Mom-Dating

I didn’t have mom-friends before I had a baby. My female friends are, like me, women who’ve put off having babies to finish college. And then graduate school. And then get a career established. I was the first to decide it was time to leap into motherhood (and by “decide,” I mean my husband and I shared a six-pack of local microbrew on a beach in Kauai, and…surprise! Decision made.) Fast-forward nine months to me with a baby in my arms and no sisters or friends with babies in sight. Thus I entered the world of mom-dating. Dating is a good word for it, because just as in real dating, you spend a lot of time shyly staring at a potential mom-friend from across the room, before approaching her and awkwardly trying to start a conversation. However, instead of all the typical dating conversation-starters (“So…what do you think about Transformers II / Dan Brown’s new book / the Keystone XL pipeline?”) you typically ask things like “So…did you…um…deliver vaginally?” Which is a pretty creepy thing to ask a complete stranger, if you really think about it, but is somehow completely socially acceptable if you’re both holding babies. Good thing, too, because when you have a baby, you haven’t seen the latest movies, read books that didn’t have the words “baby,” “sleep,” or “nurse” in their titles, or heard anything about current events in months (with the possible exception of a vague reference to the 99%).

So, yeah. Mom-dating. I was at a playgroup the other day — a new group of women, none of whom I’d previously met — and was trolling for potential mom-friends. I’d done the mom-dating equivalent of getting all dolled up in sexy makeup and strappy sandals by sniffing my way through the shirts on the floor of my closet until I found the cleanest-smelling one, and raking my “it’s been two days since I had a chance to shower” hair into the semblance of a ponytail. I was ready to meet some moms! Playgroups are generally pretty noisy affairs, with women attempting to keep their toddlers from committing too many social indiscretions, while simultaneously trying desperately to interact with someone who isn’t likely to spit up or poop on them. This was a pretty tame playgroup, however, because it was made up almost entirely of women with babies too young to sit up, much less move around and play. W was the oldest baby there, and since she really had no one to play with, she amused herself by crawling around and pulling other babies’ pacifiers out of their mouths. Which, looking back on things, probably set me up for trouble with this group.

After a while, W decided she wanted to nurse (at almost 9 months of age! I could hear the muttering). An out-of-place-looking mom who’d been eyeing me curiously from across the room for some time came over and sat shyly next to me. “Did you homebirth?” she asked. I told her I didn’t, but had given it some thought. Emboldened by my reply, she told me she’d birthed at home. I asked about her experience, and we swapped birth stories. She also breastfed and co-slept, and like me, she worried about things like when to night-wean. Mom-dating bliss! I was just starting to ponder how to ask whether she wanted to see me again when she asked THE QUESTION. The one that always gets me into trouble. “Do you vaccinate?”

My mind raced. I already liked this woman, and had been starting to envision a lovely, mom-friend future together. We’d take our babies to the zoo and nurse them on the benches, silently daring anyone to tell us they were too old. We’d swap tips on the best farmers’ markets, which second-hand clothing stores were having sales, and the most effective detergent for cloth diapers. I lamely tried to dodge the question with a non-sequitur: “I don’t much like my pediatrician,” I said, hoping to change the subject.

“Because he tries to make you vaccinate?” she asked knowingly, in a conspiratorial tone.

“No, W is fully vaccinated,” I sighed. “It was my choice.” She was clearly disappointed, but to her credit, she gave me another shot.

“Oh, on a delayed schedule, right?”

“No,” I admitted, “I follow the CDC schedule.”

“Oh,” she said. “But, um, you seem so…WHY?” I could have just shrugged and smiled. Acted clueless. But I felt myself being drawn inexorably into the discussion, like a moth to the flames, so I explained my reasoning. I wasn’t trying to change her mind about vaccinating. I just wanted her to like me. To know that I had reasons for making the decisions I did, just as I was sure she had reasons for making the decisions she did. But it was too late. “That’s just weird,” she said, “and you’re endangering your baby.” She walked away.

I was hopeful, for a while, that I might hit it off with one of the remaining moms. I chatted with a few of the women seated near me, who remarked on W’s “advanced” abilities (are they? I think she’s pretty normal. She crawls around and eats books, for the most part). They wanted to know which Baby Einstein videos I had her watch each day. Baby Einstein? I don’t even own a T.V. The women asked how I ever got anything done without a T.V. to set her in front of. I told them the truth: sometimes she plays by herself and I get a few minutes. Sometimes she doesn’t…and I don’t. Lately, I told them, she’s had an obsession with crawling around after a meal, picking up little pieces of food off the floor and eating them. This can go on for 15-20 minutes, and I encourage it, since it gives me a chance to write. The women stared at me. Clearly, they thought there was something wrong with a mother who didn’t let her baby watch T.V., and encouraged her eat dropped food. Off the floor! Like a DOG!! “That’s weird,” they said, “and it sounds dangerous.” I started to explain, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Within moments, they’d drawn up into a tighter circle — with me outside it — and were talking about the videos and talking toys they planned to buy their babies for Christmas. W and I packed up and left. What a waste of a mostly-clean shirt!

Later, my husband and I sat on the couch in our T.V.-less living room, enjoying each other’s company, while our vaccinated baby ate a few pages out of a chemistry textbook and some leftover dinner from off the floor. It was a perfect evening. I may not fit in with any of the mom cliques, but in my family, I fit just fine. And I don’t ever have to explain myself.

 

Had any good adventures in mom-dating?

 

 

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17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jem
    Nov 08, 2011 @ 17:55:50

    What a shame you’re on the other side of the world – I think we’d get on just grand 🙂

    Reply

    • SquintMom
      Nov 08, 2011 @ 17:57:56

      I know, right? I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve met several women online that I think I’d really get along well with. Hooray for the interwebs!

      Reply

  2. Ashley @ C is for Cockerham
    Nov 08, 2011 @ 18:10:28

    As a mom of a fully-vaccinated, nursing 7-month old your experience resonates loudly! Toss in that I work a full-time, professional job (from home) four days a week, and there are plenty of weird looks at mom’s groups to go around. “What? You are letting someone else raise your child?” I can hear them screaming questions in their heads. (Our in-home nanny is beyond fabulous BTW, and I can see/nurse my son any time I like. I have an amazing career, so it’s PERFECT for ME.) Anwyay, I attend LLL meetings regularly and found a few moms that were also interested in breastfeeding. I figured if I started with that base, I’d have better luck. I’ve managed to put together a group that gets together at MY house on MY day off. And although at least one of them has their baby on a delayed vaccination schedule, we are all very respectful of each other’s decisions and really use the play group to share (not impose) our ideas and ideals. As an only child with no close friends with children in the town where I live, it’s been a very long path, so I feel your frustration. Mom’s need to be more encouraging and and less judgmental. Kindness and acceptance goes a long ways.

    And on a lighter note, I’m pretty sure our son is getting wrapped, empty boxes or boxes with household items (empty spice container/water bottle with macaroni) for Christmas. He LOVES paper, water bottles, etc. Who needs toys? Also, he doesn’t eat off the floor, but it’s only because the dog got to it first!

    Reply

    • SquintMom
      Nov 08, 2011 @ 18:17:22

      Agreed on the wrapped empty boxes! Alice from Science of Mom joked in a post (I can’t remember which one; Alice, if you read this, can you remind me and I”ll add a link?) that her baby’s toy bin looks like a recycle bin, which W’s does too!

      And for what it’s worth, I’m adding you to the list of mamas I wish lived in my area…I’d love to be able to come to your mama’s group! 🙂

      Reply

  3. Anna Eaton
    Nov 08, 2011 @ 19:42:02

    Awwww….thats a really sad story! It really is hard to meet someone! Honestly, right there is the reason why I want to have more kids. I don’t have any sisters (i do have one sister in law I am very grateful for) but I want my daughter to have sisters to go to during tough times. Family is everything and for the most part…are there for you.

    Reply

  4. Sara
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 01:52:08

    Yeah, I can relate. I’m mostly on the crunchier side, but I definitely vax, among other differences. It’s just enough to leave me feeling like I don’t quite fit into either camp. Mostly, I just pray those issues don’t come up!
    Mom dating sucks.

    Reply

  5. Alice Callahan
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 05:41:49

    Kirstin, I am right there with you! And I so wish we lived in the same town, because I think we would get along great! I just moved to a new town this summer. I’m staying home with BabyC right now, so I don’t have a workplace as a way to get to know people. In my mom-dating, I struggle with the differences in parenting philosophy too, something that really took me by surprise. To be honest, before I moved and also starting blogging (and reading more blogs/forums), I didn’t realize how differing parenting philosophies have creates such factions. Now I get nervous about being judged when I meet a new mom. Just typing that, I realize how messed up that is. Anyway, I feel lucky that I had a couple of close friends in Tucson that had babies in the 6 months before I had BabyC. They were great support, and I felt like we were just feeling the way together, learning from each other, the way it should be.

    I’m still working on building that here in Eugene. I have met some moms that I like, but my problem is always how do I take it to the next level – asking for contact information, planning to meet up somewhere outside of library storytime, etc. I admit I actually signed BabyC up for a music class pretty much for the sole purpose of getting to know another mom better! Luckily BabyC seems to like the class too:) The thing is, it takes a lot of time and effort to build relationships. The friends I already have – they understand if I’m out of touch for a couple of weeks because things have gotten hectic, but to make a new friend takes some work.

    Oh, and I mentioned BabyC’s affinity to (recyclable) trash in my post on TV – http://scienceofmom.com/2011/10/24/tv-tots-and-tired-parents-the-backlash-to-the-aap%e2%80%99s-tv-policy/

    Reply

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  8. Megyn @Minimalist Mommi
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 22:33:05

    I just found your site from the referral of another science mom! Frankly, I’m sad it’s taken me this long to find you!

    As for the mom dating, I totally get it. I never quite fit in with any of those groups. I vaccinate, circumcise, cloth diaper, eat organically. It was never the right combo! Keep it up because there ARE some awesome moms out there who don’t care about the differences 🙂 You just have to go through the pain staking process of squinting through them all 😉

    Reply

    • SquintMom
      Nov 16, 2011 @ 22:51:02

      I’m certainly finding plenty of them online! Glad to get to “meet” you; it sounds like we have a lot in common!

      Reply

  9. Ariane
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 16:11:05

    Mom dating is so weird and awkward! Amen to everything you said! Is it getting better? Nevermind the haters. Have more to say but am typing one-handed 😦

    Reply

  10. J
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 03:04:28

    Two thoughts for all the semi-crunchy-granola (extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cloth diapering) yet scientifically savvy (vaccinating) parents who feel like you don’t fit well in either camp:
    1) there are more of us out there than you’d think. Look for the former science nerds who are now parents and tend to share similar values. (Or if possible, move closer to a liberal university city where such folks tend to congregate)
    2) these values, while important, matter less and less as your child grows. It was a Big Deal when my daughter was a baby, a Moderate Issue when she was a toddler, and now that she’s a preschooler it matters even less. Largely this is because the nature of your interactions changes — when all the babies can’t move more than two feet, the moms all have time to talk about these Big Issues; when you’re chasing after running preschoolers, these topics are often supplanted by others (like: how did you potty train, how do you deal with tantrums) which tend to have less starkly-divided parenting camps.

    (Oh, and 3) at some point your kid starts to have a voice in who she wants to have playdates with, so the whole mom-dating thing becomes only part of the equation!)

    Reply

    • SquintMom
      Jan 28, 2012 @ 18:16:12

      I totally agree that there are more scientifically-minded semi-crunchies than one might think at first glance. I’ve actually made awesome friends with such women via the interwebs.

      Reply

  11. Liz Schier
    Dec 19, 2012 @ 21:44:15

    as with Jem, it is a pity we are on the other side of the world. Sometimes being scientifically informed is isolating. But it can be harnessed, as in your case, to make you a better mum
    And thanks, I will definitely use the term “Mum Dating”

    Reply

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