around with other moms, I tend to be standoffish. Not because I am mean or even shy. I guess sometimes I’m tired of being the weirdo in the crowd. Or, when other moms do talk to me, it’s to ask how many gallons of milk we drink a week. One woman, total stranger, told me about her abortion and why she chose it as she explained why she only had one kid. I never asked. I don’t judge anyone for their family size.

    It’s harder to navigate the world of mommy cliques when people have very strong pre-conceived notions. So I kinda don’t bother any more.

  13. I just had my first mean mom experience this afternoon. I took my preK son to a classmate’s bday party. I’m from out of state living in a small town. All the other moms are younger and grew up together. The mother of the bday girl didn’t even greet me at the party and everyone else totally snubbed me. It hurt. I cried all the way home.

  14. Leslie, I am so sorry for your experience. It is kind of hard to believe that this is so high school. Except in high school I was popular, now I am here with 2 kids in CT and I do not fit in. I am a stylist and thin and with in (I think), but the alpha mommies do not like me. I stand at b-day parties by myself and noone really talks to me, after the last one, I came home and cried. Not sure what to do to avoid that. Except to say – would u really want women like that as your friends? xo

  15. I learned a long time ago that the division between A Team and B Team is all about the shoes.

  16. I am experiencing this now. New to state and to preschool. All the other mothers seem to already know each other from last year. Not once has anyone said hello – or anything – to me. As a matter of fact, my child was on the playground after school, another child from the same class came out. The mother was about 6 feet away from where I was sitting. She looked at me, and then turned her back to me. Is it so hard to *just* say hello out of common courtesy?

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