08 January 2011

SMBaN - In The Club

part nine
In the Club
After ‘The Battle’ on the Mommyverse, I once again cast my net for answers and acceptance in the world of mothers.  My “How to Raise a Kid” books said to join a moms’ club so I did. 
A Moms’ Club is a support group.  You attend weekly meetings with mothers who all have children around the same age and discuss being a mom.  Usually there is a leader who may have an advanced degree in child psychology or maybe just “really, really loves kids and being a mommy!”  Unlike the Mommyverse, in a Mom’s Club I was surrounded by live moms who made sad faces and touched my shoulder.  They told me how what I said is just like their own experience.  Then they proceeded to tell me their story… for 20 minutes.  I was a new mom. I could make sad faces. And now I had mom stories.  I belonged.
This is how I joined the Judgmental Moms’ Club.  We did nothing but discuss our children’s development… and by development I mean “What my child can do and yours can’t”.  We compared various philosophies to childrearing… and by compare I mean we said mean spirited things about the women who did things differently.  We condemned television for our child’s malleable minds.  Well, unless we absolutely needed to get something done or to get a moment to ourselves or we were talking on the phone or to settle them down for bed or because we were exhausted or our soaps were on or…
We proclaimed proudly that WE knew what was best for our baby and that our mothers and sisters and grandmothers were clueless.  I was wading in the pool of popularity and all it had taken was 10 months gestation and a few stretch marks.  It didn’t take long for the cracks in the foundation of the JMC to form.   The first was when we discussed sleeping through the night. Dawn warned me about offering up this information.  But one day we were asked to go around the room, tell how long your baby slept and what was working or not working.  We were not supposed to speak until we had the Time-to-Talk Teddy Bear passed to us.  It was a rule.  When the Time-to-Talk Teddy Bear came my way, I told the group “8 hours.”  There were a gasps and a few glares. 
“Wow, what is working?”  Dr. Misty, our 23-year-old-just-earned-her-PhD leader asked.
“Uhm, I am not sure.  He just kind of started sleeping longer.”  More glares.
“Really?  Nothing different in your routine?”
“No, I don’t think so.  I mean, you know, he’s changing, you know, developmentally, but nothing more than what the books say.”  I said cautiously looking around.
“When is your last feeding at night?”  Dr. Misty asked.
“Oh, uhm, I think…”
A particularly vocal member of the group cut me off.  “What are you feeding him?”  She snarled.
I sputtered “Oh, uhm, well, you see, he was an early teether so he bit a lot and I had to…well, it hurt quite a bit…”
“Formula” she sneered.
A collective cluck came from the group.  The Time-to-Talk Teddy Bear was taken from my lap and my views on sleeping were not requested again.
Once we were talking about sitters.  Most of the moms were working up the effort to have their first sitter (although several had had their babies in daycare since they were 3 months old).  Some were even contemplating if they could trust their own parents to watch their children.  I was not asked much for my opinion these days.  However, I kept trying.  On some level, I believed that if the JMC rejected me it would be noted in some giant “Unfit Mothers” ledger that existed somewhere.  So I offered up what I thought would be helpful for some to hear.  “I have had a wonderful sitter for Logan since he was only a few months old.”
“How long had you known your sitter before she sat for you?” Dr. Misty asked.
“Oh, we met once, you know, at the interview, and then I think she came over that next week to sit.  It was wonderful.”
“Were you in the house?”  One mom asked.
“When?” I asked.
“During the first time she sat.”  She said.
“I was… out at a restaurant.”  I replied.
The group gasped.
“Oh my no!  You should never leave your children alone with a babysitter the first night.  What if something had happened?”  Someone said.
“But isn’t that why she is there, so I don’t have to be?”  I asked.
“Not the first time!”  Another barked. 
“My sister still hasn’t left the baby alone with the sitter and it’s been 5 months.”
“My step-cousin and his wife would sit in the closet while the babysitter was there.”  Another added.  Everyone nodded as if this somehow made sense.
I shrank back and looked nervously at Logan.  Seriously, why am I not getting this?
I did not renew my membership once my 6 weeks were up and my new support group members did not keep in touch. 
I asked The Mothers why their generation did not need all these groups for moms.  They said they did, but they called them “Stitch and Bitch” clubs.  Not only did they solve the world’s problems, they usually got a quilt out of it.  No one cared if their husbands were co-sharing in parenting.  Frankly, the more their husbands were out from underfoot the smoother their homes ran.  They dispensed advice like “just put some scotch on it.”  Alcohol and cigarettes were present, if not the theme of the meeting.  Membership was free and drop-ins were welcome.  Beware if you missed an evening, though, you were probably the subject of that night’s discussion.  “Stitch and Bitch’s” are no longer around.  Parenting is serious business now.  Any advice written before 1999 is null and void. 
Nate suggested I organize my own Mom’s Club.  Since I needed to meet more women in my area anyway, I took to the Mommyverse.  I posted on every site to which I belonged - “Come join other bright Moms who refuse to get sucked into today’s Parenting Vacuum”.  Well, that was what I was thinking when I posted.  I think I actually wrote something closer to, “Anyone want to join a new Mom group on the Westside?”  I got a bunch of responses –
“Wow – it’s like you were reading my mind!!!” 
“I would LOOOOOOOOOVE to join – sing (sic) me up!!!!”  
“This comes at just the right time.  I was feeling so down on myself lately – you know, like nobody gets me and that I keep messing everything up and now I feel like I have a home, a place to go.” 
This sounded like a nice gaggle of girls.  I wrote a personal message to everyone interested.  I explained how I wanted to do something different.  I said it was more of a women’s group than just a mom’s group.  I thought we would discuss all kinds of women’s issues and we would be free from criticism.  Everyone was allowed their opinion as long as no one made it personal.  The ladies were enthusiastic.  They gave me quite a few words of encouragement with an excess of vowels and exclamation points. 
Our first order of business was to introduce ourselves via email and then to set our first meeting.  The introduction was easy.  I received volumes of emails as these nine ladies divulged every fact about themselves and any thought they had ever had on parenting or marriage or women in general.  Next, we were to set the first meeting.  This proved a bit tricky: there were babysitters to obtain, schedules to consider {kids, work, husbands, etc). Once the date was set, we were forced to cancel that first meeting and reschedule 16 times.  Finally, four months after my initial posting, we were all set to meet at my house.  Light refreshments, wine and no kids – for this first meeting.  I sent out my address and phone number for the third time that week.  My kids were thrilled to be going to Der Pizza Haus with Nate.  They dragged him out the door without saying goodbye.
Two hours before the meeting I received an email from one of the group.  She was awfully sorry but she did not realize how far away I lived.  This struck me as odd since it was one of the first things we discussed.  Anyway, she would need to bow out and maybe this is not the time for her in such a group but it is a great idea and she wished us the best of luck.  Once the first excuse was made, the floodgates were opened.  The others’ excuses ranged from life’s current direction taking a different course to self image issues to pedicure emergencies.  My woman’s group had dissolved and we hadn’t once met. 
In the end, it was me and my 86 year old neighbor sipping chardonnay as she told me about how she hadn’t been able to feel the left side of her tongue in 15 years.  When my family returned, Nate pointed to our neighbor who had wet herself while asleep on the couch.   I said she was my spirit guide to womanhood and went to bed.

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