Rediscovering my social life, thanks to my kids

Categories: Hacking Life, Making Time, Parenting, The Juggle, Uncategorized

11 comments

Earlier this year, I dove back in to the Mommy Dating Pool via a playdate with my youngest daughter’s best friend and her mom. It’s been really good, but lately we’ve decided to see other people. A lot of other people. And all at the same time.

Our daughters have entered the age of birthday parties. And, ye Gods, it is busy.

Since all of the kids in her class have birthdays right around the same time, my girl has had one or two parties nearly every weekend since mid-September, and my 3-year-old son has had his fair share, too. Which means that I’ve been socializing with the same group of grownups on a regular basis for the first time in years. And, in spite of the present buying and the ubiquitous pizza, I’ve been enjoying it.

While our kids play and stuff themselves with cake, we parents have gotten a chance to advance past the potty-training and milestone-marking stories, sharing instead the ups and downs of working motherhood. (Though a few of party-circuit regulars are dads, it’s mostly the moms who are ferrying the kids around on the weekends.) It’s difficult to take time for ourselves, so why not take advantage of the time we spend together by default?

It was my turn to host about a month ago. Back in April, I was wondering how to handle the birthday party dilemma; I ended up inviting my daughter’s entire class to her 5th birthday party. And I did it again just two weeks later, inviting my 3-year-old’s entire class to a pre-trick-or-treating birthday party on Halloween.

It was chaotic, and I was stressed about cleaning the house, but oddly enough, that was the only thing I was stressed about. My children had fun, their friends had fun, and I finally felt able to reciprocate for all of the parties and play dates my kids have gone to lately. But it was also an opportunity to host my new friends and introduce them to the rest of my family.

And it was great. I finally feel like I have a social network again, and I like it.



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11 comments so far...

  • This gives me hope. I still feel like a ship sailing alone on this sea of motherhood. Because Amelie isn’t in daycare, we don’t really know any other parents in our area (at least, not any of kids her age).

    If we do end up putting her in daycare next year, it will be here where I work. Because of the PCS rate (that is, permanent change of station), I don’t expect a lot of long term friendships to spawn there either.

    Waiting until pre-school/Kindergarten seems the best bet - but I sometimes worry I’m not like other moms and won’t fit at all…

    Phe  |  November 9th, 2009 at 9:06 am

  • I don’t know if I will ever find a social network via my kids’ friends’ parents. Usulally, when another tot’s mom chats with me, it goes something like this:

    “Oh, your kids are potty trained.” (That’s apparently the first thing they notice.)
    “Yeah, I started them young.”
    “Oh, are you a SAHM? Or how did you manage that?”
    “When I hired our nanny I introduced her to our routine . . . ”
    “Oh, you have a nanny? Must be nice to be able to have a husband who can afford that. What did your husband think about your adopting from another country?”
    “Actually, I’m single.”
    “Oh. I’m sorry.”

    I’m sure there are parents out there with a background similar to mine, but considering how busy working parents are, chances are I’ll never meet them. I do maintain friendships with a nice group of “old friends” (mostly without young kids), and I’m really OK with the fact that they like to talk about things other than potty training.

    SKL  |  November 9th, 2009 at 12:11 pm

  • Phe: When my youngest kids were babies, and I was on maternity leave, I didn’t connect with other parents in my area at all. I’d try — at the library, at the playground — but as soon as I mentioned that I’d be going back to work the judgement countdown clock was set (one mom actually said, “You’re going back to work? Then who is going to raise your children?”). When they first started in preschool and day care, all of the their classmates parents were so busy, and the kids so young, that it was nearly impossible to connect outside of the care center. But I’ve found that this year — really just the last 6 months or so — have been totally different. I don’t know how long-term the friendships will be, but I’m grateful that the opportunities are there now, moreso than they were before.

    SKL: That totally counts as a Mommy Drive-By, in my book. I don’t know if I could have kept my smart-alec-osity in check (”What do you mean another country? I was born there, too!” or “OMG he was *so surprised* when I came back with these kids! He had no idea what I was up to!” Or, maybe. “He still doesn’t know. I just don’t know how to tell him.”)

    Lylah  |  November 9th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

  • Lylah, it was better than when a teacher at my kids’ daycare, while holding my 3-year-old in her arms, asked me, “what are they?” But that’s a topic for another day . . . .

    I don’t mind the questions most of the time. People are in their own little worlds, and as long as they aren’t nasty about it or go too far in front of my kids, I don’t let it bother me. But it would be nice if folks realized that 1 out of every 40 kids in this country is adopted. Any child you encounter might be adopted (or have no father or whatever), and they have ears and can be hurt by ignorant comments.

    SKL  |  November 9th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

  • Lylah - : ) I had more than a few mothers ask me that very question when I was preparing to return to work (babies are great catalysts for conversations starters with random strangers, aren’t they? Comments like that are also excellent conversation enders, in my book). And a few more asked me that here when I came back - “So, who’s staying home with your baby now that you’re back?”

    When I told/tell them, the reaction has been mixed. Some have asked how they can “train” their husbands to do that (which really gets my back up and makes me pity their husbands) and, as you know, others have vilified my choice.

    It’s great to read that you’ve had similar experiences in terms of bonding with kids friends parents - and that it’s working well now. Like I said, it gives me hope. : )

    SKL - Yes, we do have ears and feelings. No matter how old us adopted kids get, it STILL hurts in ways that can’t be described.

    And Lylah, I loved your responses. They would have mirrored my own.

    Phe  |  November 9th, 2009 at 2:53 pm

  • I was always told about this mommy network that would develop, but despaired for many years because it never did. We invite the whole class to the party? 3 kids show up. Once she hit school, I joined the school fundraising group and there I finally got to make some parent friends. But sometimes those networks don’t grow organically, you have to develop them.

    Phe - I’ve never understood why people feel the need to villify anyone’s choices. A couple I know worked alternate shifts so someone was always home with the kids, but they were never home together. They were recently able to synchronize so that there’s some portion the kids are in daycare and some portion they are both home together and of course they now are getting flak for “putting their kids behind their marriage”!

    SKL - The fun I have is being mistaken for my child’s nanny (as she’s lighter-skinned than I). Another friend from church it happens to ALL the time as her kids are blond (and she is, well, not). Being mixed race myself there were many times people assumed I was adopted, my mother always had a good response, but really, why must people always make assumptions?

    Mich  |  November 10th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

  • Mich, I think most of the time people are just trying to find something to talk about, and they assume that the way non-traditional families are formed is fair game. In the adoption community, people joke that when someone asks about how I became my girls’ mother, I should turn around and ask some intimite detail about how their child entered their family (e.g., how many tries did it take). Why is it that we know better than to “go there” re apparently biological offspring, but there are different rules for different kids? The concern is that the child will wonder if she is fundamentally different from any other child. I know this isn’t going to change any time soon, so I have to address it at my daughters’ level. It’s sad, but it’s our reality.

    Relevant to the topic at hand, I should probably think up some good conversation starters that would work for all of us, and possibly lead to friendship instead of discomfort. What are some good examples?

    SKL  |  November 10th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

  • My favorite conversation starter is, “So, what brought you to XYZ town?” Some of the parents of my daughter’s classmates grew up here, some grew up a few towns over, some moved here for work, others (like me) just fell in love with the area…

    In fact, that question is how I discovered that the Dad of one of my daughter’s classmates grew up in the house we currently live in! Small world.

    Lylah  |  November 10th, 2009 at 4:31 pm

  • Oh, and Mich, I had to share about my best friend, who is from India. She came with me to pick up my kids at daycare one day. There was another woman, light-skinned, who was picking up 2 or 3 African-American kids. My friend turned to me and mumbled, “are those her kids?” I didn’t know the answer, but I found it odd, considering my kids’ skin is also a lot darker than mine, and that doesn’t seem to faze her.

    And most people who have seen my kids’ ex-nanny in the neighborhood think she is their granny. Not sure who they think I am.

    SKL  |  November 10th, 2009 at 4:33 pm

  • If it is a party setting it might be “so how do you know birthday child” since even if the class is invited other favorite friends and/or relatives often are too.
    it often has them responding in kind and from there things seem to develop decently well.

    Mich  |  November 10th, 2009 at 7:56 pm

  • “Diving into the Mommy Dating Pool” I love it! I think it is one of the toughest things about being a mom (or dad for that matter)–finding friends that share your humor, interests, parenting styles, etc.
    My boys are older now and I have found most of my friends on the sidelines of sporting events. There’s nothing like 5 hours at a Swim Meet to get the chance to really get to know someone!
    When my guys were younger I remember going to the playground and thinking, “This is the new pick-up joint!” Instead of carrying around a drink and trying to find a kind, funny and caring guy I was now carrying around sippy cups and trying to find that kind, funny and caring mom! Thankfully I found both–the great guy AND the great Mommy friend. I think finding my husband was actually easier than finding a friend!!
    Moms who are experiencing the frustration of find friends can check out http://www.truebluematch.com, a friendship matching website for parents!

    Christine  |  November 18th, 2009 at 4:21 pm