Friday, February 26, 2010

Pretty Little Boxes: Fitting in With Mommy Frenemies

Good lord, it's been almost a month! That's a big blogger no-no. It's not like I haven't had things to say, haven't in fact composed posts in my head, it's just been an intense and messy time for myself and my family. Little kidlet is just about to turn six months old, and is at that stage where he is aware, wants to participate, but can't yet do stuff, so he gets frustrated. Couple that with the fact that he wants mom right next to him at all times, especially when sleeping, and my routine of putting kids to bed and getting some creative time has been obliterated. I'm lucky if I get a hot, not lukewarm/cold, cup of tea most days. Also, truth be told, I'm not doing so hot on managing my time and tasks very well, and getting caught up in silly stuff of the moment. I've made some strides this week to reassert some order and rhythm, but I'm not quite there yet. In fact, there is the baby again, hold on a sec....

First the good stuff. I've made some progress to start the process of reducing the stuff in my house, and a major victory was working through an issue that my son was having at the program he attended while I have my weekly Bible study. I reached out, I stood up/spoke out for my kid, and things have gotten much better. In fact, I can say that we've had a pretty awesome streak this month of just really enjoying each other, and my fuse has been long and fairly flame retardant.

That was of course before the last few days. Now for the bad stuff. The storm that has been blowing in all day is now raging outside, and a similar storm is also happening inside. My fuse has been very short the last two days, and it's not the kids' fault. It's mine.

I promised myself I would be real in this endeavor, even when it was uncomfortable, so here goes. I have never, and continue to not play well with others. I find it frankly self indulgent and pathetic that by this time in my life I somehow continue to find myself in patterns of trying to fit in, failing at it, and having my feelings hurt because I don't. I really thought (hoped) that by this time in my life that this kind of stuff would have been resolved, but no. It is my least favorite part of being a woman...other women. Sure men can make me all kinds of crazy, but no one is able to really cut me deeply as another woman, either intentionally, or unintentionally. I think that is why I have always been a little afraid of having a daughter--the prospect of helping her navigate through things that I clearly still do not understand how to navigate through myself.

I've been struggling to fit in boxes all my life. "Fitting in" has been a pretty consistent wall I've banged my head into. I just don't, and there are many days I'm really happy and proud of that fact. But there are times when I sincerely wish I could just manage to contort myself to squeeze myself in.

The particular boxes I've been struggling with recently are the kind one encounters when one becomes a mother in community with other mothers. These boxes can be really pretty little things, but the inside, well just say it's not always as advertised. Join the "club," "tribe," "community," receive "support," "encouragement," "acceptance." Open the lid, and don't be surprised when in fact at moments you feel anything but the aforementioned benefits of walking the mommy path with other women.

What hurts me is continually putting myself out there, but not really getting much in return, or feeling downright excluded in many cases. Forming relationships, intimate or casual, is not a strength of mine, but for the sake of my kids (I tell myself) I continue to try. When it comes to my children, it would be a whole lot easier on them I tell myself if I just could get into line with those around me, assimilate. I do well for a while, but then inevitably I let that particular mask slip a bit, and I get hurt and disappointed that I'm dooming my kids to ostracism forever as the children of "that mother." And let's face it, the only person who deludes themselves that the mask is actually fooling anyone is me, myself, and I.

Many times, and even now I wonder why do I bother. Move on, better off without them. But, you can only move on so many times. These are the kids that my kids will know as they grow; I'll be in contact with them for years to come. I think it's important to find a way to peacefully coexist so that my kids don't suffer from having "that mother." I know this intimately, because my own mother was in many ways "that mother." (ahhh, now we get to the meat of it you may be telling yourself) My mother was also "different." She dealt with it by withdrawing and giving other moms and the mommy culture the proverbial bird. I was already unique enough all on my own, add in a mom who also didn't play by the mainstream rules, and it did feel like an added burden. And let's be real, your baggage often gets put on your kid, and how others perceive them, and undeservedly so. I have felt like doing the same thing as my mom repeatedly, although not as overtly, because she is far more bold than I am. And, I really don't want that for my own kids, and I don't think it really solves much for me either. So I continue to try and work it out.

I did get a bit of provident help with this. Also in my in box was the latest GOOP newsletter. For those of you who don't know, GOOP is the personal blog/website for the actress Gwyneth Paltrow. She's gotten plenty of criticism for her blog and what she puts out there, but all in all, I generally enjoy what she sends out. This issue dealt with the timely-for-me topic of "friendship divorce." She often invites "expert" commentators to contribute on topics, and in this issue they focused on how to manage friendships that are no longer working.

I hear with clarity the words of Cynthia Bourgeault:
"The more we can take responsibility for our own emotional well-being, the more we can live comfortably in our own skin, the more friendship can become what it is truly meant to be — whether for the whole of our life or just the miracle of the present: the spontaneous overflowing of our uniquely human capacity for intimacy, compassion, and joy."
It is not the responsibility of other people to like and accept me. I get that. They either do or they don't. But I need to assess how much I can handle, and what degree of relationship is acceptable to me. I also hear the words of Michael Berg:

"If we have a friend that makes us feel worthless, hurts us, or doesn’t enable us to grow and actually makes us feel bad, then clearly that’s a friendship and environment we don’t want to subject ourselves to. We have the responsibility to diminish that friendship. Not only isn’t it serving its purpose, it can have a detrimental effect on us."

He goes on to say that he feels one should not cut someone out of one's life, but diminish their role in it.

Ultimately, I think it will be a day to day assessment, and adjustment of my expectations. I think I will just have to find a median way that acknowledges that these are just women with whom I occasionally gather to let my kids play with others and exchange some chitchat, and not expect any one of them to become bosom friends of my heart.

There, I feel a little better.

How do you handle being on the fringes of the female/mommy culture? How do you make things easier for your kids when you don't particularly enjoy their friend's parents?

Photo courtesy of lonesome-stranger

**For a follow-up to this post go here

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