The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

An open letter to the rude stage mother I encountered yesterday

I’ve struggled with my frustration toward “Helicopter Moms” for years, much to my dismay. Because really, I don’t want to care so much about how or why people do what they do. I want to be a “live and let live” kind of mom and focus my energy on my own stuff and my own kids.

But yesterday I had an interaction with a fellow mother that was so unsettling, I needed to write it out to help me process it.

My 10-year-old daughter was performing for the fifth and final time as a workhouse orphan in the local high school musical Oliver!

Mini-Me, signing autographs after the show...

Mini-Me, signing autographs after the show…be still my heart!

One of her classmates does a lot of local theater and according to her mother, “has been doing it forever.” Another mom and I were talking to that girl’s mother after the show and asked her how she finds out about all the local auditions, thinking our daughters might like to do more acting too.

Well, either this mom had accidentally put her thong on backwards that day, or she didn’t want any more competition for her daughter because her response was a very chilly, “Oh, word of mouth,” followed by, “…and the more shows you do, the more opportunities you get. In fact, Emma just won a scholarship to study in New York this summer.”

Intrigued, I asked, “Do you go with her for things like that?” Because really, I was just wondering how stage moms with multiple kids support their child’s interests if it requires travel.

But instead of answering my question respectfully, this woman turned directly to the other mom in our little conversation circle, rolled her eyes, and very sarcastically replied “No. I put my child on a plane alone to New York City.”

She wasn’t even looking at me when she said this. She was looking at the other mom and smirking like “Can you believe this chick just asked me that?!”

I was so caught off guard by her snarky reply that I countered “I’ve actually put my kids on planes alone before.” (Which is true. I have. My two older ones traveled alone to visit their grandparents once. Probably not the kind of thing I would ever do again…live and learn.)

But silly me, of course this mother would never dream of letting one of her children out of her sight even for a minute.

She then looked at me like I was wearing a pelt of human infant skin and her countenance told me she was not at all surprised I would put my children on a plane alone. If thought bubbles were real, hers would have read: “Of course you have, bless your heart.”

Which of course was my cue to KEEP. ON. TALKING. Because what better way is there to deal with a mean girl than to develop sudden diarrhea of the mouth?

“I mean…I’m just curious, because you have other kids. What do you do with them when you travel for things like this?”

“It’s only for a week.” (eye roll)

“But who takes care of your other kids?” I pressed.

“My husband.”  (unspoken body language: “Duh.”)

“Does he work from home?” (me, not letting go)

“Yes.” (unspoken: “Get a clue. And why are you wearing a pelt of baby skins?”)

Better late than never, I finally got the message she was not going to be more friendly or helpful or even civil in this conversation. She clearly had the market cornered on how to be a successful stage mother and she wasn’t going to give us any insight into how she keeps so many balls in the air.


I’m pretty sure these aren’t really the kind of situations Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had in mind when she said “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” She was probably talking about much higher level scenarios like negotiating with international terrorists or the women who answer the phones at the pediatrician’s office.

But still.

How hard would it have been for that mother to be pleasant, or helpful, or just not a fucking asshole?

And it finally dawned on me why Helicopter Moms like her irritate me so much.

It’s because their extreme hovering makes me question if I’m doing a good enough job mothering my own children.

Because sometimes it’s hard to know what came first, the independent children or the non-hovering mother? And does it even matter? Why does there have to be a right way and a wrong way to do this?

Should I be pushing my kids to win summer camp scholarships? Should I be attending all five showings of this 2.5 hour play (at $12 a pop, to see my kid in one five minute scene)? Should I not have allowed my two older kids to visit their grandparents without me that summer? Should I be writing this blog post when I could be vying for a good position in the carpool line or making flashcards or researching which extra curricular activities will help my kids get into the colleges that will ultimately help them earn the kind of salaries they will need to buy me the best nursing home money can buy?

Of course not. Because that is not my style or what my kids require.

I am exactly the kind of mother my children need.

I am exactly the kind of mother my children need.

My kids are creative, and independent, and can make people laugh and recite haikus about poop and have unstructured fun and study for tests without Pinterest-worthy embossed flash cards.

And they will be okay regardless of what I do or don’t do to help them. In fact, I know in my gut that they are better off for having to figure some things out on their own without my constant presence or input.

But it never makes it any easier to deal with those sanctimonious Helicopter Moms when our paths do cross.

Perhaps they are put in my life to help me grow as a loving, compassionate woman. For I have no control over the things they say or do…only the way I respond to them.

In which case…

Dear Stage Mother Superior,

Thank you for reminding me yesterday that I am an awesome mother. And so are you, in your own special way, bless your heart.

Kindly, and with compassion for your lack of grace and social skills,


PS – Watch your back, because my daughter WILL be at that next audition, and I’m letting her borrow my baby-skin-pelt. See you there! 



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  1. It was your helicopter mom video that had me fall in love with you. I love how you mix mad cap hilarity “infant skin pelt” with profound, Pinterest worthy quotes, “I am exactly the kind of mother my children need.” PERFECTION.

  2. I lived in Atlanta for a year about 10 years ago. Your story reminded me about what it is like to live in Atlanta. These kind of people are everywhere in that city. Here is the kicker we are moving back and I am so scared. I am worried about these snobs coming back in my life. It was so bad for me that I am thinking really hard where to buy a house. Man this sucks!!!!

    • Oh Julie – I am so sorry I caused you more stress with your move by reminding you about the bitches here. If it’s any consolation, I have lived here for 10 years and this is honestly the first time anyone has ever been this rude to my face like that. I actually live in the suburbs north of ATL. But I think there are women like this everywhere who are mean to other women due to their own insecurities. The key is spotting and avoiding them! Good luck with your move! :)

  3. I think you are confusing two different problems, “bitch” and “helicopter mom.” They do not necessarily go together–I’ve met plenty of assholes who barely remember they have to pick up their kids after their tenni-wine lunches, and plenty of really nice people who are just sadly over-involved in their kids lives. This woman was plainly just a rude bitch and possible living her life through her child star Baby June. Not sure she actually counts as a “helicopter mom,” because as you pointed out, who is hovering over those other, embarrasingly non-talented kids left behind with her unemployed husband?

    • Ha – I like your spin on it, Jenn. You make a great point about the other kids she leaves behind, but she is definitely hovering over her little Shirley Temple. I think she is actually both of these things…bitchy and hovering, but you are totally right, the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

  4. This is absolutely ridiculous! It is hard to believe mothers like that exist outside of TV.

  5. Love the “pelt of baby skin.” Where do you get those?

    I can’t believe how rude that woman was TO YOUR FACE. I mean behind your back is one thing but to your face? I think the best advice in life is “Just don’t be a dick.” That’s all I ask. Is that really that hard?

  6. I want to be like you, focus on my own kid, and NOT give the side-eye to other parents for the decisions they make pertaining to their families. But shut my mouth and slap your grandma if helicopter parents don’t bug the living shit out of me, too.

  7. As a new mom, I received my first interaction with a helicopter parent at the store last week. She chased me down to hand me a disinfectant wipe because she “noticed” that I didn’t sanitize my cart. Of course (she assured me) I must have just missed the large sanitary station with the giant sign and the four industrial size boxes of wipes because no one ever purposefully places a child in an unsanitized shopping cart (insert big smile and crazy eyes). You should have seen the look on her face when I replied, “oh thanks but I’m not really into sanitizing everything my kid touches. I think germs are good for her” She looked at me like I stabbed a puppy while burning a flag and then she placed the wipe in my shopping cart and said, “well just in case you change your mind”. I know she was trying to help but man…I vacillated between feeling like the worst mom ever and wanting to run her over with my car…damn helicopter moms.

    • Speechless. No, not speechless…flabbergasted. I can’t even begin to fathom trying to interfere with another mother’s shopping routine like that. Frankly, I’m too busy keeping my own kids alive and in my sight to worry about anyone else’s kid getting shopping cart cooties. Also, my daughter Mini-Me was a shopping cart LICKER and that girl has not missed A SINGLE DAY OF SCHOOL in 4 YEARS.

  8. That Madeleine Albright quote is one of my favorite! (And, hopefully true!!) Helicoptering, while not entirely healthy, I could forgive to an extent depending on the person… Being nasty and rolling your eyes on the other hand – sounds like someone needs to remind her she graduated from junior high school a long time ago!

  9. My daughter is only 1 1/2 years old, and I already know I’m going to have a very hard time dealing with her classmates and their parents once she starts going to school. Lord, put a filter on my mouth when I’m around them. “Bless your heart”- love it.

  10. I hate that I don’t have enough strength not to question myself. I love this post. Real and supportive moms unite!

    (Your pediatrician office phone answerer line made me snicker out loud.)


  11. My parents put me on a plane alone at age 10, from Texas to Illinois. There was nothing unsafe about it at all. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anything safer. First I was with them every minute. Then I was on a plane every minute. Really, what’s going to happen on a plane? Then my grandma picked me up, and she and/or my grandpa were with me every minute until I got on the plane home.

    Admittedly, if I had been going to a one-week scholarship study opportunity without anyone to pick me up, etc., that would have been rougher. Unless there was a good bus route, then maybe not. So, if I were going to be snooty like that, I would have said something more like, “No, I expect my child to navigate strange cities alone.” But putting someone on a plane alone? Sorry, not scary at all. Letting them walk to school alone is scarier. Letting them be in their room alone is scarier. Letting them wake up before you is scarier. I really can’t imagine that woman’s life. (Bless her heart.)

  12. You nailed it. I remember this mother when my son was in Kindergarten. I called her The Peanut Lady because her daughter was deathly allergic to peanuts and because of that, 1) The lunches I sent with my son had to be inspected by her before they could enter the classroom, and 2) She was in the classroom all day, every day, protecting her daughter from killer peanuts.

    Her attitude was so superior. SHE was the most important volunteer in the classroom. SHE knew all. I was just a mere twice a week for an hour or two volunteer, but SHE was a real mom, not a slacker like me.

    Then the day came when my son told me Peanut Lady’s daughter had kissed him. I assumed Peanut Lady knew all about it, so I mentioned, “Oh, I guess our children have a thing for each other since they’ve kissed.” She hadn’t a clue. Revenge was so sweet.

  13. Women who answer the phone at the pediatrician’s office. Awesome.

    If I hadn’t heard that story from you, I would’ve thought it was from some sitcom.

  14. I am in the process of dealing with a stage mother. You know the one who thinks she knows better than the teachers and the dance owner. She tries to wow us with her knowledge about ballet, tap, and lyrical. She complains how another dance number is wearing the same dress as her daughter…she of course has a solo, and believes her daughter should “shine.” It is clear she is living her life through her daughter. Her daughter is rude to me daughter and openly mocks her in class. I want to confront her after class, but should I even bother? I’ve talked to the dance owner and will be speaking with the dance teacher. I have no illusions of my daughter being a professional dancer. I am not considering putting her in tennis and swimming instead. Still, I think I need to talk to her as a service to her little girl and to future little girls who may suffer in years to come.

  15. Having a daughter who fluked a role in a professional musical theatre production last year without the pre requisite 10 years of dance training, the grief I copped from stage parents was obscene. This is a group of people I never knew existed (but they do), and try coming across them in as a gaggle (there were over 20 kids cast).. Aside from the covert behaviour you describe to leave people out, the overt bad behaviour was every bit on display. The worst of it culminating in a fist fight between parents in front of children. Information is power to these people … Who has it is in the running to score the next big thing for their kids. Dont worry about agents at this age everyone. The difference between a kid who gets work and one who doesn’t is having a very motivated mother with an attitude of “I’ll do whatever it takes even if it means my own sanity and ignoring any other child/husband/friend/parent/sibling who may also need some attention”. Wow it feels good writing this. Six months of pent up frustration, when really all this was meant to be was a very exciting adventure for a little girl who has her whole life ahead of her and the ability to make choices independent of where U think her life should head. Good on her for having a crack. I hope she takes that attitude into whatever else she does and I’m sure she will.

  16. My mom is also a very rude and snobby and emabarrassing “stage mom” who is always making me do lame acting monologues in talent shows. She definitely doesn’t look or dress like the other moms (especially since last year when her and my dad got divorced and she used some of the money for a “makeover” that included blonder hair, bigger lips, and fake boobs). She is always very bitchy to everyone backstage at the shows and I know the other moms can’t stand her from the looks they give her and some of the things I’ve overheard them say behind her back calling her “Little Miss Look At Me” and “Jigglian” (her real name is Jillian)

  17. Hi Leslie,

    thanks for sharing this story, there will always be people like this.
    The great thing is that you managed to come to the conclusion you did!

    Looking forward to more of your posts!

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