Monday, July 14, 2008

Motherhood blues

When Jack was a baby and we made our first excursions to our local playgrounds, I expected other moms (I'm not being sexiest here, there just aren't many dads) to welcome me to their club. I didn't expect everyone to love me instantly and want to be my best friend, but I did anticipate a certain level of civility. Instead I found that some moms would chat, but more often than not, I came across moms who were not willing to engage. Some wouldn't even make eye contact. I took this personally for a very long time. Any time a mom would talk to me I felt like I was getting mom validation. When I was shunned, I felt like crap. I can vividly remember many days spend sulking at the playground, with babies crawling all around and no one recognizing my existence. Yeah, just like high school, only with the addition of an infant.

Things weren't much better at Acrosports, where I saw and was ignored by the same moms every week. A neighborhood moms group helped a bit, but just about everyone in it was headed back to work when their children were still quite young, so there were few opportunities for hanging out.

After a while, I had an insight. I had been treating motherhood like one giant hobby club, and expected that every mom would want to be friends with every other mom. Look at all we had in common! We've all had babies! We change diapers! We all need more sleep! Instead, it's been more instructive for me to see motherhood as a job. Sure, we are connected by our common motherhood, but that in itself, sadly, doesn't pull us together. When I think about all the coworkers I've had throughout my working life, there have only been about a dozen people with whom I really connected and became good friends. With most people, I interacted in polite water-cooler relationships, and some coworkers were so crazy/creepy/whatever I went out of my way to avoid them. Why should the giant motherhood cartel be any different?

Luckily over time I have made a few mom friends. I cherish them, and look forward to preschool, where I am sure I will make some more friends.

But that sad lonely feeling is still there sometimes. Maybe it never goes away. Some days as I chase Jack around the playground I catch sight of new moms with small babies. I always make sure to smile, say hello, and compliment them on their children. Life as a mom is rough enough -- we can all use a little bit of kindness, or just the acknowledgment that we are seen. And when it comes right down it, I love every mom, because every mom is me.


amandastea said...

A nicely written article! I'm glad that you came to a peaceful conclusion and even help new moms to feel welcome. Being a mom is hard enough (not that I have any firsthand experience), being rejected by people who should understand what you've been through could make it insufferable. But, as you already found out, "it's been more instructive for me to see motherhood as a job."

I smiled when I read, "And when it comes right down it, I love every mom, because every mom is me." Believe it or not, when you are enlightened, you see everyone is you and you are everyone.

Shall we call it "Zen and the Art of Motherhood"? :)

Jane Huber said...

Thanks Amanda!

Zen and the Art of Motherhood is a topic I ponder quite a bit. I hope to write more about it someday!