Thursday, October 13, 2016

Maybe You're The *Cool* Mom

People post parenting articles all the time. Not "how to" parenting articles, but more like personal blogs about being a mom. They're stories about other moms, cliques, feeling like an outsider, and they usually equate being one of the "cool moms" with people who seem like they have it all together. Hair and make-up done at eight o'clock in the morning drop off at school, kids who are on time and look neat and stylish and everyone having everything they're supposed to have with them.

One of my friends shared one of these articles a couple of weeks ago and I've been thinking about it here and there ever since. They write about messy cars, messy faces, and messy life. They ask where "their" people are who share their inevitable mommy mess and love of carbs.

I think they don't notice that it sounds like their being "shunned" is their own doing.

I'm all for being inclusive. From children to adults. Mean Girls was supposed to be a tongue in cheek movie, not real life. It was about teens and shouldn't be going on in real life circles. I know that it does go on with adult women. All these mommy bloggers can't be lying about "Queen Bee Syndrome" where it's super hard to break into the mommy cliques, especially if you're the newbie.

However- if this goes on where I live, in small town suburbia, I have no idea. Because I really don't care. Am I crazy for not wanting to be part of any clique? I totally get wanting to belong, wanting to have friends, even wanting to be part of something bigger. I was in a sorority, believe it or not. But even back then, anyone in my sorority could tell you, I was in it, but I wasn't "IN".

What does not being "in" mean? It means, I joined, I found people I liked, I was closer to some more than others, but it wasn't my whole identity. I wasn't trying to be a social climber. I was still my own person and I didn't have a specific group within the group. If there were cliques, I was vaguely aware, but it wasn't a thing for me to ruminate over. It's the same with the mommy scene. I've lived in the same town for a little over ten years now. I've had a kid for seven and a half of them. I've joined some groups, was part of the same preschool for four years, and now I'm in the public school, so I've met a lot more people.

I have friends in town. But I'd say it's only been in the last two years I've found "my people". They live in town but some don't have kids at the same elementary school, one has kids younger than mine. We're only a group when and if I bring them all together for one night to celebrate my birthday, but we're not a clique. Other than that, I'm a lone mama and I've never thought much about it.

By the way, I never look washed to go to drop off and most of the time, I don't look any more put together in the afternoon for pick-up. Maybe because that's my choice, and not a casualty of having a bunch of kids causing mayhem. It's just me staying on the treadmill in the morning until the last second before coming up to make sure all is ready for school. Or I've gotten too involved in social media arguments to have time to put on make-up before work. I can't even wear mascara if I wanted to for like at least a month because my eyelashes are falling out.

I don't go to school scoping out any particularly unwashed and slovenly moms to bond with though. Or look at ones who are decked out like I'm Janis Ian coveting a spot in The Plastics.

Didn't we all learn not to judge a book by the cover? I have mom friends that are all different. One doesn't leave the house without full hair and make-up, jewelry and heels. HEELS. Another just looks put together no matter what. I don't know what makes her look more put together than the average person, without trying. It's just life. Then there are some more like me, where it just depends on the day and what's going on. Of all the things to judge, looking put together or hasn't been a topic of conversation, as far as I've paid attention.

This frame of mind that as a mom, you have to be either polished and primped, or you're the one with french fries falling out of your minivan is the one that makes a person feel like an outsider- to themselves. There is no rule. Why would you automatically assume the "cool mom" group is the one you perceive yourself to be the opposite?

For me, any kind of expectation is a standard I don't feel like dealing with. I don't even like Halloween. Never did. Never wanted to be anyone or anything than me. Same with life. I just don't want to be anyone but me. It would be too much pressure, time & effort to wash my hair enough for the fancy crowd. I'd never drive a minivan either. My kid is always on time and dressed nice, but I forgot it was ice cream day today and didn't give him money to buy. What group should that put me in? Besides the "my kid is going to be pissed at me after school" one. Am I supposed to care? People either like me or don't. I can be an acquired taste. Whether they do or don't has little to do with how E or I look on a given day. I'd bet anything on that.

Maybe mommy cliques are like how I think of family. B and I don't like obligations. The people we see are people we want to see and spend time with. The family we've made, not the families we were born into. I don't want to be obligated into a group. From what I've seen, groups now are no different than in fifth grade, when I first learned that a group is nice until people turn on each other from within. I'm sure there are some groups where that doesn't happen, but from my limited view, I've seen it. It's natural though. You're just going to have more of a connection with some over others. I guess it depends on how catty the people in your crowd are as to how, when, why or if people are going to turn on each other enough to have hurt feelings.

There is also perception of cliques. Do you really know that all these people really like each other and hang out all the time. One article referenced seeing events on social media where they weren't invited. As if it has to be said, social media is a glimpse. You make up your own story about the photos. Even if these people do hang out all the time, who knows if you'd even want to do what they're doing? I don't often invite people I don't know to hang out outside of the school yard. And I'd consider myself somewhat of an extrovert. I don't invite them because if I don't really know them, I don't really think about them. Sometimes an outing of moms happens organically because they just happened to be in the same place at the same time. 

If you have a clique and you're happy, great. If you don't but you want to be in one, that's fine too. I just think that if you're looking for "your people", you can't just automatically stereotype people by how they appear. Maybe some of my friends befriended me thinking they were doing a mitzvah for a homeless lady. Only for them to find out later, I often look like I do in public because I want to be incognito. Incognito out of fear someone is going to try to sell me multi-level marketing products. If I look like I don't shower, no one is going to try to sell me expensive face creams, diet shakes or pants with pictures of doughnut holes on the crotch.

These articles remind me of online dating profiles that say "I'm just as comfortable in sweatpants as I am in a little black dress". You should be! You don't have to pick one or the other. If moms where you live tell you that do, maybe you should think about moving. You live around assholes. Or if people seem to get to know you, then don't want to hang out with you, maybe it's time to think about what you're doing to put people off. But, if no one is telling you this, and you're just making the assumption because you feel somehow less than the other moms around you, that's on you Girlfriend. Then instead of moving, you need a good therapist and that character Stuart Smalley to teach you how to tell yourself, "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!".

If you have just one person to complain about  not being in the "cool moms" to, then you have more than you think you do. It's all in how you look at it. Maybe there are moms looking at you and your one friend as a clique they wish they were in.

Why is it always the pajama-drop-off mom that writes these articles anyway? If you are pajama mom, then just own being pajama mom. You don't need to self depricate about being pajama mom or thinly veil feelings about the moms that aren't just because their version of looking like a mom doesn't mirror yours. Get over your lack of desire or ability to get dressed.

Confidence is attractive. If you believe you are worthy of friends, then friends you will have. They just don't appear overnight. Good friendships take time to cultivate. You put yourself out there, meet people, and then after some time, you decide who you want in your circle. YOU decide. Not "who is going to let me in?". It took me years to find my people. I can appreciate them for who they are. Like the Breakfast Club, I have the Type A, the Introvert, the Ethel or Lucy, the Oracle, the Mary Poppins, the Extrovert, the Mama Bear. Also like the movie, everyone one of them, including me, could be any of those on any given day. That's how I like it.

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