Why am I always the outsider?

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I am not going to make this too self-indulgent. I am just going to blog it out and move on.

I went to a meeting at school today followed by an assembly. I got myself out of my scruffs, had a long bubble bath and made sure I did not smell with all manner of sprays and deoderants. Went throught that wake-up call stuff that the stay at home mum of a certain kind goes through when they realise they don’t have any knickers that really hold it all in and tights were never than much fun but not working, you have actually forgotten just how little fun they are. Then into a bra which has some padding that has gone askew somehow even though only worn once. Wonder once again where 20 years and my lovely figure went.

In other words, dear reader, I made an effort to look like a proper mum. I went into school and already two mums were there chatting in a friendly fashion. I had no idea how to butt in without appearing rude and just stood there like a spare part feeling more and more uncomfy. One mum was definitely of the yummy variety and there was huge relief that the other was at least wearing a fleece not dissimilar to my own. Another mum arrived looking glamorous and I could feel myself shrinking more and more into myself.

My part in the meeting was brief before going to my daughter’s assembly and dance demonstration. There were rows of chairs but only the front row had parents on it. I did not have the confidence to sit next to anyone so lurked on the second row hoping my daughter would manage to see I had turned up.

Banter flew between the women. Laughter, in-jokes and coos at a new baby. I watch the clock. Please somebody or something rescue me! How do other women always know the right thing to say and do?

The children filed in and there was my daughter looking all blonde and slender. My mood picks up at this point but her face is crumbling because she cannot see me. Eventually, I see a boy point her in my direction saying I imagine “Your Mum the really fat and ugly one is over there”.

I see the dance and I see how my daughter is really good but also not drawing attention to herself unlike some of the little prima donnas in her class. I am glad she is mine.

I get quite tearful at one point as I realise this is my first visit to the school hall since Dad died and how he used to sit, often uncomfy, but he would be there supporting his grandchildren on. I know exactly what he would have said today, “Wasn’t she marvellous?” and he would have said that whatever the true quality of the performance. You see now why I miss him because he was like that with me too. With everyone else, I don’t measure up.

I could go back to the meeting but I scurry away having gone through enough trauma for one day. I never fit in. It must be quite embarrassing when people are thinking “Why is she here?” and so on.

I was the outsider at school because I committed the cardinal sin of being interested in learning. Add to that a contempt for boys and rubbish sports skill and you can imagine I am sure.

At college, I fitted in fine despite being a different class to most of the other students. I even got invited to “in-crowd” parties. It was, dear reader, my finest hour.

I get confused. In the virtual world, people seem to find me OK and even actively like me. So how come it doesn’t work in real life?

I know it must be me who gets it all wrong. So here I am with qualifications coming out of my derriere and not a clue how to speak to people or to make friends. Can I go back and just be slim, good at sport and wanted please? You can have the 0-Levels back, they are of little use on a daily basis.

Worth saying now that is what was so amazing about BritMums Live last year where some folks seemed actively pleased to see me. I am so not used to that and it was lovely. So if you just happen to be a shrinking violet like me, do come to BritMums Live 2013 and we can paint the town purple together.

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17 Comments


  1. I am just the same at school. In fact now I get out of the car at the last min so I don’t have to stand like a lemon in the playground. I need to make more of an effort but just don’t know how.

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  2. Ah the Mummy Brigade. Sometimes I think it’s all in my head (often) and sometimes it is just genuinely hard to penetrate that thick wall of the know eachother well mummies.
    Sometimes I can say hello and on the odd occasion I can strike a conversation.
    For the most part a lot of mums just flit in and out not concerned with talking-just fine and some have their cliques which irk me greatly- they know eachother well and make it very difficult to get to know them. Often I find the main mums (committee mums I call them lol) have an air of better than you about them, they also tend to not smile or aknowledge your presence even worse they look through you not AT you.
    You are not an outcast or anything else. It is their loss always remember that x

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  3. I know exactly how you feel Kate. My eldest has only just started nursery over the past few months, but I still get that sinking, uneasy feeling of not quite fitting in. My whole time growing up, in school, even when in hospital, having my children, I always felt like the outsider in the room, never quite measuring up.

    People say that I come across as very confident on my blog – perhaps it’s because writing is the one thing that I do love doing, however when it comes to joining in with conversation – even online and in the blogging world, I’m so uneasy and unsure of myself. Everyone else seems to be so much better at it than I am.

    You’re not alone in how you feel and I only wish I had the opportunity to attend BritMums Live 2013, and give you a great big hug and make some friends! (plus purple is my favourite colour!)

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  4. I’ve never been part of the in-crowd either, (the last girl left with the duds when being chosen to join the netball team and certainly the last chosen to go to the disco) but you know – who cares – you are a thoughtful, caring parent bringing up beautiful children who too will be thoughtful and caring even if they don’t become the most popular. I loved that my mum came to see me in my school plays and I’ve set up my own business so that I can do that for my little girl too. I go to the school assembly in my trainers and fleece, put on a happy smiley face and luckily have started to chat to some other ‘normal’ mums also in trainers :) It’s us normal mums who spend time teaching their children not putting on 3 layers of makeup first thing in the morning! Give yourself a break and one day I’d love to meet you if I get to go to Britmums live. Just remember what a fantastic person you are – normal mums rock! Here’s to painting the town purple :)

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  5. You’re right, your post is very similar. I think we are similar in many ways. Catch me in a different mood and I could have written your post. Not wanting to create a divide between SAHM and working mums, but I do find the working mums like me, seem to find it easier to shrug off. I think it’s because we can’t actively pursue friendships so easily, not because we have a tonne of friends, just that we’re often home after dinner and that isn’t condusive to a relaxed coffee. I do know if I was a SAHM it would def bother me more. You sound lovely, I’m sure the slowly slowly approach will work out just fine. Hope I’ve explained myself properly.

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  6. School mums are a weird breed. My son started YR this year and the school gates are like the absolute worst party you’ve ever been to. Cliquey little pairs and groups talking faux animatedly to each other and no drinks or music or any possibility of things picking up later. I just wear my wellies, reflective jacket and old jeans and don’t bother trying to fit in with the uber groomed 4×4 crowd. I used to circulate and chat but I just send out the odd smile and wave now and don’t really bother.

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  7. esther james

    well I have been reliably informed that you are lovely! Anyone who describes themselves as a yummy mummy makes me physically gag. lol!

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  8. I’ve never met you, but have followed you on twitter for some time, and yesterday subscribed to your blog, and I can safely say you seem pretty ok to me. I feel like this too – my children have attended the school they are at for 4 years now, and I can count on my fingers the number of mum’s names I even know, so let’s not start on the ones who I can comfortably converse with. I’ve never been in a clique, and frankly (apart from the odd “why don’t they like me” moment) I have never wanted to. But being a school mum is so much harder than being at school.
    I’ve decided that I quite like me, my children like me (usually) and my husband likes me (I think), so to hell with what some people that I don’t even know think. I’ve tried, and I can’t spend all my time trying to fit in. The ones who know me like me, and if others don’t want to know me ce la vie.
    This was only going to be a one sentence comment. Think I got carried away. Just be you – friendly but not cocky. If they don’t want to be friends, stuff ‘em :)

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  9. Actually, I doubt the other parents are thinking any such thing. They’re probably not thinking of you at all. There are loner mums at our school gate and people just accept them. I know this because I have spent most of my life being one. The ones that are regarded with the negativity you describe are the ones who are actively unpleasant. The secret I find, is when you’re standing around feeling like a spare part fix a benevolent expression on your face so people don’t misinterpret it as stand-offishness. And don’t pick your nose!

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  10. I was one of those folks who was actively pleased to see you :-) and delighted to hear that in 2013 we will be painting the town purple instead of the usual… is it red or pink?

    I always choose comfort over style now and have done for years. I looked yummy in my teens and early 20s and have declined ever since. It is an effort for me to wear a kitten heel – high heels FORGET it. That’d have been me in the fleece. At Mumsnet Blogest I had my hair bunged in a pony tail but regretted it when I saw the photos.

    Don’t worry honey you’ll meet some Mums who’ll see what we see in you – a terrific lady.

    Lots of love and as usual GREAT POST.
    I know you miss your Dad like rotten but I think he has become your writing muse as your writing has taken on a new engaging depth since he passed. So I think he is “with you”. Go you! and him :-)

    Liska xx

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  11. downssideup

    I fell in love with you instantly at Britmums Live. You made me howl with laughter and a genuinely naughty sense of humour. you inspired me with your charity work, your getting up on stage to talk. You actually scared me a bit to start with, because I knew you were ‘one of them’ (a proper blogger, which I was not). You are supportive, and genuine and honest and not a bit fat or ugly.

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  12. Me too. I still don’t fit in at school even though i mutter to myself ‘I’m 45 and I don’t care what they think of me’.
    I know you weren’t fishing, but I think you’re lovely and seem perfectly well fitted. I suspect some of us just take longer than others to grow into ourselves.

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  13. I often feel exactly like you. I tend to scurry away when I feel I don’t fit in. I know a lot of it is in my own head and maybe I don’t give people chance. I did it a couple of days ago at a dear friend’s funeral. I scurried away the minute it was over. Now I wished I had stayed and talked to some other people i knew who were there. It is a confidence thing, I think.

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  14. I’m not particularly looking forward to the ‘school’ thing. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to manage pick up and drop off given there’s no breakfast club and I work an hour away. Which means I’ll have no chance to meet mums at the gate to chat. Luckily I know a few through family/friends with older children, but it’s still a scary prospect especially as few of the mums at the local school work so can get involved with fund raising etc.

    Everyone can fit in somewhere though, and if the virtual world can blend into real life then that seems to work ok

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  15. I know exactly how you feel, I’m always the outsider too!

    It’s easier to get on in the virtual world, because typing into a keyboard rather than talking to a complete stranger cuts out the awkward body language and insecurities.

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  16. Suzanne

    Oh Kate this is such a moving post. I imagine there are a number of mums that feel like this but why is it we always measure ourselves up against the ones who appear to ‘fit’ and are part of the ‘in’ crowd? I will take this as a reminder to look out for the mums who appear to be on the outside and go and ‘rescue’ them. I don’t think that people actively choose not to talk to you but they are just so busy being bubbly and having fun that they don’t notice. That isn’t right either. I am nervous about going yo britmums 2013 because most places I do have fun and fit in but i am so not familiar with the blogging circuit and being new don’t actually ‘know’ anyone. I will look out for you. I am so sorry to that your lovely dad couldn’t be there to see your daughter. I am sure he would have been bursting with pride.

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  17. when I found out I was pregnant one of the things that frightened me the most was the fact that my whole family is on the other side of the ocean and I am terribly unskilled when it comes to meet people. The only friends I have in London I met at work, where you end up having to talk to people either way. I was lucky enough to keep in touch with some of my former work colleagues and now we are great friends, they aren’t many but they are precious. Growing up in a family of 10 I never really had to make the effort to meet people, I was always somebody’s sister and had a rather large circle of friends, still I always had a feeling I didn’t really fit in. Now here i am in a country that isn’t mine, speaking a language that isn’t mine. I’m not exactly the most popular mum at the children center but I’m actually happy with the fact that I do manage to join the other mums for coffee every now and then but to this date unless someone approaches I will probably just go out for a walk after the session at the children’s center…how sad am I?

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