I recently joined a mommy group. This was kind of a big deal for me because I’d sworn them off in lieu of the more organically occurring relationships that start happening when your kids start Elementary School. However, my 3 year old wasn’t getting all the interaction that I wanted, and when I started homeschooling I lost a lot of my public school mom friends because we didn’t see each other any more.
I need Moms Night Outs. I just do.
The group I found ended up being an awesome group of girls, but joining a “Mommy Group” was hard for me, because before this I’d had SEVERAL bad experiences because Mommy Groups, in my experience, are like the high school cafeteria, but with slightly different labels.
1- The Crunchy Ones
These mamas are co-sleeping, attachment parenting, boob-slinging pros and while they do not discipline their own children for fear of repressing their spirits, they seem very concerned with other people’s children acting in ways that are not “respectful of Rivyr’s space”. There is typically a Militant Crunchy Mom who, on at least one occasion, has made a new mommy cry because she cannot physically breastfeed, and therefore is obviously going to give her baby cancer with that awful formula she’s using.
2- The Popular Ones
In the movies, there’s always poetic justice about the former cheerleaders who get fat and ugly. Not so at mommy group! (Well, at least for enough of them that they get their own group!) These women are perfectly coiffed and toned at all times, and even at an 8am playgroup, their makeup is fantastic and their brand-name track suit is pink with sparkles. They make time for manicures, highlights, and facials, and just like in high school, everyone wants to be friends with them. For the mom that has lost both her figure and her self-identity, these women can be torture.
3- The Type A Overachievers
They’re planners and do-ers and go-ers. They probably have a paper planner AND a fully-updated iPhone/Blackberry. They know EVERYTHING and they’ve been EVERYWHERE and they’re coordinating a bake sale for starving African Children, nursing a baby, and running their own business from their mobile device while leaving one hand free for their toddler, who, by the way, speaks 941 words flawlessly, all of which she has recorded in her impeccably kept and award winning scrapbooks. Did you buy that pan of brownies? Because she stayed up all night and made goldfish crackers from scratch in the shape of each child’s favorite fish.
4- The Partyliners
If gossip were an olympic sport, these girls would have a gold medal for every year since 2004. Frequently also the most willing to listen, they’re also the one everyone goes to when they want to know the scoop on why Shelby was crying into her coffee last playdate. They’re not exactly sure where their child is and what they’re doing, but they know exactly who’s husband is “working late hours, ifyouknowwhatimean”.
5- The Hanging By a Threads
These women just need a hug. They have at least a newborn, who has colic, they’ve not brushed their hair since about the time said child was born, they’re wearing something with baby vomit and possibly cheetos cheese smears because that’s all they can get their preschooler to eat for breakfast. They will not accept help, they will not take a happy little blue pill, and they will not enroll their eldest in preschool because THEY.ARE.FINE.
6- The Mommy
She’s about being a mom. She reads Dooce, Rants from Mommyland, has a paid Our-Kids.com subscription, a Disney Family Magazine subscription, and gets RSS feed updates from Certifikid every 2 seconds. She loves being a mom. She’s super mom. She’s got family-people on the back of her car, matching stationary, and her kids are dressed to match. She’s not saying that moms who work don’t love their kids, she’s just saying that, well, if you REALLY want to be home, you’ll make the time.
7- There’s probably more….but it’s late.
Basically, as Allison Pearson puts it: “Take one nice liberal woman who prides herself on being nonjudgmental. Now give that woman a baby. In no time at all, she could teach the Taliban a thing or two about rigid intolerance.”
Really, though, the problem isn’t that we’ve all turned nuts. The problem is that, no matter what group you fit into (and I can see myself in any of these, except the Popular Ones, on any given day), what we all really want is for someone to look at us, give us a hug, and say “Lady, you are doing an awesome job at something that is freaking hard. There’s so many options, so many pitfalls, and so many people that want to judge you, and I just want you to know that I agree with you and you’re doing it right.”
We’re all really just trying to justify ourselves as moms, and because of that we have a tendency to seek like-minded company so that we can feel like we’re part of a group that is “doing it our way” so we know that we’re “not totally messing our kids up”.
I think that, now on Team Varsity Mom with an 8 year old, 5 year old, and 3 year old, my most recent foray into the mommy group will be more successful and less hurtful than in the past because, unlike before, I realize that the popular mom I want to be is totally jealous of crunchy mom’s ability to nurser her children and secretly hurting inside that she can’t. Crunchy mom, as much as she’s ohm-ing on the sofa, she’s exhausted from night nursing and co-sleeping and she just wants a night off, too. The Mommy mom? She is totally uncomfortable some days with her new role that took her out of a job that defined her for a full decade and now she’s trying to “fake it till she makes it”.
We’re all trying to get through the days, and frequently the long nights. We all want someone to tell us that our kid isn’t going to end up on the 6:00 news saying that he shot everyone from the top of the belltower because his mom didn’t feed him organic produce. We want to feel supported.
At some point, you really do become more self-secure, but until that happens, let me be the first to tell you that if you’re not beating your child, you feed them multiple times a day, and you don’t call them names and tell them you love them, you’re doing a great job. Your kid is going to be okay. And so are you, and so is that equally insecure mom sitting across from you that you wish you could be. If you read your child a book every once in awhile and make sure they get hugs, you’re a freaking Rock Star. We’re all in this together, and even when we’re militantly different to the point of inadvertently insulting each other, we’re all very much the same.
And, by the way, we did leave high school. Sometimes it’s just hard to remember you can pick your tray up and talk to anyone you want. If you’re struggling to find a supportive group as a mom, hang in there, because they will come, and probably not in the form you expected.
PS- If you were at a playgroup with me and I made you miserable due to my membership in any of these groups, let me be the first to say Mea Culpa.