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?
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.