On Wednesdays, They Wear Pink.
You know them.
They exist universally at every playground and music class. They all seem to know each other, to know absolutely everything about one another’s lives. They’re always dressed the same, be it yoga pants and tank tops with built-in support or jeans and v-necks that accentuate breasts which seem to be untouched by breastfeeding.
Their sunglasses always match their shoes. Their children are dressed painfully fashionably, so much so that it hurts both your head and your wallet. They always flock together, gathered by some unseen gravitational force, to laugh loudly and pepper every other sentence with copious amounts of “likes.”
They are the mean moms. And they don’t like me.
This is not a surprise. The mean girls in high school never liked me either. Granted, I was awkward and lacking all social skills, but I still don’t think that justified my wild unpopularity. I was, in fact, an omnipresent target for emotional and psychological f*ckery through 12 solid years of grade school.
Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabes, the book upon which the film Mean Girls is based, writes of the power struggle between the rungs of the female social ladder in high-school society. She concludes that certain girls are ostracized for factors far beyond their control: Early physical development, poverty, reputation. Anything that sets the individual apart from the herd can result in banishment to the lowest level of the popularity hierarchy.
Apparently, however, this can extend far beyond the teen years. And in the metaphorical high school that is a young child’s public play space, these other mothers are the Queen Bees. Because, here I am, 10 months into this journey we call procreation, and damned if I don’t have a single Mom Friend.
While gestating, I had so many mental images of coffee dates and play dates and swim dates, darling children playing together while I sit with my new bosom buddy and share existential theories about motherhood. Or whatever the hell it is new moms do when they get together. I wouldn’t know…They don’t seem to like me.
I first realized it at the park. Scattered around the blacktop, the other mothers stood in groups of three or four, save for a few loner dads. I sat off to the side on a bench, just baby and me, because, let’s be honest, my three-month-old wasn’t getting too much out of the playground yet at that point, so he didn’t have much to do other than sitting with me.
And there we sat. Moms and children left; moms and children arrived. Somehow, without fail, these new mothers were inevitably drafted into the nearest group of three or four, smiles thrown and offspring pointed out and intimate details of personal lives shared after barely thirty seconds. It didn’t seem to matter if the women were previously acquainted; they always became fast friends over bags of goldfish and the mutual exchanging of phone numbers.
We had just moved into the area, and I knew no one with children. Time, I figured, and familiarity, would ease the acclimatization process.
But I now have a 10-month-old, and every day at the park, it’s still just him and me. We sit alone on our bench, as the other mothers giggle and sip overpriced water from environmentally-conscious recycled bottles and occasionally look in the direction of their children to call out encouragement or issue a threat about leaving if they don’t stop bickering with their brothers. For whatever reason, no one wants to return my inviting smiles, attempts at small talk or offers to share Gerber Puffs. No one talks to me. No one sits next to me. No one seems to notice me at all.
However, I am not writing this to lament my status as the black sheep of the Gorgas Park playground. After all, at the end of the day, what is important to me is not the number of similarly-minded fellow breeders I can befriend, or how many baby social outings I can wrack up over the course of a week.
I am writing this, mothers and fathers who feel isolated and lonely even in public, to let you know that you are not alone.
I feel the same things you feel, and you are like me in terms of the hopes and dreams and fears you hold for your children. We may not know one another, but we are the same.
Do you know what I want for us?
I want us to have the courage to keep trying to befriend strangers, to keep existing in a moment in which we feel uncomfortable, on behalf of our offspring. I want us to be comfortable enough in our parenting to not care what the other parents think of us, although we’re sitting alone.
I want us to shape healthy models of friendships and relationships for our sons and daughters, who will be learning by imitation. I want us to feel a welcome part of this universal experience called parenting, because, really, we’re all stronger when we’re together.
And you know what? We can have it.
Someday, maybe you and I will meet. However, if not, I guarantee there is another kindred soul out there, new to the area and alone on a bench, who could use a friend.
Please, hear me when I say that there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing that will prohibit you from befriending a sympathetic pariah, and, I promise, you’ll meet one. Or two. Or five.
It takes time; time, and patience, and effort. Because eventually, even if your kids are young now, they will grow to find acquaintances and close friends and best friends. Your new friend from the bench may turn out to be your son’s future best friend’s mother. Maybe you’ll go to eat dinner at each other’s tables and house one another’s children and go on vacation together as a crazy multi-family unit with eight people in one tiny single-room beach house.
Just breathe, fellow outcasts. Hang in there.
My advice? Love your children unconditionally. That shows. That becomes evident in the way your babies become children who become adults, in their behaviors and dispositions and decisions. Other, like-minded parents will notice. You will inevitably flock together based on your shared outlook of child-rearing, and it will feel like coming home. You will meet each other through preschool or soccer practice or even at the same park you once haunted alone with your infant, but it will happen sooner or later.
Until then, female friends aside, my baby is the best company I could ever ask for.
Author: Shannon Frost Greenstein
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen