Earlier this year I went to a gathering. While all the men had no problem all chatting together, the two women with kids quickly found each other and left me with the only woman without kids. While I attempted to engage them in conversation multiple times, they quickly turned back back to each other and excluded me from their conversation. The ironic thing was that most of the time they weren’t even talking about things related to their children. Yet the unspoken assumption was that I would have more in common with the non-mom in the room, even though she was almost ten years younger then me. I had just been excluded from the mommy club again.
Exclusivity of the Mommy Club
I first noticed the exclusivity of the “mommy club” when I was in my early twenties and caring for the children of other people. If it was a group care situation, the moms would all talk among themselves at pick-up and completely ignore any care workers who didn’t have children of their own. I had been doing childcare as a volunteer in my church since I was 13 but when I became an adult I quickly tired of the assumption that because I was childless, I was the go-to person to take care of everyone else’s kids. I finally decided that I wasn’t going to volunteer my time with children anymore and the major reason was how I was treated by the moms. Surprisingly it was only in situations that I was volunteering my time that I ever felt that way. Although I had to deal with some difficult parents at work, all of them treated me like a peer.
Is the membership of this magical mommy club bestowed upon a woman once she gives birth? She now finally “gets it.” She belongs. She can hang out with other moms and contribute to the “conversation.” She can now speak with authority about diaper rash, sleep training, and teething.
Or so you would think, but apparently it’s not that easy. I’ve heard from women that are mothers that are finding it still difficult to obtain membership in the so called mommy club. That feel excluded or ignored or ostracized by other moms for reasons they really can’t explain or even identity. Or feel like they have been transported back to high school by the mean girl behavior. Tales of this kind of drama and pettiness is enough to make me want to run in the other direction.
To be honest, if this mommy club exists in the way it seems to, I’m probably never doing to obtain membership, nor am I sure that I even want it. I have always struggled with fitting in and I’m probably not going to be one of the “cool” moms (because I’m already not cool now). I can’t really ever see myself sitting around talking about sleep schedules and baby poop for extended periods of time. Mom meet-ups seem ripe for comparison and feelings of inadequacy and as an introvert I have always been better at cultivating relationships with individuals. Someone also being a mom is probably not going to be enough common ground for me to develop a friendship.
Perhaps I don’t want to be in the mommy club, I just want to be a mom.
I have known that I wanted to be a mom for a long time. There were times that I never thought that I would find the right guy to actually make that happen. Then I did, and the assumption was that things would just fall into place after that. That would would spend some time with just the two of us and then add a baby to our life.
According to most of the world, my husband and I aren’t a family. We will only become a family once we have children. Which is why there are family activities in the church bulletin that are really only for couples with children and family friendly activities that mean there will be things to keep the kiddos occupied. There is part of me that chafes at that terminology. What about the couples that will never or never want to have children? What about the ones that are waiting for children? Does that mean that we aren’t families?
Beyond the stress and emotions surrounding the waiting game, there is becoming more and more of a gap between me and all the people in our life that now do have children. The sad thing is that I don’t want this to happen. I don’t want to be excluded from the lives of friends or even people that I haven’t met yet simply because I don’t have children yet.
Once we do have children, I also don’t want to exclude my friends that don’t have children from my life. I’ll admit that I don’t get people that will drop friends simply because they are no longer in the same stage of life. Just because they can’t discuss pacifiers and the cost of diapers doesn’t mean that the friendships have to change dramatically. They have been formed from years of shared history and supporting each other, and I’m not planning on letting go of any of that.
Some things for moms to remember:
Don’t assume- Don’t make the assumption that I have nothing in common with you because I’m not a mom. Don’t assume that I don’t want an invite to your child’s birthday or a get together where there will be children. Extend the invitation and let us decide whether we want to attend or not.
Keep your opinions to yourself- We don’t want to field questions about when we are having children or hear about why we should be having children. It is our choice whether or not we have kids (and really none of your business unless we chose to share). For women that want children and are struggling to conceive these questions and comments can be especially hurtful.
Recognize that families come in all shapes and forms- Be sensitive to the fact that not every family looks like yours, especially if you are in a position of influence. So you probably shouldn’t be holding a “moms only” mother’s day brunch at your church. Or having events or fundraisers that only include kids activities, but none for adults. Be inclusive.
(And from women everywhere, both who are moms and aren’t)
Don’t be mean- You don’t have to everyone’s best friend, obviously, but you don’t need to nasty to anyone either. And pretending someone doesn’t exist, ignoring someone when they are talking to you, and blatantly rubbing people’s face in your exclusion of them, that’s all nasty behavior.
Have you ever felt excluded from the mommy club?