Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mommy dating 101

Tall tired but joyful mother seeks other- for long walks, trips to the playground, and impromptu play dates. Must love kids, preferably your own but any will do. Incessant braggers or judgement passers need not apply..
It's always been interesting to me the process of meeting other mothers. Never in my life (besides first day of preschool I suppose and maybe summer camp, or college) have I shown up at an event or function without knowing anyone specifically looking to market myself as a companion. Now that I have had children this is somewhat of a regular occurrence.
As a mother you put yourself out there for many reasons; to meet, find, and form a social network, community, and support system for your child or children as well as for yourself.. and maybe because if you no longer have a "proper" full time job you might (as I do) look at your position as a mother as your gig- and other mothers are then to an extent your coworkers in this new field. It is now part of my job and my responsibility to my children to participate in mommy networking and schmoozing and socializing and connecting.. and often although one has plenty of pre-kids friends both with and without children- for whatever reasons they don't quite get a chance to connect anymore. I have many really important friends in my life with or without their own children, whom I hold near and dear to my heart but generally they are scattered far and wide or wrapped up in their own jobs and families so not necessarily a part of my M-F 9:00-5:00 mothering world.. Whatever the reason or for multiple reasons- you find yourself on this quest to meet other mothers. "Mommy dating" might be an appropriate term here but it is much more complicated than that because after a bad date you can easily avoid running into the guy again, and really you are at the end result only expected to find one particular mate in the dating process; not so of the mommy dating process.
So-- alas I sign up for music class, hit the playground, or drop in at a playgroup with my tots in tow and resume in hand (ok not really but that's how it often feels) ready to represent= an ambassador for my family.
All in all it is fairly easy to meet other mothers in this urban suburbia we live in. We have exchanged info with people at parks or yoga or mom & baby classes which there are certainly no shortage of here, and even met others through mommy-cyber-"dating" groups or forums. It almost seems like there are mommies everywhere ripe for the meeting!
The thing is just because two people have produced other people it does not mean that they have anything in common other than that. And this is often painfully obvious.. If you had met pre-kids would you ever have given each other a second thought? Would you have had anything to connect about? Would you have wanted to? Is this a good thing or bad thing or a bit of a crap-shoot? Although this can be a great way of opening yourself to new people and new experiences (unarguably a wonderful thing) it can also be a real drag.
More often than not this becomes a harsh reality as you sit through playgroups that feel something more like a high school cafeteria than a nursery - there is in fact no shortage of momma drama, or gossip, or cliquishness, or conformity. And that doesn't even touch on the crazies (horrible of me I know but stick with me) you meet along the way - no really; I have encountered the "your toddler bit my toddler so I'm going to kick your toddler" mother, the "I don't even like children or want children or acknowledge that I have children" mother, the "breastfeeding until my kid can spell the word breast" mother, the "obvious public flatulence" mother, and that doesn't even get into the whole "everything I do is so green and wholesome and and your kid is toxic" band of mothers, or the "what's wrong with my 2 year old eating candy, drinking soda, and swearing" set, or the "my kids are really just part of the total package and god knows I need the total package" mothers. Ok I exaggerate but hardly.. And I know, I judge, but that is the whole point here, finding people you connect with isn't necessarily easier when you have kids just because you have kids, because having kids complicates things and brings out other issues and ideals and this whole other realm of considerations because you are not only considering these things for yourself but for these small perfect impressionable and priceless little people. No pressure, really... Enough to make you throw your hands up and surrender. Depressing even.
But not always. Not even for the most part. Maybe the bad experiences make the good just that much more valuable or rare or enjoyable or significant or truly outshine all the others. There always needs to be balance right?
Really we have been very lucky to meet some absolutely amazing and true friends through motherhood- lifelong friends, for ourselves and our children, who I know we will know and love for many years to come.. And even many more who we don't know quite so well but we enjoy and we appreciate and we value all the same.
I know full well mothers come in all shapes, sizes, types and characters, but still for some reason it is always a bit of a tough reality for me- this whole social dating game. And through all of it I look at my children and think of all of the social tight ropes they will eventually be balancing on, the peer pressure, and of god the rejection.. And I guess that makes it all the more important to me that I surround them with a community of wonderful supportive kind people who can help shape them with care, confidence, integrity, and understanding as they I keep pressing on in hopes of finding some other like-minded mothers.

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