Monday, March 05, 2007

i walk the line

J and I each work a half day on Mondays so we can keep M out of daycare one extra day. It was one of the commitments we made when we first placed her. I work in the AM, he in the PM, we pass the kid off around lunchtime. Monday afternoons are my time alone with M.

Today we walked over to our neighborhood park. It's a great park with three different play areas and plenty of room. It was more crowded than usual with moms in their playgroups, kids on bikes, boys and girls generally going crazy. It's a diverse group; the neighborhood is home to a lot of eastern european, latino and asian families. It's common to hear 5 or 10 different dialects flying around. I like that about our park.

Today M and I were crawling around in the sand playing with someone else's discarded sandtoys when I paused and looked around. Everyone else's mommy seemed to be talking to someone else. I was the only unaccompanied adult around.

I have very few local friends with kids. I don't have other mothers to talk to, to laugh with, to lean on or commiserate with. I shy away from playground mommies, the tedium of small talk over ages and allergies, of forced sharing and cheerfulness.

I've still not come completely around to this.

I was asked this week how I would define myself as a person aside from being a mother. I had to think for a while because I am not entirely sure I would first define myself AS a mother. It's certainly evolving; I love her more than anything and always have, our bond grows each day, I think of the way I missed her on our trip, about how much more present I am. It's good, but it's not all.

So perhaps I am indeed a mother; just not one of those mommies.

Could that be it? What exactly do those mommies do? What do they talk about? I am going to bet they mostly talk about the same damn things I do. So what is the problem then?

It's not you, it's me.

I am not all the way there yet, this journey into motherhood. And somehow that resistance is keeping me separate. Different. Alternative mommy. As if I don't talk about the color of M's shit just as much as everyone else. But it's okay for now, because it's evolving. For now, I'll keep it on the straight and narrow while I continue to figure it out.

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line
-Johnny Cash


Penny said...

I was/am the exact same way.

I remember people asking me how it felt to be a Mommy and me thinking and saying, "I don't feel like a Mom (like those Moms seem to feel); I feel like me with a kid."

But, as time goes on, and I spend more and more time investigating, learning, thinking and acting about and for motherhood and Oee, I realize I certainly am Mother. Mother in the capitalized and hear me roar sense, completely. But, also in the italicized sense.

I'm still not one of those mothers.

I don't have playgroup, I don't stroller-derby on Wednesday afternoons with the neighborhood league, I have yet to join the PTA.

My two other friends who are mothers sell raffle tickets for the soccar league and work bingos and volunteer for daycare trips and organize big birthday bashes and chat with me about the friends of their children and their mothers and fathers, etc..

I'm not all about that. But, I have volunteered my time with the daycare field-trips and I did sell chocolate bars for Oee's dance class.

...Somehow, it just sort of works its way into you. It's part of the package.

Still, I think those mothers are probably the minority. I see Mom's in the pool with their toddlers who smile shyly as I come near with Oee, who aren't up for discussing breast-feeding or diarrea and electrolites. I see Moms in the supermarket who don't look like they've showered for days and probably haven't had a real grown-up conversation in weeks, let alone gathered with contemporaries to discuss rectal temperatures and the introduction of solid foods. I know a few girls at school who are more interested in discussing Maslow's heirarchy than toilet training. Still, as a mother, we seek out the information and advice of other mothers occassionally.

To be gender-stereotypical for a moment, I think it's a bit like being a man with a 454 engine. He doesn't neccessarily join a club, but he'll call his buddy to discuss the finer automotive points.

I have often felt a little out of the loop, when it comes to being Mommy. But, then I realize, Mommies come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, ages, attitudes, education levels, moods and aptitudes.

I'm the naturally resulting Mommy that the childless persona before me has given way to. Penny avec Oee. It works.

I don't think it's wrong to meet in the park for lattes and cloth versus plastic talk. But, I'd rather meet in the library over coffee for the environmental end of that discussion.

And, that leaves me lonely, but certainly not bored, not a poser, not surrendered. However, when talk does come to kids, I don't feel queasy like I used to - I'm a Mom and Mom's like to talk about their passions. Mine are psychology, humanities and Ophelia.

When you do what you love, the happiness follows.

Penny said...

And, sorry about the novel length comment.. my filter isn't working yet. *yawn* Oee was up at four this morning... ;)

Bob said...

I didn't want to talk to the dads, I wanted to play with my kids. did that make me less of a dad - I always thought it made me more of one.

who says that part of being a mom has to be bonding with other moms? don't get me wrong, it is a great support system and if nothing else an adult to talk to in a day filled with nothing but the company of a child. I don't think you would be you if you didn't have your own way of being a mother. I have always (always being relative - how long have I been reading here???) thought of you as a unique person, someone who knows herself and is comfortable in that knowledge. You walk your own path. why should your journey as a mother be any different?

My wife and I are solitary types - neither of us make friends easily and that is partly why we didn't do the stuff with other moms/dads/kids. It was our nature as much as our choice.

I really like the picture of you playing with your M while the other moms sit on the side talking dirty diapers and midnight feedings.

Anonymous said...

Even though I am a full-time "mom," when I gather with the others, I find that I'm one of the few, if not the only one, paying attention to the kids, in effect, a lone adult. This happens for a variety of reasons: my child(ren) would rather have my attention and act out; because small children need to be monitored, not just dumped (OK, I have some issues with certain moms who let their wild bullies do dangerous things while they chat); or I want to enjoy the activity with my child more than I want to talk to the other women.

Oh, The Joys said...

I find, with two, that I'm so DESPERATE for interaction with another adult that I"ll talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything as long as they are over 18 and not saying "Why, why, why?" until I want to scream.

slouching mom said...

I have always felt this way. I don't know whether it's because I don't identify myself as a 'mommy' as much as it's because I am a solitary sort and not one for small talk.

But perhaps you do those women a disservice? I think they are just lonely and wanting to have an adult conversation. The easiest way in to conversation is through the obvious commonalities -- diapers, soccer, whatever.

Maybe it's just that you are more comfortable with being alone than many of your fellow playground mommies. I know I am.

mamatulip said...

I am so pissed off. I just wrote a huge comment and Blogger ate it. I HATE BLOGGER.

I'll give you the short version and say that I was just thinking about this same thing this morning at playgroup, and I'm not one of those mommies either.

Stupid fucking Blogger.

Deezee said...

I so understand you. I am still at this place 13 years into motherhood. And I imagine it has far less to do with me as a mom than with who I simply am as a person. (okay, how vague is that!?)

In a nutshell, I relate. Let's meet us somewhere in CA and we can be baffled moms together ;)

Anonymous said...

I was very young when I had my first and didn't fit in with the other moms. None of my friends were married or had children, so I didn't fit in with them either. Then I got married and had another one and then a handicapped one and I didn't fit in again.
I don't really know what moms talk about but I know why. It's what Oh, the Joys said, you just want to talk to a grown up.
As for playing with your kid, that's awesome. I still get on the swings with my youngest and when I visit my neice and nephew I get on the floor and wrestle with them. I like to play, still

NotSoSage said...

I identified with this post so much. Exactly. That's exactly how I feel. There's a pride in it, but also a questioning.

Well, we're learning.

metro mama said...

A woman that quotes Cash. After my heart.

I chat up the mommies in our parks and drop-ins and I've found there are plenty who are up for a good chat about books or current events. There are also those who want to talk baby stuff and I go to them for my advice!

Mad Hatter said...

I am not one of those mommies either partly b/c I am usually 10-15 years older than they are. It makes for a strange dynamic.

I think I partly engage wholeheartedly in mom-dom on the blog because I don't really do it anywhere else. Still, I like the women I meet in the park but it is rarely me who strikes up the conversation. This town is small, as well, which often means I know so many of the people in the park from other contexts. It broadens what we have to talk about.

carrie said...

Aaaaaw! If I saw you on the playground, I'd talk to you . . . about boogers, potty training, politics, groceries, relationships, whatever!

~one of those mothers~

carrie said...


Now I feel like a heel after reading the other comments. See, I am in the minority here.

But I did want to clarify: those other mothers, are just like everyone else -- it's just someone else's perception of them that is different and that is where the problem lies. Everyone has their own versions of the "others". I can tell you that after enduring the playground for 10 years and still going, we're all in the same boat. Some may *SEEM* better at it, but that's just it -- it is only a perception. Unless you know them, you don't really know and whether they're slouching around in the grocery store sans make up or looking like they walked out of a fashion mag, you don't really know.

We're all moms/mothers/women. We're all individual and that is what makes all of us so interesting, in my opinion.

I am proud of you for recognizing how you feel, I felt like that in the beginning too. And there are still days when I am convinced that I'm doing everything wrong and I wonder where the "me" went, but I know she's in there somewhere.


Kyla said...

Take Mad's comment, only make it 10-15 years YOUNGER than all of the other mommies, and you have me. :)

Laurie said...

I didn't have any friends with kids either. But then I worked long hours and didn't have time for much but my son when I got home. That was enough for me. I don't think I missed out on anything and my son are as close as close can be. :)

flutter said...

I can only imagine that I will be the same as you, when I have kids.

KC said...

I totally want to hang out with you at the playground.

I've felt like that too, at times. And other times, I've been allowed to enter the other mommie's world, and it's been nice. Non-alien. Accepting. Not so bad.

I think what ties us together is stronger than what separates.

kristen said...

I think that's why I've been in a state ever since we've moved to the burbs. I so don't relate to the women I've met here and I know we wouldn't have ever met were it not for our kids.
Most of the women who are my friends, don't have children or have just one whereas my 'friends' here, have 2-3 and this is just the beginning of the divide.
Being a mom for me, hasn't been this built-in club that other women have found and I'm glad for it.

meno said...

I was never a playground mommy. I can admit that going to the playground bored the crap out of me. I did it anyway. That's what love is.

christina said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean ha ha I even wrote my own post about it. the mommy brigades make my hands all clammy and I feel like it's high school cliques all over again.

Susanne said...

One of the best things a friends has said to me when I had my son was, "Don't think you have more in common with them because both of you have kids." I still was lonely. I am capable of chatting with everyone but that doesn't mean I enjoy it. This is why I love this mommyblogging thing so much. Finding like-minded people.

I bet nowadays even "those mommies" don't feel like "those mommies".

Jenny said...

I have a few mommy friends but mostly it's just me and Hailey on our own. And I'm cool with that. I don't need any distractions from my kid.

I don't see her enough as it is, ya know?

Of course, if you want to move to Houston I'd be willing to make an exception for you. :)

Beck said...

I am one of THOSE mothers. For me, becoming a mother was my way into the world of adult friendships, because suddenly here was my little common denominator. I find having kids makes me able to make conversation with pretty much any other mother now, because there will be something that we have in common and can sympathize over... and with having kids, there went a previous lifetime of shyness and being lonely.
I DO define myself almost solely as being a mother - I'm a SAHM, but it's also what I've always wanted to be. I can see how it would be a different path for women who have defined themselves so strongly by other things in their lives.

radioactive girl said...

When my oldest was little, I joined a playgroup. While I was happy to have some new mommy friends, I never completely felt like I fit in with the women who talked endlessly about things that didn't matter to me. I love my daughter, but still wanted to be myself, not "just" her mom. Now that I have four kids and am so busy, I would give anything to go back to being in that playgroup and sitting around talking about nothing all day.

Nancy said...

I really identified with this post. I remember going to a birthday party for one of Mimi's classmates, and being horrified because the other moms all bunched up into small groups -- and when I'd try to join one I'd be subtly rebuffed. I thought, what the hell is wrong with me? (And truthfully I was a little relieved, because their conversations completely did not interest me.)

But then I met another mom like me, who happens to be the mother of one of Mimi's best friends. We clicked wonderfully and have become great friends. I would take my friendship with her any day over a playgroup of moms making idle chit-chat. But maybe it's because we have a friendship based on our own connection, not just the fact that we are both moms.

Anyway, I hear you. :-)

PunditMom said...

In a way, it's a repeat of the high school clique thing ... at least that's the way it feels. But I tell myself that maybe they're just as unsure of themselves as I am, and maybe they already know those other people. Even at my "advanced" age, I'm still trying to figure out the social group behavior thing!

J Fife said...

Straddling the line between mother and all of the other identities within is difficult. I find myself toppling over to the mother side more often than not. One surprising benefit of my falls has been the other women that I've met - women I would have never engaged with were it not for my daughter. Turns out they are funny, helpful and just as conflicted as me.

Lucia said...

You are so awesome. If I were a mom (which I'm not), I'm certain I'd be the same. Because who wants to be one of the mommies? They can be irritating and boring and talk of nothing else. Why not be a great mom in the world of humans instead of just in the company of other mommies?

Momish said...

Jen, I feel the same way. I always chalked mine up to being an older mom and in a totally different place then those "real mom moms"! (Thus the MOMISH moniker). I hear ya, but you are also probably right. They talk about the same stuff I would if I had the inclination to reach out and give 'em a chance!

Luckily, I have a few older mom friends so I feel lucky all the way around when it comes to this kinda stuff.

Julie Pippert said...

I called myself a Twilight Mom after I went back to work with a flexible schedule.

I was neither fish nor fowl and therefore ended up a little out in the cold.

The SAHMs had all bonded, the working moms were too busy, and frequently it was just me and my daughter, solo.

Somedays I didn't feel like the pain of small talk with a stranger.

Now I'm one of them, those playground at home moms (I dress like Old Navy slop too! LOL), and as I talk animatedly with my friends, who I see every day, I sometimes catch one of the running moms or a holiday mom glancing a little wistfully, as if trying to figure out if she could, or wanted to, find a way in.

I usually mean to extend, and often I do, but sometimes I get distracted and the opportunity is lost.

We talk about kids, home, life, husbands, issues...sometiesm stuff on my blog.

We're not terribly interesting in general, I guess.

It's not college coffeehouse half in French with references to Proust or anything.

But it's a grown-up.

If you were home every day, I think you'd find your rhythm in that.

As it is, well, like I said, I called it Twilight Mom.

But since your time with your daughter alone is that one afternoon...I don't blame your priority elsewhere.

I adore my circle of mom friends. They pull me through a lot.

I don't know if it's you. When it was me, it was really my life moving on a different road, at a different pace more than anything, I think. But that's me, not you.

I'll shut up now b/c I think I'm losing focus.

This really is alovely post and what I'm tryng to say is I understand how you feel.

I'd just ask: does it bother or worry you? because it doesn't seem to, so I'd say no worries, right?

crazymumma said...

I'd break you down. I'd make you love me. I'm just that kind of crazy. I already did it to one woman, just because I knew we would connect...she has not looked back once.

And I bet you would love it. Maybe you just have not yet met the type of person you could hang in the local park with.

I am so arrogant in my surety.

snort, well anyway I know I would want to get to know you....

Em said...

I love this post... I think becoming a mother is a process not a one off event.. and eventually you become the mother you are meant to be.

I'm not one of "those" mothers either. I've got my good friends and we will hang out and talk about all kinds of things (not just our children) but I find it hard to submerge myself into all the school and kindy related mom activities... it just isn't me.

Tabba said...

Would you define me as not-one-of-those-moms if, when on a playground that I have chosen because no one knows about it, a woman and her child walk up and I completely freak out because I DON'T want to talk about how long I breastfed, what percentile my kids are in, and that I can relate to Desperate Housewives?

Granted, I enjoy my children and try desperately to delight in this time I have with them. And I think I may be lumped into "that" category because I happen to stay-at-home....

But I would certainly characterize myself as the mom on the playground with the shifty eyes, the nervous quiet smiles, and the general deer-in-headlights look.

Tabba said...

and by the know how I feel about Cash AND that song....and those lyrics are my fav's. I'm hearting you up right now.

Tabba said...

oh, and I DON'T watch Desperate Housewives...maybe I shouldn't generalize about that show.

ECR said...

"For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide." JC

Joker The Lurcher said...

Joker The Lurcher said...

ps - i meant to add a comment to my last post but blogger just grabbed it!