Arama They Didn't

11:39 am - 04/15/2013

Mama-friendships can be deceptive

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TOKYO —

It’s astonishing what goes on beneath the surface. Any surface. If the apparent innocence of “mama-friendships” is deceptive – and it is, claims Josei Seven (April 18) – then probably all innocence is deceptive.

What are mama-friendships? Simply groups formed by mothers of small children. They meet at the playground, at pre-school, at school, and get together periodically for talk and mutual support. The support is necessary and valuable. The strains and stresses of child-rearing are hard to cope with sometimes. Having friends who understand, who are in the same boat, helps – when it doesn’t hurt.

Mrs A is 37. Last year, her son started elementary school, and she naturally became involved with other young mothers in the neighborhood. They’d meet for lunch, tell each other their troubles, offer advice, lend encouragement and so on. One day Mrs A, not being thirsty, didn’t order a drink, as the others all did. Who cares? Well, everyone did, and everyone took note. Mrs A was not invited to the next lunch. The other mothers stopped greeting her in the street. She was completely isolated. “They must have thought,” she says, “‘If you have to be that careful with your money, we’d only be imposing if we invited you.’”

What lesson does a sensible person draw from that? Two possibilities suggest themselves: (1) Order what everyone else orders; (2) Maintain your independence and shun mama-friendships.

Mrs B, 39, is the mother of a fifth-grader and she, too, has her little circle. It’s a particularly stressful time for her – her daughter is studying for junior high school entrance exams – and she appreciates the support she draws from the other mothers. Over tea one afternoon attention was drawn by a Celine handbag carried by one of the women. “How nice!” “It’s lovely!” – and so on. Well, said the lady, she got it quite cheaply via a friend living overseas, and if anyone wanted one, she would be happy to make the arrangements. Of course, everyone wanted one. Mrs B didn’t, particularly. Her family’s finances are tight, education costs press, and the handbag was a dispensable luxury. Still, she couldn’t be the only one not ordering one – could she? Not to stand out, she put her name down with the rest. “And now every time I meet them, I worry: What will I have to buy next?”

In a sense there’s nothing new in this, but it’s getting worse, Josei Seven says, as economic woes widen the gap between rich and poor. The friendship on the surface is belied by an almost feral competition beneath it. Competition over what? Everything: husbands’ income and job status, family property, kids’ grades, kids’ looks, moms’ high-end makeup and brand-name shoes – even diapers. Some kids are out of them at one, others still in them at three. So the race is on to hustle the kids out of diapers.

An informal survey by Josei Seven finds the majority of mothers still value their mama-friendships – 60.8% primarily for exchange of information regarding education, 57.7% for the chance to consult others over problems that arise, 44.3% for moral support generally. It would be great if that was all there was to it.



Source : Japantoday
loanwords 15th-Apr-2013 03:37 pm (UTC)
I work at a preschool in Japan, and the kind of drama that goes on between the moms is ridiculous. They band and disband so easily-- it's like high school. (And they often vent about their drama to us, the teachers.) And what's worse is that it spills over to the kids. If Mom is unhappy with Other Mom, then Mom's kid will often start fighting a lot with Other Mom's kid. Which of course just fuels the drama. My husband and I want to have kids in the next few years, but I am actually very scared of the mama-tomo scene. I want to stay out of it as much as possible, but I also don't want my children to be isolated because of it.
eternityras 15th-Apr-2013 03:50 pm (UTC)
have twins/lots of kids so they can be friends with their siblings heh. but in all seriousness that does sound pretty scary.
k0dama 15th-Apr-2013 05:20 pm (UTC)
My mom telling me not to play with another kid because she didn't like the other mom? Check.
My mom telling me to be friends with the kids of other mothers she met? Check.

Big surprise: I don't talk to my mom anymore. She's a craaaazy narcissistic mother and being around her is toxic.
dearmisterecho 16th-Apr-2013 01:56 am (UTC)
I work with kids of all ages and half of the mothers are batshit in some way, it IS ridiculous.

I've had mothers outright quitting my eikaiwa because they didn't like another mother for the most arbitrary of reasons.
fukkthedumbshyt 17th-Apr-2013 02:32 am (UTC)
Like what do you mean by batshit because Japan in one of my options for my next stop but if people are down right insane I might have to pass?

Edited at 2013-04-17 02:32 am (UTC)
dearmisterecho 17th-Apr-2013 02:35 am (UTC)
but batshit I mean just uber-serious, usually upper middle class mothers who stay at home and have no life except for their child. But most of the mothers are really nice/no problem, only a handful are troublesome.
fukkthedumbshyt 17th-Apr-2013 03:00 am (UTC)
I figured it was wealthier bored moms. I should start up Real Housewives of Japan and be set for life.
fukkthedumbshyt 17th-Apr-2013 02:31 am (UTC)
I planning on teaching in Japan after I graduate this Spring and I'm interested in stories about dealing with mother so I can brace myself (I extremely drama free so I'm a bit nervous about how crazy people can get and if I'll have the patience for it).
loanwords 17th-Apr-2013 02:42 am (UTC)
Of course I think it will be slightly different depending on where you are in the country and what kind of school you will be teaching at- eikaiwa or preschool or as an teaching as an ALT. Depending on the company you may not even have to deal with parents. I work at a private English immersion preschool in a city that thinks its cultured but kind of isn't. Most of our students comes from rich families and the moms are a bit older. As such they feel really entitled and they are always competing about whose kid can read better or passes the Eiken test at a higher level or where their kids end up going to school. But honestly, as a foreigner I don't have to deal with their drama directly. They don't discuss it with me but rather the Japanese staff who then tell me. I just deal with every day stuff like how their kid did in lesson and so forth. Don't be too scared!
fukkthedumbshyt 17th-Apr-2013 02:57 am (UTC)
Ah, I'm not surprised that this is mostly a problem amongst wealthier mothers. Thanks!
burger 15th-Apr-2013 03:57 pm (UTC)
I feel like this kind of toxic mama-friendship scene isn't just specific to Japan. I've definitely seen people complain/talk about it where I live and in America and other places. It's a shame people are like that.
myharu 15th-Apr-2013 06:29 pm (UTC)
ikr especially if they're a member of PTA, I'm never joining it when I become a parent
miriamele 15th-Apr-2013 11:36 pm (UTC)
Yeah I see it a lot in my area in the US too and I have a number of friends from high school who are now married and having kids and I see them starting to buy into this as well. It's pretty disappointing to be honest.

Competing with your children instead of supporting them and helping them reach their full potential? Seems a waste and just wrong, tbh.
gigabytexx 15th-Apr-2013 04:40 pm (UTC)
and here I'm thinking how on earth my mom could raised me without friends to talk to.....
I mean, my mom didn't need this mama-circle. Even thought mom & other moms had met when they were attending our school reports distribution, they dont really seem to bond each other. So there was no drama of course.
awkward_as_heck 16th-Apr-2013 07:54 am (UTC)
Same with me. My Mum had her friends but they weren't the other Mums on the playground.
fukkthedumbshyt 17th-Apr-2013 02:37 am (UTC)
My mom basically would hag out with the moms in my family or a few of the moms from our church but pretty much growing up most time was spent with my massive family.
hadashi_no_eden 15th-Apr-2013 05:15 pm (UTC)
I can understand why joining a mom's group could be helpful. Being a mom can be kind of lonely, but who really needs all this high school drama crap.
onciu 15th-Apr-2013 05:16 pm (UTC)
Solution: send your kids to boarding school
There was a drama about this problem last year I think
k0dama 15th-Apr-2013 05:17 pm (UTC)
These mothers are morons.
I hope their kids don't grow up to be morons from watching the behavior of their idiot mothers.
inachan89 15th-Apr-2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
I've only seen this mama-friendship thing in dramas and to think that it actually really exists is crazy.
My mom simply chatted friendly with my classmates moms,there was no drama at all.

Edited at 2013-04-15 05:27 pm (UTC)
very_pinku 15th-Apr-2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
It just ultimately depends on compatibility and I feel that there's no point to feel that they need to stay in that toxic environment...I've known mom friends through my sibling but I still keep in touch and talk to them. They're nice people and they take care of me well whenever I see them.

But these toxic mom friendships are probably one of the reasons why there are constant bullying...because the children learn from their own mother.
If they see mom being so nasty to other moms and such, the kid will think it's so normal.

So I think it's important to implement healthy relationships between moms and then with children to promote a better friendship and understanding.
2hothere 15th-Apr-2013 05:40 pm (UTC)

My mom works so she doesn't encounter any of this.
myharu 15th-Apr-2013 06:37 pm (UTC)
this isn't really just a Japanese issue, I've seen this many times at church, girl scouts, when my mom was in PTA...I don't know why some moms are like that but whatever

Edited at 2013-04-15 08:24 pm (UTC)
stbluemoon 15th-Apr-2013 08:10 pm (UTC)
I thought people stopped bothering with rubbish "friends" like these after high school.
earenya_beryl 15th-Apr-2013 08:18 pm (UTC)
I think a small group of mothers that genuinely want to be friends is okay. When suddenly there are unreasonable laws laid down, rules you have to follow, words or action to makes somebody in the group feel small or inadequate, in any situation it is best to not be in that situation for much longer.
Being a mother is hard enough, I don't think you should have added drama just because other woman just want to feel better about themselves.
atelierlune 15th-Apr-2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
I feel like when groups of mothers appear in anime like this it's always to gossip and jockey for status over each other. See: Paranoia Agent, Hell Girl. I wonder how if these women are supposed to be about being the best wives and mothers they have time for all the backbiting and drama that goes down.
dramaticsurgeon 16th-Apr-2013 12:07 am (UTC)
On the whole it sounds like the mama-tomo woes are universal. That being said, in other parts of the world, if someone is facing quasi-bullying and peer pressure like this, the answer is often to find other friends or just switch to another school where the moms (and by extension, the kids) are less bitchy. But in Japan your life is pretty static from early on; once a young family moves into a place, moving again before the child graduates high school is relatively rare. And it's not like there are a ton of schools to choose from unless you're rich. Once the child starts going to school, Japan's entire social structure relies on them making friends and growing up with them in the same elementary and middle schools, and often beyond, all to foster the somewhat tenuous sense of community. How many people do you know who stay in touch with childhood classmates earlier than high school? Yet my Japanese friends can name almost the whole roster by memory.

With that in mind, the pressure to be BFFs with the mothers of your child's friends must be tremendous. Your child isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and neither are you. That just breeds the whole clique/high school mentality, IMO. Plus, I get the feeling Japanese women are pressured to be the "ideal" wife and mother who always smiles, cooks great home meals, and never lets on about any problems she might be facing. How do you take a stand against mama-tomo cliques when it only earns you an excommunication and there's no one you can go to for solace?
fukkthedumbshyt 17th-Apr-2013 02:51 am (UTC)
I actually still talk to my best friend from 3rd (we were in the same class from 3rd grade to 8th grade, she moved to Las Vegas for high school but we kept in touch on the phone and eventually myspace and facebook, she's back now though!) and quite a few from middle school but I probably am an exception but I get what you're talking about. We talked about a lot of this stuff in my Japanese culture class.
hakuei_smex 16th-Apr-2013 12:23 am (UTC)
Yeah . . . no shit, Josei Seven.
liime_arix 16th-Apr-2013 01:06 am (UTC)
I guess what you see in anime/dramas kinda hold true.

I remember when I was younger, my mother basically never socialised with any of my friends' mothers. She mostly kept to herself, never went to PTA, etc. I think she was mostly content with just being with her children. Now she has a boyfriend so she has someone to hang out with on a regular. Anytime she does see my one of my friends' mom, she always tells them hi or something and that's it.
vicinity_love 16th-Apr-2013 10:27 am (UTC)
Having a good support group is really important, especially if you're a first time parent, but seriously this is just high school bullshit. Clearly these mothers are extremely superficial and not looking at the real world. Children come first no matter what imo, parents need to find other parents who are reliable, mature and able to help them out, not ratting over someone not buying a drink one time.
nakabibighani 22nd-Apr-2013 03:57 am (UTC)
Seems that even school moms have their own subculture... And as with all subcultures, there are advantages and disadvantages, I guess.
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