The Definitive Guide to Manic Moms

Man'ic: adj. characterized by frenzy, uncontrolled by reason

Symptom: The Idea of Snacks

There are times when snacks are important, even vital – like excessively long stretches between meals for toddlers, whose stomachs are small and whose behaviour will otherwise degenerate significantly.  Or, for exceptionally tall, hungry men with low blood sugar issues.   Manic mothers have no snack discrimination and provide snacks for children way beyond the point of physical or healthy need.  The resulting continuous stream of snacks falls into two categories: first, organic and healthy (carrots, celery, whole grain crackers, no nuts) and second, incredibly unhealthy and processed (lard-slathered food store cupcakes, Cheetos and Hi-C “juice” boxes (see Worrying About Cheetos)).  The former category includes foods no child would willingly chose first if given the option.  The latter category includes foods that have been proven to kill people,  if eaten in sufficient quantities. 

The important fact to remember for our purposes, however,  is that in both cases the snacks are completely unneccesary – in the middle of a soccer game, for example. 

Because of the irrational impulse to provide snacks, manic mothers create endless opportunities for snacking:  “special” school snacks, holiday snacks, tea time snacks, sports snacks, car snacks, playground snacks.   When a manic mother can’t provide the snack herself, she is often in a position to make every other mother involved in the activity or event provide  them through The Snack Schedule

Stop and think about that.  A Snack Schedule.  A schedule is a plan.  A snack schedule is a plan to have a snack.  WHO plans snacks? If you are provided with a snack scheudule or find yourself publishing one, be on guard.

Symptom: Organizing Potluck Dinners

When is a potluck dinner not a potluck dinner? When it is a perversion of the original intent of a potluck: bringing people together to have fun in a way that makes it easy for everyone.   When a potluck dinner is suggested by manic mothers it actually accomplishes just the opposite (making work for people who don’t really want to eat together at all and would rather be doing something else and eating other food). In addition, when organized in a thoroughly manic way, a potluck dinner must include at least three rules (ie. no kids, or must take place in the next six weeks, or no cold entrees).

Potluck dinners require manic mothers to utilize their best attibutes: organizing other people for the sake of their mutual offspring, showing a sense of commisseration with the burdens of other mothers and subtley raising the bar for other parents by highlighting her own willingness to committ to her child’s life by incorporating it wholeheartedly into their own social calendars.  Sports teams and PTAs are often the catalysts for pulling together a potluck.  The illusion that the potluck creates is that it is easy,  because no one person has to do everything.  Instead, everyone is assigned a food or food category they don’t really want and never actually asked for.  However, participating in the potluck with good cheer is essential, because Everything is Great (see link for more information).

Symptom: Using “Reply All” in E-Mails

The rampant use of “Reply All” in the propogation of useless e-mails is a particular MM characteristic. Because manic mothers are endlessly trapped on a merry-go-round of social events related to their children, they constantly need to communicate with and coordinate many separate groups of people.  The result: a manic mother cybersphere filled with such pithy missives as “On my way from yoga!” or “Will bring celery next Wednesday.” 

There are several contributing factors to the prevalence of this habit: 1) an effort to be helpful by letting everyone know what’s going on, 2) a lack of awareness of the volume of e-mails that some people are dealing with, 3) a basic lack of understanding regarding e-mail etiquette. 

A better use of technology for communciation regarding large group events using these types of message would be Twitter – the status update medium.  In general however, this technology has not been adopted for these purposes.  A school auction meeting Twitter feed, for example insertmanicmothergoodcausebusy-workmeetinghere@twitter.com, could go a long way to reducing the volume of status update e-mails.

Symptom: Using Themed Shopping Cart Seat Covers

Mothers who are stewing in the culture of maternal anxiety know that a child’s exposure to a food store shopping cart, especially the handle, is only slightly less dangerous than letting the same child play with a petri dish of Ebola virus. 

It used to be that a shopping cart seat was eyed warily or even wiped down surreptiously.  The Shopping Cart Seat Cover (SCSC) has changed the field of play. Think about this for a moment:  plush (comfortably padded), sanitary (anti-bacterial), multi-functional (multiple pockets for snacks, wipes, phoned, keys)  covers can sit in FOOD STORE CARTS for 30 or so minutes.   For a cool $20.99 the SCSC will stop any and all threats in their tracks or actually make them mobile – depending on your perspective.  For the design-minded, the covers come in Hawaiian, Silky Oriental, Black Toile and Sexy Leopard patterns.    A small price to pay for a santiary stroll through the aisles.

Actions: Responding to The Man Plan

Here’s something every manic mother knows: NEVER let a man make a child-related plan with other people.  If he does, it’s known as “The Man Plan” and includes one or more of the following elements:

1) It’s inefficient.

2) It creates a scheduling conflict.

3) It doesn’t take into account the feelings or desires of one or more children.

4) It involves having to relate way to many details to the man/men in question.

5) It makes more work for the women involved because it has to be discussed and reorganized.

There are three primary manic mom techniques for responding to a Man Plan:  

Passive aggressive polite:  Women who have to deal with a Man Plan don’t want to appear ungrateful or angry, so they tentatively mention possible problems, but claim that “it’s really not a problem” to execute the plan.  Men hear this and think “Great!” Manic mothers know this is code for “This is really a problem. Who the hell came up with this idea?” 

Pretend ignorance: This response to the man plan just ignores it completely. “Oh, I didn’t know he said that! Ha, that’s funny.  Moving right along…”

Aggressive aggressive:  “No. This way is MUCH better…”

Sunscreen as a Guide to Friendship

Without the manic mother, the ever-expanding sunscreen market would not exist.  SPF levels and maternal mania are directly correlated.  Prior to forming close and lasting relationships with other mothers at the preschool stage,  it’s highly advised that you secretly check the SPF on their sunscreen. If it is above 50 run like hell.  45 is in the outside safe zone, but be wary and keep at arms length until you have a good grasp on the person’s hand sanitizer and bug spray philosophy (completing the Manic Mother skin care trifecta).   A useful guide:

<SPF 15:  Casually meet at a park, no advance planning ever. But, be cautious, these people might actually be from other countries.

SPF 15: Arrange to meet for coffee now and then

SPF 30: Set up a weekly playgroup or lunch bunch at one of your homes and possibly have husbands meet

SPF 45: Meet monthly at a neutral location,  like a neighborhood pool

SPF 50: Don’t actively encourage your child to really play with this person’s child. Be polite, but not overly friendly

>SPF 50: Smile wanly when you encounter these moms and exhibit vaguely schizophrenic behavior to make sure you scared them off effectively. Twitching works. So does speaking to yourself in two or more distinct voices.

Symptom: Driving as a Competitive Sport

In manic mom culture driving is a badge of honor.  Manic mothers experience the equivalent of a round trip, cross-country drive every seven days. (This does not include weekend travel sports driving, which can involve spouses/ex-spouses. )  Typically, daily driving starts in earnest at roughly 8:15 am and ends at or about 7:45 pm.  A minimum of three hours and three stops is a basic requirement. Without excessive driving dedicated to her children’s enrichment, a woman cannot qualify as truly, deeply manic.

Driving as A Competitive Sport includes several Types of Drivers:

The Good Mother:  This early stage is made up of mothers who drive everywhere all afternoon and weekend, because to leave their children for any time at all, especially if it involves endangering their lives by putting them in other peoples’ cars, is unacceptable.   Letting other people drive them is also clearly a form of neglect.  After all, what are the sacrifices for, if not to be with your children every possible minute?   In this stage, mothers try  to make the most of drive time.  Expressions like “quality time with the kids,”  “great book on tape,” and “learning a foreign language” are dead give aways that a woman is in The Good Mother Driving stage.  Also popular are “mobile office,”  and “thinking time.”   See “Everything is Great.” In Stage One women don’t actually realize they’re in a competition.

The Pissed Off, Resentful Mother: It can take a while to transition from Stage One to Stage Two, but it is almost inevitable.  These are mothers who want to support their children’s interest, want to carpool, but can’t get organized and don’t want to impose on others. So, they drive, but resent it.  Bitter grumblings include phrases such as “Can you believe this? I’ve been in this car for 6 hours!” or “Dinner? You must be joking! You’re joking, right?”  and “Oh my f**king God!”  Manic mothers in Stage Two begin to sense the competitive nature of the sport when they realize not all mothers feel the way they do.

The Deer-In-Headlight Mother: These mothers are completely panic stricken. They binge e-mail to arrange carpools and are so overwhelmed by dates, times and logistics that they can’t keep anything straight, thereby exponentially increases the volume of driving-related communications. These women are inexperienced and possibly in the throes of a nervous breakdown.  This stage is a necessary prerequisite to Stage 5. 

The Fringe Mother: These women technically are not manic.  They are happy to participate in carpools, but let the panic-stricken-binge-email moms organize.

And, finally, The Guru Driving Goddess: Mothers who arrange carpools, but don’t actually drive. In order to reach this stage of manic mother nirvana, you have to have been every type of mother listed above.  Pay Attention To These Women, they have a GIFT or, a special skill depending on your perspective:  they manage to get other manic mothers to drive for them. They kinow its a sport and they win!