The Mommy Wars. Have you heard of these? Apparently it’s a battle between stay-at-home-moms and working moms. Add to that, the battle between mommies to be “popular”, in the right mommy clique, get their kids into the best school, compete with other mommies about potty training, sleep training, their kid’s behavior, keep up with the Joneses, etc, etc, etc.
I’ll be honest, when we moved to Qatar, I had experienced NONE of this. Max was only 15 months when we moved there, I only had a couple of friends that had children and they were much older and both K and I were pretty busy with work. We also had fantastic friends that we had known forever and never felt that we were in competition with anyone. Fast forward to Qatar and we were thrown into a community that consisted of expatriates from all over the world and everyone had left family and friends at home to move to this strange country. Therefore, everyone you knew became family….you accepted everyone, flaws and all. Whether they worked or stayed home with the kids. Whether you liked their kids or not. Whether their house was big or small. Whether they were 25 or 40. Within three days of meeting someone, you were comfortable calling them up and asking them to take your kids for a few hours because you had a last-minute meeting or a doctor’s appointment. Within three months of forging a friendship with our closest friend’s there, we were traveling to frickin Thailand with them. High school teachers were best friends with CFOs, stay-at-home mommies were friends with HR Directors. We ate dinner at each other’s houses constantly, kids were thrown together at get-togethers whether they got along or not. If someone’s spouse was traveling for business, you were invited automatically to someone’s house for dinner so you didn’t get lonely. It was expected.
I thought that was normal for friends and family. Then I moved back to “the real world” with two kids. And I’m not even sure if the real world is the problem or it’s just the community we chose. It’s lovely and beautiful, tons of parks, 4 pools, bike paths, good public school and tons of kids. But we’re experiencing something new to us. That thing is not having close friends and the mommy wars.
We’ve lived here a year. Neighbors? Only one with kids and, for some reason, we never see them. There are 5 houses on our block that I have literally never even seen a person walk in or out of. Watching kids as a favor? HA! I swear I feel like I couldn’t pay someone to watch my kiddos for an hour while I ran to the doctor, much less watch them as a favor. Being invited to dinner at someone’s house when K is traveling? Double HA! Discovering that a group of people you know all got together for an event and didn’t think to call you? Painful.
I’ve talked to several people about this in my community and MANY have agreed that they see this too….cliqueness, cattiness. I mean, really, how many times can you ask someone if they want to get together and not get an answer before you give up? You join every group you can possibly think of and have nothing to show for it.In an ironic twist, one of the friends that I recently discussed this with is moving to Malaysia for the expat life.
I don’t get it, I really don’t. I have friends that are stay-at-home moms, friends that are CEOs of companies, liberal friends, conservative friends, friends who have really annoying kids. Why does any of that matter? A friend is a friend. And this is something that’s definitely new to our generation…..this did not go on when I was a child. I was an annoying, bossy britches when I was a kid–made my parents miserable half the time. The fact that I beat up Alex Lowe on a daily basis did not affect the friendship between my mother and Alex Lowe’s mother. Now? Mommies don’t put up with that and friendships are tested.
Is this normal or is this my neighborhood? I recently read an article by a French author that claims that the mommy wars are an American phenomena. I’m inclined to agree after what we experienced in Qatar. I was chatting with a friend from home the other day and she said that it took her 8 years of living in Hinsdale, IL to make friends she was comfortable with . 8 YEARS. That’s shocking to me. Shouldn’t we all be supporting each other in this parenthood journey? I know I can’t be the only one that has broken down in tears at 3 in the morning with a kid screeching in my ear. I know I can’t be the only one that’s struggling with potty training, tantrums, arguments with my husband, lack of sleep, etc, etc, etc. Why aren’t we there for each other?
I would say that parenting is 50% wonderful and 50% horrendous. And on that note, I leave you with a test to see if you are truly ready for parenting, if you aren’t already….
1. Women: to prepare for maternity, put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag chair down the front. Leave it there for 9 months. After 9 months, take out 10% of the beans.
Men: to prepare for paternity, go to the local drug store, tip the contents of your wallet on the counter, and tell the pharmacist to help himself. Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home. Pick up the paper. Read it for the last time.
2. Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels, and how they have allowed their children to run riot. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behavior. Enjoy it — it’ll be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.
3. To discover how the nights will feel, walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 lbs. At 10pm put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, till 1am. Put the alarm on for 3am. As you can’t get back to sleep get up at 2am and make a drink. Go to bed at 2:45am. Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off. Sing songs in the dark until 4am. Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up. Make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.
4. Can you stand the mess children make? To find out, smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains. Hide a fish stick behind the stereo and leave it there all summer. Stick your fingers in the flowerbeds then rub them on the clean walls. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?
5. Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems: first buy an octopus and a string bag. Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that none of the arms hang out. Time allowed for this: all morning.
6. Take an egg carton. Using a pair of scissors and a pot of paint turn it into an alligator. Now take a toilet tube. Using only scotch tape and a piece of foil, turn it into a Christmas candle. Last, take a milk container, a ping pong ball, and an empty package of Cocoa Pops and make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower. Congratulations. You have just qualified for a place on the playgroup committee.
7. Forget the Miata and buy a Taurus. And don’t think you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don’t look like that. Buy a chocolate ice cream bar and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a quarter. Stick it in the cassette player. Take a family-size packet of chocolate cookies. Mash them down the back seats. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There. Perfect.
8. Get ready to go out. Wait outside the toilet for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette butt, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you’ve had as much as you can stand, until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.
9. Always repeat everything you say at least five times.
10. Go to your local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child — a fully grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat. Buy your week’s groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goats eat or destroy. Until you can easily accomplish this do not even contemplate having children.
11. Hollow out a melon. Make a small hole in the side. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side. Now get a bowl of soggy Wheeties and attempt to spoon it into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane. Continue until half the Wheeties are gone. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor. You are now ready to feed a 12-month-old baby.
12. Learn the names of every character from Barney and Friends, Sesame Street and The Power Rangers. When you find yourself singing Barney’s theme song, “I love you.. You love me…” at work, you finally qualify as a parent.