When it comes to raising my kids in Brooklyn, one of the things I'm most grateful for are many social opportunities to meet other moms. From different baby classes, to the cafes I frequented with my babies, to the online meet up groups I joined, I was able to acquire and basically curate my own near-perfect Mom Tribe. Most of the time, I feel like I am swaddled in a warm blanket of sisterly love from other moms. However, there are a handful of times when motherhood feels like anything but a sisterhood.
The great part about creating your own tribe is that you tend to attract people who are like you and share the same values. In my "mom sisterhood" I tend to hang with moms who generally share the same principals when it comes to the bigger themes of how we want to raise our children. We agree about a lot, and we have lively conversations about the stuff on which we have differing points of view.
Some people feel like, by default, all moms (even the ones they don't know very well or that they don't know at all) are part of the tribe, too. I don't necessarily agree. Personally, I don't feel the "sisterhood" when I'm out and about in daily life. I find people in general to be pretty much in their own heads and not really looking to engage or help unless prompted or asked. This goes for moms as well, even though we are all supposed to be living in this fantasy world where we "see each other" and are just falling over to help one another while we struggle with our strollers or our screaming kids online at the grocery store, or struggling to feed our babies the way that feels authentic to us. I think that these are beautiful ideals for which to strive but, in my experience, we are not quite there yet. Here are some times when the sisterhood was kind of a #fail.
When I Read Those Angry Rants In A Facebook Mom Group
Another day, another Facebook rant in a Facebook Mom Group. Most of the time I am not bothered (in fact, so many of them are entertaining), but once in a while I fall into the wormhole that is the comment section, especially when the rants turn particularly vicious. I start to wonder, "What kind of example would we be setting for our kids if they could hear the kind of bullying words coming out of their mothers' mouths right now (albeit being typed on a web page)?"
If the negative comments have to do with a parenting choice that I have made for my kids — and it is one that the majority of the commenters don't agree with as well — it really can affect my mood and outlook for the day. Rants and comments like these make me feel like I've been voted off the "motherhood island."
People are certainly entitled to different opinions because, hey, that is what makes the world an interesting place! However, it would be so much cooler if people were able to voice their opinions without making other moms feel "less than" or judged for having done things differently. (Yes, I too need to work on doing this.)
When Revealing Which Camp People Were Sending Their Kid To Was Highly Classified Intel
Sometimes I cannot believe the lengths other moms will go to be next-level unhelpful. I recently sent an email to the parents of my son's classmates asking them where they plan on sending their kids to camp in the hopes that I could put my son in some kind of summer thing with a friend or two from school. Literally no response back. Am I supposed to believe that, in my neighborhood — which is one of those parts of Brooklyn where children are heavily "scheduled" into lots of extracurricular activities and their parents have an ever-watchful eye towards college ever since their children are in preschool — no one has given summer activities or camp a single thought? No, that is not it at all.
Another mom later explained to me that the reason no one wrote me back was competitiveness, and that parents don't want everyone to know where their kid is planning on going to camp because, if they did, "then everyone would go," and it would no longer be considered "exclusive." Sisterhood, shmisterhood.
When I Asked Other Moms If They Knew Any Babysitters And Hear Nothing In Return
If moms are wary of advertising where they're sending their kids to camp, then they surely will not be down with telling anyone which babysitters they use. I used to post on a local listserve, and on Facebook groups to find evening babysitters, even in my own building's online bulletin board, and found no one. Surely it wasn't that no one ever left their kids with a sitter, ever. More likely that moms did not want any "sitter poaching" to happen.
When Moms Didn't Help When They Saw Me Struggling With My Caravan-Sized Double Stroller
I get it. Sometimes we are in our own worlds and we don't see the double stroller with the mom behind it, who is trying to hold a toddler in her arms while simultaneously trying to shove the stroller through the door as her infant wails at glass-shattering decibels and, oh, did I mention it is also a hail storm? But no, you should just do you. You've just dropped off your youngest at preschool, and you're free for the rest of the day and Soul Cycle starts in 20 minutes. Better get a move on!
Come on. This is not OK. We can do better for The Sisterhood, right? I can't imagine, after having children, not being able to see moms (and childcare providers) hard at work around me. I feel like after become a mother I am hyper-aware of the presence of people who take care of children and pregnant women and moms. I see them everywhere and I can't stop seeing them and I also can't stop wanting to help. It completely baffles me if a mom I recognize from the neighborhood, who happens to be without her kids at the time, gives me one of those dead stares when she sees me having trouble getting through a door while pushing my kids in the stroller. How hard is it to open a door? Or to ask, "Need a hand?"
When I Was Pregnant On The Subway And Not One Woman Got Up For Me
I have totally given up on chivalry when it comes to pregnant women on the subway, including myself. I don't remember a single time a man gave me his seat during both of my pregnancies. One time, I stood from Brooklyn to Midtown with my nine month belly nearly touching a dude's face for the entire ride as he sat, not even reading or looking at his phone. I should have asked for his seat, but I was more fascinated at this social experiment taking place before my eyes. I wouldn't have been surprised if my baby had reached out a tiny fist and knocked him on the nose, and he still wouldn't have offered me a seat.
Anyway, my point is, guys in New York don't seem to give up subway seats. But you know what is even worse? When women with whom I have made solid eye contact and who acknowledged my giant pregnant belly also made no moves towards giving me a seat. Ladies! Come on! Even if a woman never has carried a baby, or never plans to, I still expect that by virtue of us both having uteruses and having endured menstrual cramps, we would have a mutual understanding. Freaking give up the subway seat to The Pregnant Lady.
When A Bunch Of Us Ganged Up On A Certain Mom Behind Her Back Because Of Her Parenting Choices
I wonder if this is just something primal that happens when you get a bunch of women together in a group and one of them leaves: we talk about her. Is it because we are resentful that she's turned her back on "the tribe" and therefore must come up with something, anything, to say about her that sets her apart from the rest of us? When humans first came into existence, and a woman left, say, the fire around which all her ladies were making animal pelts, did they say something that in modern times would be like, "Ugh, what is it with Sharon and her green juice obsession? I feel like she's forcing little Charlie to take those wheatgrass shots and acting all high and mighty like her kid is the healthiest kid in the whole tribe."
This is why I try to never leave a get-together with my mama friends first. Not so much that I care if anyone talks about me, but more because I want to hear everything anyone would possibly have to say about any of our friends. I want to be in the loop. I also want to be there in case I might be able to offer a different side of the story. Sometimes people tell me things they don't tell the rest of the world (I have that effect on people, for better or worse) and there is the possibility that I could be able to offer some insight into why one of our friends is doing something a certain way. Not always (some of the moms I know are just cray) but once in a while, there is something going on that is deeper than just the fact that a certain mom thinks she's "better than everyone else."