I’ve been in quite a few “mommy and me” groups. Some were informal and others required a nominal, monthly fee. I’d like to think I export a brand of free-expression parenting I learned from my parents. Now, I’m not one to preserve stereotypes, especially for women and mothers, however there are some undeniable and shared characteristics in many of the groups. A lot of the women formed high school-like cliques. Some were gracious enough to introduce themselves. One conversation went along the lines of this:
Mom: “Hi, I’m Nancy. How old is your L.O.?” ( mommy-speak for “little one”)
Me: “Hi, I’m Penny. He’s almost one.”
Mom: “That’s great! He’s adorable. My second one, Natasha, is 9 months.”
Me: “Aw, she’s cute!”
Mom: “Thanks, isn’t she? So are you one of the working moms or stay-at-home?”
Me: “Working mom.”
Mom: “Me too! Ugh, it’s so rough. Is your husband a nurturer or an authoritarian? Mine’s a little of both.” (cue nervous chuckle).
Me: “Nope, it’s just us.”
Mom: “Just you? Oh. How do you do it? I can barely remember to shave half the time!” (cue an awkward laugh).
Me: “Um, well I have plenty of help. We make due.”
Mom: “That’s just SO great!”
Then the nervous-Nellie kind of wraps the conversation with where Andrew is in development. She finds an excuse to leave and goes back to her clique. I see the gaggle murmuring. I can’t help but hear (or imagine) “single mom” in their conversation. I’m not very popular.
Once in a while I meet another working, single mom. Some of those clearly define themselves as “single mom by choice,” as if it were a built-in defense mechanism.
For humor’s sake, I’ve created a cast of characters from experience. Some are straight bitches. Others are good-intentioned souls. This list characterizes my experience. Every mommy group has at least one of the below in the DC area. But trust me, they do exist abroad in some incarnation. Everyone believes they have a supermom power. Some powers are better than others:
Susie-Q Stay-at-Home: She is either impeccable or a disheveled mess. I usually only see her once in a blue moon on the weekends as she does mommy and me groups during the week day. She is married and either complains that her husband burns the midnight oil or extols his virtues. She loves being a mom. It’s her life’s purpose. Superpower: Clairvoyance.
Yuppie Working Mummy: She is a worker bee and makes it known. I see her in the afternoon groups or on weekends. She is incredibly proud of breast pumping for six months at work. No one understands her, least of all her spouse or family. She talks less about her kids and more about work and interests. She has every electronic device known to man in her diaper bag or purse but she can hold a conversation without missing a beat when the baby pukes on her neat Ann Taylor dress. She has a dedication to her kids’ education and well being. Superpower: Shape-Shifter.
Single Mother By Choice: A woman who marches to the beat of her own drummer, she is relaxed and plays it cool. She usually has one child or two and she is usually older. She takes time off of work to spend time with her kids. She is interesting, engaging and exceptionally compassionate with her children. She makes you wonder why she hasn’t ruled the world yet. Superpower: Magnetic Force Shield.
Divorcee Mommy: She often looks tired and a bit lost. Sometimes she is an amalgam of either the Yuppie Working Mummy or Susie-Q. She often talks like a single gal in her 20’s, and sometimes she is. She is undergoing a rough or long divorce. There is never enough time and time-sharing makes her depressed. Superpower: Regeneration or Energy Manipulation.
Working Single Mother: I kind of fall into line with her and the Divorcee. She usually has never been married or was married a long time ago. She is just as tired and as lost looking as the Divorcee, although she usually worries about child support and visitation matters more than the actual court process. There is wisdom behind those tired eyes. She is used to doing more with less. Superpower: Elasticity.
Boho Part-Time Working Mother: She is a free spirit and likable. She is often married, feels a greater purpose in life, and still likes the challenge of working a couple days a week. She is into organic everything. She dispenses advice from every mommy blog that is “green-friendly,” because she has the time. She alternates daycare with home care. She is a nurturer and a helper. Superpower: Healing.
Tiger Mom: #SuperBitch. She barks orders at her kids who act like perfect angels. I don’t get her. At all. She is always talking about what accomplishment is next for Johnny or Pamela. Working or not working, it doesn’t matter- her demeanor is off-putting regardless of circumstance. She looks down on those like the Boho, Divorcee, or Single Working Mom. Sometimes she is disguised as a Susie-Q or Yuppie Working Mummy. She is the ring leader of her clique. Superpower: Laser Vision or Mind Control.
Absentee Mom: She is immersed in work or her iPad/iPhone/e-book. She doesn’t pay too much attention to her kids or bothers with group conversation. She acts like the play group is a check mark for the week. She is just too busy. You see her kids screaming “Mommy look” all the time. She will look for a brief second, smile, throw a thumbs-up and go right back to her phone conversation. Superpower: Invisibility.