Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Middle School of Mommyhood

Since becoming a mom I have experienced more feelings that remind me of my middle school days than I have in a very long time. And I don’t mean the passionate, tear gushing crushes or the general rebelliousness I felt against every adult in my life. I mean the need to be accepted by “the group.” I thought this insecurity had been dead and buried along with my Deb hairspray, Sun-In, and Def Leppard tapes, but apparently not. I’ve felt that jealousy over and over again for the past 11 months and am trying to figure out why.

I noticed it the first time when I tried to take Sam to a new mom’s group at the hospital where I had him. I went only twice, mainly because he was so amazingly fussy that it was not worth the effort of the drive, dealing with him for the hour and a half, and the drive home. But there were reasons I felt it was not worth it to me to make it a priority. I felt, for the first time since childhood, like the new kid at school. All the moms already knew each other, which I expected. But I also expected them to talk to me since I was new. And they didn’t. So I tried to be outgoing while holding my cranky baby face down on his belly and jiggling him to keep him satisfied, but I was always the one to initiate the conversation and frankly they just didn’t seem interested. It was like they just didn’t want anymore friends; they were set. And I was left wondering how they had decided before they’d even met me what they didn’t like. Had I not yet lost enough baby weight? Did I seem as tired as I felt? Did I smell? (Seriously, I really smelled that first summer I had him. Something to do with breastfeeding and hormones I think.) I couldn’t believe the things that were going through my head. When was the last time I was seriously concerned over the possibility that I had no friends because of B.O.? Middle School.

My insecurity reared its ugly head every time I walked by another new mom who avoided eye contact and did not say hello. I yelled at them in my head for the rest of the block, “We are both new moms! I can see your baby in your front carrier and I know she’s not much older than Sam. I know you know what I am going through. Can you not even smile an empathetic, exhausted smile? Is it because I have the $30 Snugli instead of the $100 Bjorn?” Amazing. It was like I wanted to go out and get myself that hideously ugly and ridiculously expensive pair of Z. Cavarricis.

I read this article, Mom Cliques: Where Do You Fit In?, in a recent issue of Parenting magazine that was all about the roles women take on in “Mom Cliques.” In fact it was written by the woman who wrote the book on which the movie “Mean Girls” was based, Rosalind Wiseman. The roles I had to choose from included things like The Queen Bee Mom, Torn Wannabes and Desperate Wannabes, Sidekicks, and Outcasts. Are you kidding me? Almost every single “type” was negative in both connotation and description. I was horrified and offended as a mom, a woman, and a person above the age of 12. I’d like to think that I and we are better than that. I thought the article was so discouraging since it stated these types as fact and offered very little in the way of solving this problem if it truly exists. And I guess I was a little scared (hence my violent reaction). I had experienced some of the same feelings already and was not even in a “Playgroup” yet. What if this was just the beginning?

For the most part I did not find much good in this article because it felt like it was giving moms a bad name. But this part: “Cliques form when we feel pressured to bond to survive a stressful experience — and there's not much that's more stressful than parenting,” I get that. I feel like I am in middle school again because I don’t know what I am doing. I am insecure about my ability to parent my child and that fear pervades everything else in my life, just like the fear of learning who I was way back then made me an obnoxious, petrified, zit covered little monster (I was a middle school teacher for a few years and intend to be so again when Sam is a bit older so don’t get me wrong – I love the little monsters specifically because I remember what that felt like). So I see the connection here, but we are older and wiser now, so let’s move on from this clique thing.

Don’t we have something in common simply by being moms? And I’m not saying we should all be BFF and get those broken heart necklaces that fit together to prove our eternal loyalty, but is a “hello” too much? A smile? Eye contact? Isn’t the shared experience of birth and mothering a major connection between 2 people since it is currently the common focal point of our entire lives? My best friends in middle school were made through a common interest in the color black. I feel like we should be able to stop and look at each other’s babies when we walk by on the street and not have to wonder if the other woman thinks we aren’t dressed like a hip enough mom for her to be seen with us.


Blogger Cmommy said...

Beth, I came back online tonight to check something and found your comment on my blog! So, I had to click over and read about you...

This is a great post. I've experienced all of that, too. And, I've probably caused a mom to feel that way, though not intentionally. Now, I'm watching the whole cycle repeat itself through the eyes of my 7 yr-old. She's quite popular, but 99% pure-hearted. The same can not be said for her mates! To be honest, she may be a little meaner while away from me than I like to think. I hope not!

As the years roll by, I'm learning to treasure and accept the friends that God puts in my path, and to realize that most of them are seasonal. That's hard for me. I have a Christmas card list that is a mile long: I keep people in my heart forever. But some of our friendships are transient, and that is OK. Your post implies that we should at least have the common decency to be interested and pleasant. I agree!

looking forward to reading more of your blog! C

12:16 AM  
Blogger ABC Momma said...

Amen, Sister. I HATED junior high and still can't stand people with that clique-ish attitutde. I've learned to do my own thing and invite anyone else who wants to come along--like starting a playgroup. Sometimes I feel lame when no one shows up, but most of the time I get to know at least one or two other moms.

12:51 AM  
Blogger Rachelle said...

I agree wholeheartedly! I see other moms and smile and get nothing in return. I try to be friendly to all mom's, not in the BFF forever type thing, but to find somebody who loves motherhood jsut as much as me. Somebody who is doing their best and needs a friend just as much as I do. So far, I'm SOL.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Nikkie said...

I haven't come across this yet, or maybe I have and I just didn't really notice. I still have my high school thick skin. Its a shame I still need it as an adult.

Its really sad that grown women act this way. You'd think we all just be friendly to one another.

I always smile at other mom's, and or at their children. If they don't smile back, its their loss.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Mama D said...

I am so glad you found me because then I found you and this fantastic post. So good. And sadly, true. I'm glad you haven't been blogging that long because I intend to read every. word. you've. written. You are that good! Keep it up! And thanks for stopping by my blog!! P.S. I don't think you have a mom haircut, but it's a cute title.

6:36 PM  
Blogger bon said...

I read that stupid article... it pissed me off too, I think in the end she softened it (the article) by writing that these negative titles are just the ones for the gals who haven't grown up... and that most women just look at the garbage and say..."huh, what-ev," and go about there lives.

Those parenting magazines are so often crap, and provacateur crap at that. I realised this when reading an article entitled something like "The Family Bed Moms Faceoff Against the Non-Co-Sleeper Moms" or somesuch. Every single actual quote from a real mom went
"yeah... we _____ and it seems to work better for us." or "we tried _____ but then we never got any sleep and it doesn't seem to work with our family dynamics..."

the only "faceoff" was between all their dumb-bunny "experts."

12:56 AM  
Blogger scraphappymama said...

Just stopped by and was impressed with your blog. I too find that mommyhood is similar to middle school. I have learned to be the initiator and try to include everyone so that people don't feel left out . . . and in the end I win by having lots of friends.

5:22 PM  

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