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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mommy Time and Mommy Trials......


            My first month back at college has flown by, and as I expected, adding the role of “college student” to the long list of roles I currently have (mommy, wife, volunteer, sports fan, etc.) has upset the apple cart a bit.  I had expected some of these changes, (laundry crises, too much carry-out, lack of sleep, etc) but one of these changes in particular has really surprised me.  I have somehow, in the social world of Grosse Pointe mommies, been silently removed from the group of “stay-at- home” moms.
Anything but staying at home
 Before returning to college, when asked if I worked, I would reply that I was a “stay-at-home” mom. The very label “stay-at-home” mom has always made me laugh, because in the thirteen years that I have been a mom, I have probably stayed “at home” less than one-eighth of the time. When my children were babies we would spend our time between naps involved in playgroups such as Gymboree, baby music classes, story time at the library, playing at the tot lot and playground, and swimming at the pool.  Those early days were quickly replaced by elementary school and countless hours of volunteer opportunities, such as serving as a lunch mom, a reading volunteer, chaperoning field trips and class parties, attending committee meetings for fundraisers, and just about everything else you can imagine.  During these years, the children’s activities took off at stealth speed…. Girl Scouts, Football, Little League, Swim Team, Band, Musical Drama, Sunday School…you name it and my kids have probably tried it.   Thankfully, the kids have narrowed down their interests and I have learned to say “no” more often, and our lives are no longer quite as rushed and busy.  
All Goldfish and no Glam
“Stay at home” mommies know who the other “stay-at-home” mommies are.  You can spot them from a mile away at the tot lots, playgrounds and parks. Their strollers are well worn and packed to the gills with bags, the contents of which usually consist of any number of snacks and drink items.  They often have not only their children with them, but a few of their children’s friends as well.  They are dressed for comfort not for style, and are frequently armed with wipes, sunscreen and goldfish crackers. They are almost always at the park, playground, or pool with another “stay at home” mommy that they arranged to meet, because “stay at home” mommies run in packs.  If they have one child, they follow him everywhere and worry about everything.  If they have more than one child, they are sitting in a state of sheer exhaustion on a bench with another mommy, enjoying a few minutes of “grown-up” time, while clutching their cuppa Starbucks or bottle of water.  “Stay at home” mommies make up the core base of school related committees as well.  They run the PTO, organize the class parties, volunteer as lunch moms and are the first to complain about the drop off/pick up line, the teacher, the principal, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  I can say all of these things with a smile on my face, because as I mentioned above, I was one of these types of mommies for thirteen years, and I loved every minute of it.  I have no regrets and would not change a thing about the choices I made to do so.
So that I don’t offend anyone…
It is, however, very important to note that during my 13 years “at home” I met and associated with many wonderful, active, involved mommies who worked part-time or full-time; some from home, some downtown, and some commuting great distances.  Some worked because they needed to for the income, and some worked because they felt called to do so for either themselves, or the “greater good.”  I am proud to call as my friends mommies who work as medical doctors, nurses, social workers, professors, lawyers, gardeners, artists, writers, chefs, accountants, and therapists.  Let me clearly state that their abilities as mommies are equal to that of my “stay-at home” mommy friends.  Sadly though, we were often separated by an invisible line, somehow classifying us between those who stay at home and those who do not.  
Convertibles, Charities, and Tennis
Yet another category of mommies also exists. These mommies do not work, yet they are not the primary caregivers for their children, either.  They have full time nannies, send their kids away to full time summer camps, and only volunteer when they are called upon to be an “honorary chair”, or occasionally as the chairperson for a very highly publicized, well established event. This group of mommies is a bit of a mystery to me.  They are spotted on the tennis courts and in the gym, at graduations and awards ceremonies, occasionally at the club pools, and at large scale fundraisers.  Their nails look fantastic, not a hair is ever out of place (even though they drive convertibles), and their clothes are stylish and polished.  There are not enough hours in the day to accommodate the amount of effort it would take me to come across as they do.
The Class Picnic
There is a tradition in the Pointes that during the last two weeks of school every grade in every school celebrates the end of the school year with a picnic at a local park.  It is an undertaking of love by the room-moms to organize all of the food, paper products, games and treats, and (god forbid) rain plans for this much- anticipated day. I have been to more picnics than I can count, and to be truthful am not very fond of “fun” in the “forced togetherness” variety. I must admit that for the first time in 13 years I had a great excuse (college) not to attend my 6 year olds picnic, and I was secretly glad.  Having not read the flyer that come home detailing the picnic, I sent my son off to school that day with no lunch, expecting him to eat at the picnic. Big mistake.  The phone calls starting coming in by 10a.m. that my son had no lunch, and the picnic was being moved from the park to the school due to a large thunderstorm.  I was in class and missed the first two calls.  By the third call, my son was upset.  Upon listening to the voicemails left for me, I became upset not only because my son was upset, but also from the condescending tone of voice from the moms who were at the picnic and had left me the messages.  Thankfully, I was able to locate a “stay-at-home” mommy who was kind enough to make a lunch and run it over to my son’s school. 
And Now I have Guilt
While no one would ever say it to me in person, I know that I have now crossed that invisible barrier into the world of “those other mommies” who do not stay-at home. I will not be a room mom, attend field trips or be a Girl Scout leader any more.  I knew deep down this would happen, and even discussed it at length with my children and my husband.   I didn’t, however, think about the other mommies and how they would think of me.  I was OK with the choice I had made to leave home and attend college full time.  My family was OK with it.  Why, all of a sudden was I allowing other mommies opinions to effect me? 
Time Trials
This weekend I stood alone with an umbrella in the pouring rain at my children’s swim team time trials.  I noticed that all of the “stay at home” mommies were volunteering by timing the events, grouped together under their umbrellas laughing and having a good ole time.  Just as I began to feel sorry for myself, two mommies approached me and struck up a long, funny, and thought-provoking conversation.  One of these mommies is a M.D. and the other has a PhD.  We laughed about our children, the swim team and our husbands.  They gave me advice about class choices in my program and the best place to complete my practicum.  I was engrossed.  I was entertained.  I was happy. And most importantly, I was still a mom, and a good one, too. 

9 comments:

  1. Interesting to read the changes you are going through. And you have nailed the description of the stay at home moms in Grosse Pointe. Since my day off is a weekday I get to be the stay at home daddy occasionally and take the kids to the park to witness much of what you describe, including the nannies.
    And there is another sub-set of SAHM in Grosse Pointe, the homeschooling moms, who are with their kids all day teaching them.

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  2. I also agree you hit it on the nose with the descriptions of the Pointes 'stay at home' mom's, I have been part of those ranks for the 16 years, and have loved every minute of it! Because your kids aren't quite old enough, one change you will notice soon is that the 'stay at home' mom ranks dwindle significantly as the youngest kids hit middle school and certainly by high school. That invisible line will move very quickly for many of your friends in the next few years, but it is important to remember even though your life is moving on it is still okay to cross that line every now and then. Volunteer for a committee, time at a swim meet, grab a coffee with a stressed out mom still at home with one last kid still in elementary school and remember it still takes a village to raise our children. As the kids get older those 'stay at home' friends will become very important, they are the moms that still have their pulse on who is hanging out with who, what kids are pushing their boundries, they know who has the parents that like to go out of town and leave their kids home alone, and what actually is going on in the halls of the high school. Keep the lines of communication open, you are one of the lucky ones that have had a foot on both sides of the invisible line and we need moms like you to help bridge the gap!

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  3. Great blog Amy! I identified with so much of it. You perfectly described the stay-at-home mom experience. You are a wonderful writer

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  4. I too crossed over to "the dark side" this year and this has been the biggest adjustment and one I did not expect. It's hard to feel yourself losing friends you've had for years. Of course most days I'm too busy working, watching baseball, playing princess, grocery shopping....

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  5. I was thrown over the line, out of the "home" nest when we moved from GP, and now suffer terribly from "the grass is always greener." I work full-time, and I do enjoy my job, but I long for being "at home." To me, there is a certain comfort of the pressures of life being wholly consumed and directed by my children and the needs of the home. Cramming those needs in to the hours of 6-9pm, or in to the rare day-off, is exhausting. I have been on both sides, and I fully appreciate and acknowledge the work of a SAHM, but I have to give the super mom trophy to full-time working moms...and, as far as I'm concerned, they can have it...I don't want mine. Just call me Dorothy - there's no place like home.

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  6. 9 years ago, I was also thrown into school full time, then nursing full time - MIDNIGHTS! That was brutal! I then moved to days and 40 hours a week....also brutal! I have finally found the perfect balance - part time, 2 12 hr days a week. I can do the job I love and also be at home 5 days a week.
    I also found that the older my kids got, the fewer stay at home moms their were. When my 21 yr old was in kindergarten, there was only 1 mom who worked in her class - when she hit middle school, the numbers were much higher.
    One of my biggest reasons for going part time now is that my baby is a freshman in high school...blink and she will be graduating. I don't want to miss a minute!!

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  7. Amy,
    As a "stay at home mommie" who runs a business and is now in
    school to become a nurse, I can identify ( more than you know)
    with all you written in your blog! I am happy to say that I have been fortunate
    enough to have been cheered on by other mommie's who don't
    know "how I do it," which we all know, as mommie's, is a great
    compliment... I love your blog! Best of luck to you in your "schooling," both as
    a mommy and a student! Call if you ever need a Starbucks at 10pm
    while studying! I'll drop one off! I've watched you be a great mom for many years, so never doubt yourself or your decisions!

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  8. I feel like I have a lot to say, but not sure how to articulate all of my thoughts. I have been a full-full time working mom (my daughter was born at 6:20 am on a Sat, I went back to work on Tues) & I worked nearly 7 days a week. I have been a "regular" working mom, working about 40 hours a week. I was a stay-at-home mom for a brief time. And now I am working part time, but at home. I cannot remember ever feeling that the other "camp" of mommies thought poorly of me for my professional choices. Maybe I was obtuse (or just too busy & tired to notice). However, with hindsight, I can now recognize that I questioned my decision regarding whether & how much I worked when I wasn't loving what it was I was doing at the time. I definitely had the "grass is always greener" syndrome. Now, having been blessed to have had the opportunity to experience all degrees of the working-mommying balance, I am very aware of which path is best for me (& so I don't give a damn - can I write "damn" on this blog?). I also recognize that sometimes I have to do what is best for my family (but isn't what I would necessarily choose). I think I can be at peace with the decision because I have had a taste of each option. I no longer look at others' "grass" with envy because I have experienced the pros & cons of each. The lesson? It's all about you. When you don't covet what you don't have, you will be happier. When you are a happy mommy, your family will be happier. So, don't give others' opinions of your choices a moment of your time.

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  9. Aimes,
    You write beautifully. And as Fr Kelly wrote, you captured the roles perfectly. What I read here is more the surprise that the rope got moved and quickly.
    In our many moves, I've seen that happen too. Only it seems to come most quickly from the folks who are questioning their own choices. When we were leaving TX, I finally recognized that shift as "wounds" that various friends had that compelled them to exclude, or look through, or just withdraw. For some they were dying to move too, for others I was "invisible" because to acknowledge that I would be leaving them was more painful than for them to erase me from their field of vision, and for others, there was a deeper wound of someone else's leaving.
    In this move, because of the gift of a friend in MN who encouraged me to see everyone including myself as "wounded" versus "damaged", it was easier than any other move. Seeing someone as wounded meant that it wasn't about me leaving as much as the addition of that loss to previous ones.
    Maybe because I was responding rather than reacting to the shifts, there just weren't as many. BUT! There have been surprises. Including one friend who is amazing organized who came down last weekend just to help me unpack because she knew we have no family here, no friends yet, only one busy husband, one ancient dog, and one obstinate cat. Today another friend is meeting me for lunch in the Twin Cities, because she knows "when boxes are involved things go haywire".
    Hopefully, a new and positive shift will emerge soon. Keep writing - what a gift to many of us to be able to read, reflect & respond. Thank you!

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