I don’t play well with others …

I am not a group person.

I don’t really like to sit around with other moms and chat about my baby, and then their baby, and then whose baby rolled over first.  I actually really do not enjoy it.

I am barely interested in when my baby rolled over, I am definitely not interested in when your baby rolled over.

Sad, but true.

Maybe that made me feel a bit alienated from mommy and baby groups.  I am interested in chatting to moms about what they go through, and how they struggle and how they overcome the things that plagues us all.

When I sit and chat with moms the conversations seem to flick very quickly to junior and what colour his poo is, and that he is just the best baby in the world, and how much mom just loves being a mom, and that he is already walking and able to program the DSTV, and then the gushing goes on for a bit too long.

I love the fact that moms are proud of their offspring, but frankly I am just not interested.

I love my kids, I even like my kids, but I seldom share with the world when Georgia managed to sing all the words to “Peg Leg Jack” I am super proud of her and she does the actions.

But I am fairly sure no one else gives a toss, so I do not sit and tell them all about it.

Normally as I am being given a blow by blow rendition of how junior managed to pee into the potty on command, it is at this point I start to feel somewhat uncomfortable.  I  shift around awkwardly in my seat and start staring off into the distance.

Usually my mind starts to drift and I start to think of how I am going to escape, or what time the bottle stores close on a Saturday.

Basically I start planning my exit strategy quickly, but still trying to appear like I am interested in the consistency of junior’s snot!

I have always felt really different from other moms.  I have felt alienated from them, and I feel like I cannot relate to what seems to interest them.

Maybe this is why I have never made friends with moms-with-babes (or maybe it is just that my personality alienates them, or that I have body odour …. or ….. you can see how this can go on.)

I do not have any friends who have babies!  Seriously not one.

My friends have either chosen not to have babies, can’t have babies, or are not ready to have babies, or have not met the sperm provider with whom they wish to have babies.

Bear in mind I am in my late thirties, so my friends are not twelve years old, they are generally in the mid-thirty range.    But strange as it is, we are the only couple in our group of close friends who have kids.

With the result I try not to talk about my kids with them unless they specifically ask.  I can’t think they want to hear about the defaecate movements, projective vomiting and sleeping patterns of my brood.

I had a friend, who had two young children, and then when I had Connor, she and her husband moved away.  Not because I had Connor, you understand.  But because they had work obligations that sent them out of the country (or that is what they told us at any rate).

Before blogging I did not realize there were bloggers, I did not realize there were forums.

There are in reality tons of bloggers and tons of forums. (I was so naive about this entire sub-community that exists it is frightening and embarrassing.)

One tends to look around and then find and connect with the one (forum and/or blog) that most reflects who you are, or what you are interested in reading/hearing about.

I stumbled across www.pampers.co.za about 18 months ago, and it has a very active forum.

I joined and most of the conversations I saw were about poo and what colour it was.  But every now and then I would read a post and something in me would go “hey that sounds like a mom I can relate to…” and then I started commenting on threads and started threads.

Initially I felt awkward, but as time moved on I got a bit more comfortable with myself.  I realised who I was, and though I was different to the masses, it felt like there was a space for someone of my ilk on the forum.

I decided that instead of being the “mommy-and-baby mom” I will actually just be me, the reluctant mom, it was good, and it made me feel good to be me and be honest, instead of standing there with a saccharine smile on my face!

Pampers’ forum went through some changes and it no longer felt like a good place to be.

I started looking around for a new forum, as it was strange how familiar this little community of people had become.  I missed their chatter, and I missed the conversations and how good it made me feel, and I needed to find another forum and see if I could “move in there”.

Moomie came along, and initially I missed old  pampers, but in no time a lot  of the “old”crew moved over and lots of new moms joined, and the chatter and sense of community started again.

I am not a mommy’s mommy.  But, I have enjoyed the sense of community at Moomie.

I love it that there are moms on that forum who maybe want to talk about something else.  And who also struggle a bit like I do.

I have enjoyed the honesty that many of the moms have been brave enough to show.  Sometimes I get private message comments from moms that warm my soul.

Moms who feel a bit embarrassed to say something on the forum, but feel comfortable enough saying it to me, even in a private message, and that makes me feel pretty good.

Last weekend we arranged a moomie meet in Cape Town and some of the moms got together at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.  I only knew one of the moms by sight, but it was really nice to sit around in a spectacular garden, have a picnic, and have our kids running around and feel a connection with a group of people, who I would usually feel a bit alienated from.

I think what being part of a forum has shown me is that I am not as unique as I led myself to believe, there are more moms out there who struggle with the same or similar things that I struggle with than I realized.

And sometimes, it is nice to have an accepting group who understands what you are going to as a sounding board.

I am still not big on groups, and I do tend to hold myself on the outskirts, as that is where I feel comfortable, but I think the point I am trying to make is that a sense of community with other moms who are going through what you are going through – I think especially if you can find moms who are brave enough to be honest, is a very valuable thing.

I wish someone had told me …..

… how exhausted you felt once the euphoria of the birth had worn off.

…. how strange your body will feel to you now that it has all this extra padding and Pamela Anderson boobs.

… how difficult breast feeding can be, and how rewarding it can be if you get it right.

…. how much space the pram, the babyseat, the mobiles, the feeding chair, and all the other stuff really take up in your house.

…. how much of an impact this little person has on your relationship and your life.

… how alone you feel at 3am when you feel like you are the only person awake in the entire world.

…. that you are going to cry, and probably a lot – as it is all a bit overwhelming, and you know it is okay to just bawl like a baby with a snotty nose.

…. To start buying packs of nappies in the first month of pregnancy so I could build up a healthy supply – as the cost is exhorbitant.

…. To ignore everything and lie in bed with my tiny baby and have an extra long cuddle instead of rushing around and attending to the house and life.

… that pregnancy is the only time where you can just say “no” to things guilt free, and spend the time just resting – as you are going to need all the energy you can muster to get through those chaotic first three months.

… that trying to claim for UIF benefits through the Department of Labour might well send you into early labour or to jail for killing someone. There are companies that specialize in this (not the killing – though there are – but I am talking about companies that claim benefits on your behalf – try momsuifassist.co.za) , use them and do yourself a favour – you really do not need the aggravation!!

….that you do not have to be “fine” every time someone asks – it is okay to admit you are struggling and it really is hard.

… that the only mom’s who look perfectly turned out with beaming smiles and great hair, are those mom’s who have had two hours of makeup and hair, and the photographer is using soft lighting in the L&L magazines.

… that the woman in many of the pregnancy magazines have been retouched to hide their big blue veins on their boobs and their giant stretch marks on their stomachs. (I used to work at a company that retouched those pictures…)

…. that if you can afford it go for a wonderful photoshoot with your pregnant tummy. You might feel a bit like Orca, but you probably look wonderful and having great photos to remember that time are going to be absolute priceless to you.

… that in one moment you will get so angry with this little baby for keeping you awake and reducing you to a wet blubbering mess, but the very next moment you would lay down your life for this person without any hesitation.

It’s a Revolution ….or a mental breakdown.

I am feeling quite invigorated at the moment – I feel like my mind has had a little shift. I apologise upfront that this post is going to sound a bit manic, however I really feel like a light has gone on in my head and I have all sorts of endorphins surging through me today!

We are part of a culture that discourages mothers from discussing their doubts, insecurities, fears, and failures as mothers. It’s like a dirty little secret. If you show that you are really not coping and maybe not loving it every moment, then there is a real fear that you will be shown to love your kids less – you will be outed for the bad mother you already think you are.

We want motherhood to seem ordinary, not extraordinary. We go through pregnancy and birth < no matter how that baby comes out of you it is birth > it is traumatic on our bodies and take a real toll on your mind and how you interact with the world.

Because it occurs every day to so many women, it is trivialized and we need to act as if it is all so pedestrian. You are thrown – literally – into this sea of confusion and expected to just bob to the top and start swimming like a pro. Any non-compliance or thinking outside what main stream society tells you is unacceptable.

You must just love being a mom all day every day.

The more women I am interacting with through this blog and other forums, the more I am realising that it is not just me. There are so many women who really struggle and almost drown each day. But somehow they wipe their tears, put on some mascara and lipstick and smile sweetly at the world. (Usually they have not had a chance to brush their teeth or are suffering from violent constipation because they have not had a chance to go the bathroom, but we can cover that in a separate post.)

Not one person has ever spoken to me while I was pregnant and up until this day and said “You know I really don’t like being a mommy all the time!” Not one person – however I am getting so many responses from people that tell me clearly this feeling exists out there. I know lots of women who have had kids so they would know this stuff, but not one person has stepped forward and honestly told the truth about their lot and what awaited me.

People sort of indicate that it might be hard or smile knowingly and nod when you mention that you are crying uncontrollably.

But why do moms not take you into their confidence and tell you how it really is? Why must you find it out for yourself?

I know you will go through it – but when you start experiencing it without any kind of forewarning, you start feeling that you are somehow getting it all wrong, because other moms seem to be coping.

Other moms surely are not crying in the bathroom at 2am because surely they would have said something. Other moms are not hiding from their children, just so they get a moment to themselves, because someone would have said something. Other moms are not taking anti-depressant and trying to drink their problems away, because surely someone would have said s o m e t h i n g !

No, for some reason no one says anything. You are left to find this stuff out for yourself. Doubt yourself, hate yourself and wonder if you are even worthy of being a mom. How did this happen – why is there a conspiracy of silence?

For me I really felt isolated, confused, and afraid. I was convinced for the most part that I was a terrible, evil, awful mother who just did not know who to raise a child, let alone children.

What I have slowly begun to realize in the last few months is that what I have experienced is normal. I am not sure whether to be frightened that there are more people like me or comforted that I am not alone.

We need to start exploding the myth that it is easy and ordinary to be a mother. We need to acknowledge the dark elements that are part of the whole experience of motherhood.

The more we are able to recognize that motherhood is not soft lighting and photo-shopping the sooner we can counteract what we see in mainstream magazines and what is being pushed down our throats every day.

Next time you sit down with other moms wouldn’t it be great to have a real conversation about what you actually feel and how much you really struggle? Instead of the inane conversation about the colour of Johnny’s poop or how thrilled you are because Jane got her first tooth.

Start a revolution in thinking at your next mommy and baby group!

I hate Mommy and Baby Groups – Part 1

I realize this rant is totally out of context, but I belong to a few women-with-baby forums and when I read through some of the threads I start to get a dull ache in my bum area.  For some reason this morning I recalled how much I loathed mommy and baby groups.

There is so much pressure to join one with your new little mushroom.  As soon as you get out of hospital and are able to take more than five steps, you start figuring out which group you are going to join.  You call the group leader and it all sounds so wonderful .  They are generally really really happy bubbly people.  Usually at this point I start to get uneasy – I am deeply suspicious of happy shiny people – I like my people a little bruised, a little dirty, a lot pessimistic.

You get your little bundle ready – dressed in their best clothes – you have already starting to buy into this under current of competition that exists at these things.  You don’t even realize you are doing it, but there you go.  You are so proud of your little Joshua/Sarah and can’t wait to get to the group, because your little one is going to be the best kid there – you know this.

In the car with your safety seat, getting the pram, the nappy bag and your bag in, buckled up, sort of figuring out where to go – because usually it is in a suburb off a side street that you really don’t know.  In your area, but you are not so sure, so odds are you take a few wrong turns, drive at 20km/hour to try to figure out street signs and basically get yourself lost.

You finally get there and it is usually a house in suburbia that has been revamped by a mommy with one or more likely two kids, who is using her love of kids to work from home, so there is a garage converted and lots of TreeHouse themed cushions and curtains.

You get all your kit unloaded. By now you are a little flustered as you are late, and you have had to park about 500 metres away as all the more eager moms got there before you.  So you drag all your stuff all the way there.

By the time you get there and go through the alternate entrance, which usually is a narrow gate that your huge gi-normous pram does not quite fit in through the door, so there you are fighting the good fight, and starting to sweat a little, because odds you have over dressed, because you have not been out of the house by yourself for 6 weeks.  The weather has changed since you were last outdoors, and the only clothes that fit you are from the wrong season.

You sort of fall inside the sliding door.  To be greeted by a sea of usually attractive moms wearing their Sunday best and all their Joshuas and Sarahs are on little mats or cushions and everyone is so damn happy.  You, of course, have worked up a bit of a sweat, your Joshua or Sarah is a little cranky as you have transferred baby from safety seat, to pram, and now have to get baby out of pram as pram does not fit into room, so you are trying to juggle baby, your bag, the nappy bag, snug and safe and what is left of your composure.

The far-too-friendly leader of this little ensemble, comes over to greet you and refers to you usually as Mommy <well, it is tricky referring to everyone by name, so Mommy sort of makes it easy, and because you are a new Mommy, it kind of makes you smile that you have a new important title>.  You find a space and try to settle down.

At some point you are trying to assess the mood of the room, and then you start realizing that these moms are generally over achievers – like really over achievers.  When you are trying to find 10 minutes to read or sleep, while you are forcing junior to take a nap, more for your benefit than for theirs, these moms are busy reading Baby’s First Words or doing some sort of Baby Gym with their babies.  Damn, you are clearly behind with your baby’s development as you look down and your little imp is quietly gurgling and dribbling on his chin.

The leader takes her seat in the front centre, with her “baby doll” and everyone smiles and the excitement is tangible.  Everyone beings introducing them selves.  You start practicing a bit in your mind how you are going to introduce yourself and show off your offspring as you really only have about 4 seconds for introductions and really want to get bang for your buck here.

At the same time you are trying to remember names and baby names and ages …. and the reality is that you can barely remember your own.  So your turn comes around and all you can muster up is “Hi I’m Celeste, and this is er…. Connor….. and he is ……hmmm….. his 4 months old.”  And the spot light moves away from you.

Then the real show begins  …….