There’s this feeling that working moms get. It might not be all of us, it might not be everyday, but it’s there, it’s looming and ready to take over at any given moment. It’s the feeling of exclusion.
When do working moms feel excluded?
If you’re new here, I’d like to invite you to check out the blog post I linked to below. Mama, you are not alone, I want you to know that and I want you to join me in making the working mom world different and...dare I say...better…
Drop offs and pickups
If you’re “lucky”, you can go through the car drop off in the morning where you have less than 3 minutes for your kids to get out of the car and head into the building and you don’t have to interact with anyone. Everyone else in that line is in the same position as you; hoping the kids don’t have a meltdown getting out of the car and that traffic is light and most of the lights are green so that you can have five minutes to yourself before getting bombarded with requests and demands once you walk into the office.
But, if you have an opportunity to walk or choose to park on an adjacent street and walk up to the building, you are in a bit of a predicament.
The kids walk with you, possibly holding your hand, possibly chattering about some activity they are supposed to do in art class today. But once they see their friends, it’s game over for you, mama.
“Mom, hold my backpack,” they say as they’re pushing their bags in your direction.
So you watch them play, and you see the other moms paired off or in groups talking about whatever it is they talk about. It could be idle chit-chat about the crazy weather (82 degrees in October, anyone?) or it could be planning activities with - or for - the kids. It could be anything, really, but the fact is you don’t feel like you belong in any of the pairs or groups who are talking.
So you watch your kids to make sure they’re acting appropriately, you check your watch, you check your phone and you repeat this until the bell rings and someone opens the door.
You get those amazing hugs and kisses and I love you’s and it makes all the rest seem meaningless, but really, as you walk away you’re thinking how it would be so much less pressure on you in the morning if you knew you had someone to talk to while the kids were exerting that morning energy before class.
Just one other mom. But, in your efforts to seem like you’re not bothered by the fact that you’re standing alone, you didn’t notice any other moms doing the same thing. And, truthfully, if there were any, they didn’t notice you either.
So you tell yourself that next time you’re not in the car drop off line, that you’re going to make an effort to meet a mom whose kids your kids are playing with. If you can figure out which kids belong to which mom, that is.
Who comes up with these freaking schedules?
Between asking for volunteers during school hours and trying to sign up for park district activities, the schedules are unrealistic for many families.
Every.Single.Damned.Activity is scheduled either during working hours or at 5pm.
Helllooo! People work until 5pm and not everyone has a 8-5 or schedule.
I personally know two moms, in two completely different areas of business, who work Saturdays and have one day off during the week. So, they don’t have two consecutive days off, they don’t have the long weekends, their opportunities for weekend activities with other parents are negligible. Then you have the nurses who are working three 12’s with obscene hours just so they can try to be present at the school activities.
Dads help, for sure, I’m not discounting that. But what I’m talking about is that after all the schedules are rearranged and all the specifics and discussed and coordinated, the feeling of being left out doesn’t disappear.
Pictures are taken and forwarded to you. You look at them and smile, all the while wondering if you’ll ever get to see one of these events in person.
Maybe you think about taking vacation time just to leave an hour or two early to see a practice or a game. Or maybe you will request an entire day off so that you can can help out at the book fair or at the class Halloween party and get some things done around the house.
You appreciate and admires the planning and effort it takes for those who are able to coordinate all of this, but…
How many volunteers are are there really going to be for a 10am classroom party on a Tuesday? How many parents have to miss out on the dinky, but oh so precious Halloween parade where the kids are only allowed to wear half their costumes (let’s be honest...masks and fake swords aren’t the safest thing for the kids to be toting around school) because they march around the school at 1pm and their parents work 45 minutes away.
All of this takes a lot of time and effort on the part of those parents and teachers who do all the planning and you appreciate that and you understand they have families they want to spend time with as well, but there’s gotta be some kind of give for the working mom.
You would LOVE to participate, you would LOVE to meet the moms of the kids your kids talk about all the time, you would LOVE to see your kids enjoy these events and activities with their friends.
You would LOVE to feel like you belong to a community with other moms...moms who work at the office, moms who work from home, moms who stay at home.
The Park District Activities
Gymnastics, karate, baseball, soccer, football, cheerleading, and probably a hundred other activities are listed in that book that comes in the mail every quarter.
You flip through it quickly after work, maybe while you’re making dinner, and think some of those activities would be great for your kids. You see that the activities don’t start for another month or so, so you mention it to your husband and keep it off to the side in a place where you won’t forget it.
You look through it again, later that night, in a couple of days, in a week. But, one of the times you look at it, though, you notice the schedule for these activities. You think to yourself, why does everything start at 5pm? Seriously, what are the odds of the amount of kids that make a team have one or both parents available before five to get the kids ready and over to wherever they need to be by 5?
Practices all look to be an hour and a half. Would a 6pm start or even a 6:30 start be that much to ask for?
So, you talk to your husband, you figure out what activities, if any, you guys could swing given your work schedules and maybe you decide on one or maybe you decide to wait until the next quarter to sign up.
If you’re working out schedules to make this opportunity happen for your kids, here is where the exclusion comes in.
You both make the first practice, taking the obligatory first time photos, meeting the coaches and maybe meeting some other parents. There are a lot of them there, which is intimidating, you start to feel like you’re the only one who won’t be at every practice or game, but you remind yourself that this is the first day and it half of these parents probably won’t even be here for the next one.
A week goes by, it’s time for second practice. Your husband texts you that he’s leaving work to get the kids and get them ready. You reply with ‘ok’ but really you want to be there. You want to be the one leaving work right now saying little Bobby has soccer practice and you’ve gotta go.
Your husband takes a few pictures and sends them to you so you’re not completely missing out and you love that so much. He knows how much this bothers you and he’s trying his hardest to make you feel like you’re included, instead of being stuck at the office.
In one of his messages he tells you there are still A LOT of parents there. You start to get an uneasy feeling in your stomach. Are you the only one who isn’t going? Are you the only one who can’t leave an hour or so early to see your kid having fun with his new friends?
A couple more weeks go by and you decide to take some time off just so that you can make one of the practices. Maybe you take a half day and get some things done around the house, or maybe you just leave an hour or two early so that you have enough time to change clothes, pick them up and get them ready.
You walk in and immediately feel like everyone is staring at you. You feel like no one knows who you are. It looks like they all know each other pretty well by now. Your husband is with you, so you’re a little more comfortable that if you were alone but you just feel out of place.
You’re leaning into him, asking him what the kids are doing every time something new happens.
And then another mom comes up to you. You’re wondering if she recognizes you from the first practice. She asks who you are, she introduces herself and points out her kid, and she welcomes you.
You start to get a little excited. Could you actually be having a conversation with another mom? And then she sees someone she’s more familiar with and she walks away.
You push down that feeling of exclusion and rejection and you get excited for your kid. You give her a thumbs up when she makes eye contact with you. You yell out, “Awesome, dude!” when your son kicks a goal.
The birthday party
The invitation comes home; the kids are invited to a birthday party at a bounce house place. Awesome! The time works for your schedule, you know the kids are excited to go, and you see the opportunity to actually meet some other parents.
This is it...it has to be. The awkwardness of being the working mom is going to dissolve at this birthday party. The kids are old enough to bounce on their own, they’re at that point where once they’re with their friends, as long as they can see you occasionally, they don’t ask for you to follow them around and “watch this, mom!”.
So you prepare. You text the mom asking what her kid is into, you tell her to let you know if she needs your help with anything or needs you to bring anything, and you head out to the store for the present.
The entire morning of the birthday party, you’re trying to get a million things done around the house because, honestly who wants to do this shit after you get home. The kids have been incessantly asking if it’s time to go...ALL.FREAKING.MORNING.
And finally, it’s time to go. You are bound and determined to meet and, dare I say...make friends...with other moms.
You walk in and are overwhelmed with the same feeling as the one you had at practice, overwhelm and exclusion. It looks like everyone already knows each other.
The kids run off and play, you see the pile of presents and place yours there and introduce yourself to the mom standing next to them. You’re relieved that it’s the mom of the birthday kid.
You chat a little, but she’s busy, she has other guests to greet and talk to, she has to coordinate food with the kitchen staff.
As much as you’re familiar with this feeling of awkwardness, you don’t like it. You’re sick of it, actually. Just because you work doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with these women.
So, here’s what you do
It doesn’t need to be anything super uncomfortable. You have, at minimum, one thing in common. Kids of the same age.
I know, I know...it’s a little uncomfortable.
But here’s the thing, mama. Whether you’re introverted, or just uncomfortable because you don’t get to spend as much time with these other moms as you feel is appropriate, the one thing you have to assume is that no one is going to approach you.
If you sit at a table, or stand “out of the way”, checking your phone or just watching over your kids from a distance, no one is going to approach you.
Whether they all know each other or not, not a single one of them is going to approach the mom who looks (as unintentional as it may be) like she doesn’t want to be there. Because, that’s what it looks like. When you’re avoiding eye contact, when you’re checking your phone, when you’re using all of your go-to tactics to make that feeling of exclusion go away, you’re putting off a vibe that says you don’t want to be there.
And who wants to get to know someone else when it seems like that person thinks they could be doing other things, better things?
So, take that step and introduce yourself...to one mom...maybe two...or...take a breath...three!
Because, before you know it you are going to be sitting at a table with them comparing notes on meltdowns and shutdowns, you’re going to get to know what makes them tick.
And birthday parties aren’t the only times you can do this.
You can’t use work as an excuse, mama. You can’t use it as an excuse to be put in a different category of parent all together.
Yes, there are some major lifestyle differences between working moms and stay at home moms, but we are all moms. And we all face the same struggles, from picky eaters to tantrums to troubles in school, and all the other million things we face on a daily basis.
So, get out of your comfort zone for a little while. Five minutes, honestly it doesn’t even take five minutes to introduce yourself and find out whose mom you’re talking to.
Get out of that comfort zone and, mama, I guarantee you’ll stop feeling the working mom exclusion.
Have an opinion on this?
Let’s work together to make the working mom world a better place for us and for our kids, and let’s start.
Hey, I'm Natalie and I'm an author, a wife, and mom of two kids and two dogs.
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