A small curiosity.
June 08, 2012

At some point a month or two ago, I joined a new mom group.

Over the past few years, I have tried a variety of mom groups on for size and what I have generally found is that the groups do not work for me long-term…but the individuals do.  Eventually either I drop the group or they drop me.

There is one notable exception to this rule, however, and the only thing that I have noticed that makes this group different from any other group is that they think like me.  I have never minded if a friend of mine differs from me as a parent.  Maybe they opted out of breastfeeding and they bring a stroller everywhere and their biggest dilemma as a parent is whether to spank with force or as just a pat…if you promise not to give a rat’s ass about the fact that my kid is only bathed once or twice a week, I promise not to give a rat’s ass about the fact that your kid watches television daily.

The problem is that if you add enough superficial differences together, what you end up with are two people who have difficulty relating to one another.  This is why I love the crunchy mom group I belong to.  I love that our differences are less numerous than our similarities.

So when I found out that I was expecting a new addition, one of the first things I wanted to ensure was that I had a second mom group in line.  I do not have any problems with the first group or with the various individuals I meet up with, but I wanted to find a collection of crunchy moms who had children close in age to the baby we’re expecting in autumn.  A little extra support never hurts, I figured.

And that is how I came upon this group.

The interesting thing about the new group thus far has been that I had completely forgotten how hard it is to meet new parents.  There are so many new names and faces and dynamics and details to remember…and my attention is split the entire time because I’m watching Charlotte.  It’s like trying to read a textbook while half-asleep.

But for whatever reason, despite the difficulties I’d forgotten about, I am enjoying the process of getting to know these new names and faces much more than I did three years ago when I was alone and desperate.  I don’t know why because you would think that loneliness would have encouraged me to LIKE IT ALREADY.  I’m not sure if it’s because I feel more confident as a parent and know what I need in a support group?  Or if it’s because I’m more interested in having fun than I am in talking about controversial topics?  Or if it’s because I’m more familiar with the overall dynamic at parent groups?  It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately because it seems to me that it is one more sign of how parenthood has changed me.

What do you think?  Are you more comfortable with parents the longer that you parent (or baby-sit, or engage with parents at family gatherings, or whatever)?  Or are you more comfortable with parents the more similar to you they are?  Or are you more comfortable with parents whose children are close in age to yours?  Or…?

** Charlotte is two years and ten months old.  I am eighteen weeks pregnant.

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  1. By on June 08, 2012

    Two children into this whole parenting thing, and I’m still not comfortable around other parents. I’ve had a lot of trouble finding my clan. We’re not so into one parenting style so I think that hinders me—we straddle the line between a few, so it’s hard to fit it with just granola’s or just drill sergeants.

    A lot of parents in our area are very different than us. I’m pretty sure that we’re labeled granola by everyone we meet… And we’re not even that granola. Just because we nurse, cloth diaper, drink hemp milk and eat more vegetables than anything else, we’re labeled “one of those” parents and it kills any friendship that could have existed.

    Parents around us are really judgmental and it’s hard to get past all those comments like, “You’re still nursing him” and “He should wear real shoes, not those leather ones”.

    I’m envious.

  2. By on June 08, 2012

    Well I’m definitely more comfortable around other children the longer I parent. I never knew what to say before. Now I can converse with them a bit.

    I think there needs to be some common ground in a group, not necessarily age or philosophy. In fact, the more diverse the group, the more interesting I find it. I like having friends who are crunchy granola, and friends who are high-tech, and friends who are “undefined”. I like sharing stories and taking little bits of advice from everyone; things that never crossed my mind. I like hearing about struggles (because it makes me feel normal), and I love hearing about what works for different people. I think in the end, you just need to find a group you “click” with, regardless of commonality. If you are all dedicated in getting together and sharing, then that’s all that really counts.

    As an aside, the latest group I’m enjoying a lot is James’ ex-classmates. We’re all in the same boat in this school fiasco (which has gotten even more dirty) and I’m enjoying our get-togethers and Google Group posts, venting and mocking the school administration about their moral flexibility and ridiculous thought process. It’s something that brought us all together (unfortunate that it had to be under those circumstances though).

  3. By Sarah Christensen on June 08, 2012

    MC - I’ve noticed that on an individual level, I can handle alot of differences…but at the group level if everyone else varies significantly from me then I feel as though I do not fit in so it doesn’t work for me.  There has to be something that links us - location, ideology, shared experience, homeschooling, SOMETHING because if the only thing is that we all had sex around the same time, I don’t connect.

  4. By Amber on June 08, 2012

    I can’t deal with groups on any level—it always really doesn’t end well—and I can’t imagine that changing if & when I become a parent!

  5. By Denise on June 08, 2012

    I have been a member of a moms group for more than 2 years now and I love it! There are some major differences between some of the moms in it and myself but I find that we generally don’t enjoy the same things so we don’t end up at the same play dates. There are around 30 other moms in the group and 12 of them have babies due this year and most of the rest of them had their second baby right around when I had my second (I joined when my first was 5 months old). It was super interesting to really see their parenting styles. Most of them who disposable diapered their first (like me) cloth diapered their second (like me) we held education play dates and taught about cloth diapering, breast feeding education with La Leche League leaders, baby wearing classes, etc. I learned about my love for for baby wearing through this group and they have helped me be a better parent. When one of us has a baby or gets sick or needs surgery we all ban together and that person need no make one meal for at least 2 weeks. AMAZING when you have just had a baby to not have to worry about food for that long. I talk about my play group all the time because I hope that everyone can find something like it. I found mine on meetup.com :)

  6. By Sarah Christensen on June 08, 2012

    Amber - Even if it’s a small group?  I have trouble if the group is too large, but usually there are only a few people who come to one playdate or another and usually the same people over and over again.

  7. By on June 08, 2012

    I never did the mommy group thing other than on line as work full time as does my husband.  I am a shy person by nature also so think I would have really struggled with these type things. I even found it hard with my frist when the birthday party rounds started in preschool.  Now with my second, it is not so bad as I have reached a point where I am Ok with who I am and how I parent and if others do not agree or like it, well that is their issue not mind.

  8. By on June 08, 2012

    When Jude was really young, I fell into a mom’s group. I was friends with someone who’s friends with someone… Etc and more friends joined, so there are now about 8 of us who get together regularly. We are all like-minded, but also differ on some topics. We have our own private Facebook page so we are open to discussions, planning events, mom nights out, etc. it’s nice. We do random things like local parks, museums or plan holiday-themed events, brunch, whatever. The best part is that we all started families around the same time, so we’re all on similar levels with having more, so there is no need for an extra group for my second, there are tons of kids within a couple months one direction or another (currently, between the 8 of us there are abOut 18-20 kids).

    Before getting ‘regular’ with these guys, I dabbled in other groups. Like u mentioned, it was stressful. I was home all day and wanted ‘mom friends’ without being ultra lame… And the groups I found were difficult to join (already too many members, unorganized or just wouldn’t show up to events) or just not my type of people (women looking for ‘mommy play dates’ while the kids ran amuck). I feel like my group is a good balance. It’s good socialization with adults while still having kid-centered events.

    My husband pokes fun at me for having a mom’s group, but he appreciates the social outlet for Jude and that I’m not cooped up inside all day or going crazy with loneliness.

    There have been times when I’m annoyed at the whole thing (planning around 8 schedules, the normal comparison of kids - ‘my child is doing X, what is so and so up to’) and considered dropping out, but even though all that estrogen (and some testosterone… Some dads join in) drives me looney from time to time, I wouldn’t trade ‘em for the world.

  9. By on June 08, 2012

    My mistake. I don’t actually belong to a playgroup. I just tend to share experiences with friends either in person or via Facebook; usually one-on-one. I guess I wouldn’t even know where to go looking for a playgroup. I’ve been quite happy being at home on my own with the occasional visit with a friend.

    I’ve joined Mommy and me activities in the past (singing class, local play gym, etc) where other families go, but I’ve never bonded with them.

    I don’t know, do you need a playgroup or can you simply hang out with friends who also have kids? Making new friends is so difficult. My husband and I have been looking for another young family to bond with but as much fun as we have chatting with them in the park, at the end we just part ways and hope to see each other again.

    I think it’s so hard to “click” with other people. You can’t force a connection through a playgroup (just like you can’t guarantee you’ll find your soulmate in a bar or on a singles website, which is where people normally go looking). You’ll click with some people when the time is right (could be at the grocery store). You don’t need a playgroup to do that… although I’m sure it helps :)

  10. By Camille on June 08, 2012

    I have a lot of mommy friends who I get along with great. Our kids play and we talk, but sometimes I just really want some crunchy parent friends who I can actually talk about cloth diapering or breastfeeding with. But there’s still a lot we have in common just because we have 3 year olds, so it’s not so bad. :)

  11. By on June 08, 2012

    I work full time, so I don’t usually get together with other moms other than family and the occasional friendly get together-we were all friends before, and now we have kids all around the same age.  I honestly have problems really bonding with folks, so nothing really permanent has emerged, although I do seem to get along with kids better now that I have one and realize how important it is to treat them with respect, etc.

    I get you on the bath thing.  Really, unless he’s actually stinky and/or physically dirty, I don’t think that he needs to be scrubbed head to toe every day.  This isn’t really something that comes up when talking to mom friends, though.

  12. By Cambria on June 08, 2012

    Since becoming a parent, we’ve moved around a bit. And each place, I joined a moms club. We were in Vegas for a brief time and I made three friends in this particular moms club. We were the only ones with little babies and we spent time together, so they gave us the boot.

    The one in So. Cal I didn’t click with the ladies, but my family was there so I didn’t think about it.

    Here in Minnesota, I am in year two of a moms club. And only recently do I feel like I have some close friends I can candidly speak to and comfortably lean on.

    It’s hard. It’s an adjustment, being a parent. But, given time, I do get there.

    And my kids are lucky to get one bath a week. I consider the pool a bath.

  13. By Lindsay on June 08, 2012

    It took me forever to find a group of moms who are now my friends. When my son was born, I didn’t know anyone in my area with kids. At all. All of my friends lived elsewhere, had older kids, didn’t have kids at all yet. I joined a parenting group and attended a storytime at a local library. No one spoke to us, but my son and I had a blast and so we went back. I was mixing him a bottle (we’ve already discussed my inability to breastfeed, unfortunately, in previous entries) when a woman walked up to us, grabbed her toddler away (she was playing with my baby) and said, “no, we don’t play with babies who eat poison.“ THAT WAS IT. I ran out crying and swore I’d never go back. But I did, and luckily that rotten woman didn’t. We went back each week, not making any friends until one day we did meet a great mom with a baby a similar age as my son. I joined another Mommy & Me, met another mom there, and then we all sort of joined our own group. They enlisted their friends and now we all hang out, take classes together, etc. At 26, I’m a good 8-10 years younger than the other mothers, but it doesn’t matter or seem obvious at all. We aren’t all similar, but we have enough in common to enjoy one another’s support and company. We are all there for one another to cry on, to laugh with, to raise our children with now that they’re all passing that “one year” mark. When it comes to outsiders, though, I find I’m very wary around other moms. It seems like it’s rare to find a good group.

  14. By Sarah Christensen on June 08, 2012

    Lindsay - I am completely flabbergasted; I can’t believe someone said that!!  What a horrible thing to say!!  I am so sorry that happened to you; what a jerk!!

    Ugh.  I will never understand the need some feel to be so mean to other people.

    I’m 26 too so I’m often much younger than the other mothers I know.  The mother I see most frequently differs from me in some areas, has some in common with me…and is MY AGE.  I was so thrilled when I met her, I could have kissed her on the spot lol.  Even now, although my friends “from before” are starting to get married and some are starting their families, I’m still a bit younger than most parents I know.  I’m really looking forward to being in my thirties and not having people my age be a factor that other parents focus on when they meet me!

  15. By Alicia S. on June 09, 2012

    This is a great discussion! I’m 26 too - and with my own two small children, plus full custody of my 12 year old step-daughter, you can imagine how often I’m given the… “I’m sorry, I just HAVE to ask: how old are you?” I love this discussion particularly because we’ve officially registered our 12 year old to be home schooled next year. I’m only just now beginning to feel entirely within my element when I schedule a conference with her middle school or have an important discussion about the future of her education with an administrator, because of my age. It’s weird to me now that people aren’t immediately taken aback by it anymore.

    But because I’ve always been shown a lot of respect from her school officials and the parents of her friends for the way that I parent Mary, regardless of my age,  I’m able to go into big decisions - like the one to home school - with a pretty unshakable confidence. In any case, I find that I have a lot less in common with other parents of younger children because, in dealing with an age where my oldest daughter’s peers are dabbling in making out with boys already or bringing stolen pot to school, I just don’t put as much concern into some of the things new parents are consumed by. And that isn’t to trivialize those other parenting concerns; I think that things like nutrition and how to handle time-outs and buying eco-friendly lunch containers ARE important, but, that’s just not where my big picture is, you know?

    I go to nice, maintained parks with my younger kids and find children my middle-schooler goes to school with everyday, smoking cigarettes under the pavillions there. And it’s kind of hardened me. It’s made it really difficult for me to have a three-hour, impassioned discussion about how LIFE AND DEATH it is to make sure time-outs are no longer than X amount of seconds, lest you emotionally damage your child for life.

    That’s why I love our neighborhood. At four, all of the boys up and down our street have such an active social life that playdates have never had to be scheduled. There’s literally a group of about 4-10 people, kids and parents, all gathered in someone’s yard every single afternoon to watch the kids tackle each other over a football or play in a kiddie pool while hot dogs grill. Each of Matthew’s friends has a little sister, too, which makes it all the more fun. Whatever neighbors don’t have small children, are the parents of Mary’s friends, who we’ve become very close to primarily because it is such a tough age. It’s really done a lot of good for me to see that raising a 12 year old is every bit as tough when you’re rounding 50 as it has been for us at 26 and 30. Since it’s our homes and school district and neighbors we have in common, the other factors (like our enormous age difference) really carry no weight.

    BUT NOW, I’m in the midst of signing Mary up for home schooling groups in our state, which I’m extremely excited about! I’ve gotten in touch with this incredible group that does everything from ice-skating and archery clubs, to geography fairs and math Olympiads. Her social situation could use some major redirection and I’ve gotten an enormous response from reaching out to find out people who have any experience home schooling a child Mary’s age. Through friends of friends of friends, I’ve gotten a ton e-mails from people who said they were in a similar situation with their middle-schooler and found so much happiness home schooling. I am looking forward to this kind of socialization so much that it gives me butterflies to think about.

  16. By gretchen from lifenut on June 09, 2012

    I’ve always been on friendly terms with a woman I met years ago, but the past year has taken our friendship to a new level. Why?

    We both have ginormous families spanning from teens to babies. We latched on to each other because few people understand the gear-switching we must constantly do. Having a serious talk with a teen while changing a diaper and wiping a preschooler’s face then helping a 4th grader with fractions—-all within a few minutes—-is something “normal” (har) moms don’t really have to deal with.

    So yeah, I guess it’s natural to seek and enjoy friendships with people who are walking similar roads. It doesn’t mean we don’t hang with other moms.

  17. By on June 09, 2012

    My Moms group had four of us. One worked at the same place as my DH, the other two met at the Y where one taught infant swim classes. We each had one child when we started getting together and added the next child in a couple of years. There is a great picture of the four of us lined up in profile in various stages of pregnancy, from “Thar she blows” to just two months in and not showing. I am still in touch with one of them 25 years later. We go to each others kids weddings and make baby quilts for the grandbabies. Our parenting style was similar, we all breastfed, potty trained about the same age. Passed the box of maternity clothes back and forth. Three of our sons ( out of 11kids total) have autism or ADHD. We were great friends because we knew what the others were going through and were able to just roll with it.  25 years,  time does fly.

  18. By on June 10, 2012

    Alicia S - I think the biggest difference between a mom’s group and neighborhood friends is that you can pick the people you chose to hang out with in a group. Jude is also quite the social butterfly around our neighborhood, but I think that there’s a big difference between his neighborhood friends and his ‘mom group’ friends. I think that it’s one thing to let your kids play freely with the neighbor kids, but the peers you chose to place them in social situations will speak moutains for your expectations for them as children. This coming from someone who loves her neighbors and spends an abundance of time with them. 

    You mentioned that Mary would have freedom to see her old friends from school when she begins home schooling, but that you are setting her up in christian youth programs and other social networks once your home schooling begins. I think that is no different - you’re creating positive influences for her - that although she will have some decision on which ones she participates in, you also have an opinion…

    and yes - what type of lunch boxes to buy and how to deal with tantrums may seem trivial when compared to sex and drugs and the bigger topics, but I think laying a nice solid ground work early on is how you avoid the bigger problems later - or at least help you to navigate this issues as your children grow. Unfortunately Mary didn’t have you in the very beginning to help set that solid ground and instead had a less desirable maternal-figure. But kudos to you for finding your way through the beginning stages of parenting and the rough road that lies ahead with pre-teens/teens at once.

  19. By Alicia S. on June 10, 2012

    (*I just want to start by saying I feel like we’re always getting into a friendly disagreement, lol. I want you to know I think you’re an awesome mom and I hope we can talk about this stuff without feeling like the other person is trying to prove us wrong anything.) J

    Believe me, I don’t mean to trivialize that stuff. I’m still going through a lot of it with my younger two. It’s just not usually the stuff that I’m aching to get off of my own chest with the other moms, that’s all. It’s completely personal. I’ve met up with moms before and I’ve totally enjoyed it. (I would never, by the way, feel like what I go through is in any way more important than what they do. We’re all in different stages.) And I don’t mean to imply that mom groups are pointless. I’m just saying that it doesn’t give me anything socially that I don’t get from friends I already have or neighbors. 

    I think childless friends end up being a better outlet for me personally because I can relate to a lot of their experiences with older nieces and nephews in regard to Mary. And our neighbors are everything I know that I would hope to find in a mom group anyway (plus some dads!). We take trips, our kids have sleepovers, we babysit.  This is just the reality of our situation. It works out, and I don’t have to worry that anyone’s going to kick me out because I don’t conform to their ideals.

    I think everyone joins a group hoping to find one like yours and Mitzie’s… but when you get into mommy groups that are formed based so heavily on like-mindedness that people and their children can actually be dismissed?? That’s like putting a bunch of totally open-minded, unadulterated children into a bubble of prejudice and teaching them that the kids you put outside of it are unequal. (Again, I’m not talking about your mom group - but ones like the group that dismissed Charlotte and Sarah for sharing milk with another family.)

    I wasn’t raised going to playdates, neither was my husband or any of our friends so it’s just not something I’ve ever felt like I needed to really work toward achieving. We played with each other and with the kids who happened to be at the playground or the library when we were. I like the idea of teaching my kids to come by their relationships naturally. Take everyone you meet for who they are. You hit it off with certain people and you call them again. I think that’s wonderful. But (only because you brought it up) I will say, I’m not big on the idea of mapping out my children’s relationships with other kids based on what I think of their caregiver’s parenting - which brings me to my major point.

    I totally see what you’re saying about the comparison, but then again…. I don’t know… I don’t feel like Mary’s friends turned out to be bad examples for her because they played with the wrong kids when they were three. I think that’s a little apples to oranges. I feel like they’ve grown into tweenagers who make questionable choices because their parents don’t know where they are half the time; not because they don’t care, but because they have a false sense of security. Mary hasn’t spoken to her biological mom in two years. But our Christmas tree is littered with crafts they made together at playdates when Mary was a toddler. Generally speaking, I don’t think you get a true sense of who the bad apples are at a playdate anyway and I really don’t think you can pick out who’s going to wind up with the troublesome teen based on the way that they feed or diaper their infant today. You know what I mean?

  20. By Alicia S. on June 10, 2012

    *That’s supposed to be directed to Alicia K and that J at the end is supposed to be a smiley face, lol! :-P

  21. By on June 10, 2012

    Alicia S - LOL, Yes, I agree. I think it’s because I know you beyond the cyber world, therefore pay more attention to what you say? Who knows - but I always appreciate a respectful debate, that either myself or the other person can walk away with a different perspective from.

    And I think I should start by saying that if you’re in some sort of ‘toxic mom group environment’ where people are being kicked out/treated different because of beliefs or it becomes some sort of battle of who is a better parent, then just not being in one has got to be the better option. But being in a group where people get along easily, have similar opinions on life, but are open to the differences that make us all individuals, that’s a socially rich environment for a child/parent. It’s not only nice to have friends for Jude, but parent friends for myself that I can relate to. So, my argument for any sort of mom’s group is based on my positive experience. I should also add that on some issues, some people just need to agree to disagree. To some people any sort of organized social environment is weird and undesirable - I personally enjoy the balance of my ‘mom’ friends and my non-mom friends (who may be moms, but are not just friends BECAUSE they are moms)

    And as you pointed out, your neighbors seem to fill that roll anyway. But for me as a stay at home mother - with most of my neighbors working or otherwise committed during the day, waiting around until 4 o’clock to get out of the house and socialize would be like torture - and Jude is quite social among neighbor friends as are Ryan and I - but they do not provide socialization during some of the key parts of the day.

    I also wasn’t raised on play dates and mom’s groups, and likewise turned out fine. It’s like those statistics that people throw out like ‘breastfed babies are less likely to be overweight than formula fed babies’. Is it the formula? or is it that a person who values a healthy diet understand the benefits of nursing? I don’t think my kids are immune to drugs and sex as a teenager because I’m putting them in cloth diapers or setting up play dates, but these building blocks early in life set up a perpetuating life style. Of course at some point, it will be up to them to make decisions about their friends and life style eon their own - but like you said, some parents are blissfully unaware… maybe because they never were involved to begin with. Will these kids that Jude is involved with now, ALWAYS be the kids I want him hanging out with? I have no idea. Will he always want to hang out with them? I have no idea. But I do know that I’m comforted knowing that RIGHT NOW their parents value the same things I do - and I don’t have to worry about showing up at another mom’s house with the kids sitting in front of the TV popping HFCS=laced treats in their mouth. And as our kids grow, those issues will evolve.

  22. By on June 11, 2012

    I am really enjoying this conversation because it brings to light things I hadn’t thought about. My play group has never dismissed people for having different beliefs/parenting styles. That really is all it is, is parenting styles. I really don’t care if you cloth diaper and breast feed or EC and nurse or formula feed and disposable. Really the one major thing that we ALL have in common in the group is that we truly care about our kids. (I find it super sad that some people just don’t) We do have things available to us that not all groups have, after seeing our group and liking it a lot, our local La Leche League leader joined, we have a doula and someone who owns a cloth diaper store, so we have a lot of information and resources available to us should we make the decisions to make those things important to us. If not NBD. Diversity is important in a group otherwise you would never learn anything new. We support local businesses and we participate in a produce co op with the local farm, so we have businesses that “sponsor” our group and give us discounts for being members (a nice little perk of having people who know how to network in the group that would not be me). I know a few people who home school and they get together with co ops a lot to get their kids into social situations. I hate when people say “well I did that and I turned out fine” or “I didnt have that and I turned out just fine”. My brother says to me “I didn’t eat organic and I eat a ton of nitrates and I am just fine”. Everyone is different and what works for some may not work for others. We should all just respect each other as parents. Why not take advantage of NEW resources and get out there, it can do nothing but benefit. I can’t believe that you were kicked out of a group for sharing breast milk. That is awful. I have never even heard of people being upset by that! And I don’t know if play group now and having them involved with these specific kids is going to prevent them from being bad teenagers, but being involved enough to do things like this regularly with them may very well. I don’t know my neighbors well but they don’t have kids close in age to mine at all and I just am so grateful I put myself out there and went to this group. I was nervous, and I felt stupid the first play date I went to but it really has been a great thing for us. We know about events and things for kids that we would have never heard about. Once a month we hold a moms night in book club meetup where we discuss the book we are reading and choose the next book for the next month and have snacks (SO NICE) because I would never get out without my kids without it. The only reason you could get dismissed is if you choose to not be active. Since we don’t have many people and we want to keep it small we need people to be active. So in the first 2 weeks you need to come to a play date and after that you have to attend 3 per month which is not a lot. On the calendar at any one given time there are 5 play dates scheduled for the week and we usually have between 7-9 people or so attend with at least 1 but mostly 2 children per mom. I am just still just amazed that someone would think bad about you sharing your milk with another child. The things people judge others on.





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