Finding a Cohort

So, I’m feeling like the last girl in fifth grade to get a bra.

That’s not exactly it. But sorta.

We don’t fit with anyone. Maybe what I really feel is like a hand-me-down bra.

Ok, forget the bras. Here’s the point. I don’t have any compatriot mother friends whose children’s ages match mine. It’s not a big deal, except that, with the ones with older kids, I’m watching them cruise into new heights of maturity and ease, I’m watching the mothers getting sleep and getting jobs, I’m feeling left behind in diaper land, they have Made it Through, so to speak, and I have not.

Other friends have only one kid, which means I feel saddlebagged, while they move about life with relative ease (not to say one child isn’t a hefty load, just that I feel like I’ve got extra.).

And then a few friends are just starting to have babies, and compared to them, I feel old, worn out, so far from the land of early mothering bliss that I’m like one of those saggy old ladies on those awful greeting cards that are all sarcastic and bitter and depressing.

Is this ridiculous? Do I somehow think that finding a woman with children exactly my kids’ ages would offer me comfort and relief?

Probably not. I’m thinking back a few months ago, being at a playgroup with a woman whose baby was only a couple weeks’ older than mine, our toddlers within a month of each other, and for some reason, I felt like there was this HUGE gap between her baby and my baby, and her baby was all smiley and mine was all asleep, and there were a few miserable moments of me feeling like –

well, just not fitting in.

The silly thing, of course, is that weeks and months and even years will hardly matter as time passes – none of my close friends are my age, for goodness’ sake – and with my toddler, at least, predicting a good play friend has less to do with age than with temperment.

So what’s my problem? I think, basically, I’m just experiencing a general exhaustion from parenting – with all the self-examination, self-doubt, and self-lessness it can entail. I am so happy for my friends who have gotten the hang of it – and I guess I’m worried that I never will. That they’ll leave me hanging.

Thank goodness this isn’t fifth grade!

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3 Responses to Finding a Cohort

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I rarely feel like I fit in anywhere… I sometimes tell myself that it’s for this reason or that reason. I don’t fit in with the stay at home moms because I am working and don’t always have my kid with me… I don’t fit in with the working moms because I have weird hours and am sometimes home with my kid, or working at night when everyone else is off… I don’t fit in with that mom b/c she has 2 kids and they are all older than mine… and it goes on and on.

    But in reality- the only time I really feel like I have a place where I belong is when I am keeping in contact with friends that are “like me.” (In saying “place” I am not referring to a physical space, just a sense of belonging.) I don’t have many of these friends- a few. But keeping in contact with them helps me feel grounded and like I am not so lonely in this world.

    I have found it difficult to find people that I connect with here. While I have (finally) come to like it here, it has taken me a long time to feel a part of this world. (The Charlottesville world.)

    That was probably WAY more information than you needed to know! My main point is that you are not alone in feeling alone! I truly don’t think it’s about finding other moms with kids that match your kids ages, or even with super compatable kids. It’s about finding someone that YOU can connect with, and once you find them making sure you actually GET to connect. With kids in tow or not. I feel like I connect more without mine around, but once again- maybe I’m the odd person out! And that would bring me full circle… =)

    P.S. Want to go out for drinks/dinner without kids?! =)

  2. Gail Esterman says:

    Whatever happened to wet nurses? Not that I would want to be one, but just to say that mothers of newborns/infants are expected to do so very much in our culture that I really think sometimes it is superhuman. For sure it is isolating, and between that and the lack of sleep, it’s enough to make most of us doubt everything in those dark moments. In some cultures, for 40 days after giving birth, the new mother is not expected to do ANYTHING other than care for her baby. I guess that’s more complicated when you have other children, though … Maybe I got that out of one of those books that idealizes non-Western cultures for their Villages, and it isn’t as blissful as it sounds.

    As for fitting in/not fitting in, there are just so many ways to revisit junior high as we get older. For me, it’s being 47, still in debt and in a rental while everyone I know owns their home. There’s also being 47 with a 7 year old. Or only having one child in a community where 3-4 seems to be more the norm (in Brooklyn, there were many more older parents with onlies). I do think there’s something to be said for finding someone a little ahead of you on the path who can share with you how she adjusted from one to two children, and/or going from working mom to stay-at-home mom, just so you don’t feel so alone in all of it. I’m not the one for that role, but I know there are others who probably have stories that will help in the middle of the night when you are lying awake and waiting for the hormones to get you high again.

  3. ChrEliz says:

    I’ll never leave you, my dear. : )

    I have two best friends in Charlottesville: you, and AP. AP does have two identical-age kids, one gender match and one gender opposite. You have two kids with identical age span as my kids, but yours are two years younger than mine. I do agree that having a mama friend with identical-age kids is really helpful (especially if her kids are slightly behind yours in development, so you don’t have to feel bad, HA HA HA) but I think the most important thing in finding your best mama friends is to realize that your mama friend is someone you’d want to hang out with even if neither of you had kids at all.

    I have dozens of nice friends in town, and probably two hundred acquaintances, and I’d even say I have a dozen friends that I consider close friends that I could (keyword = could) really talk to about Deep Stuff. But I have two best friends in town that I want to (or do) check in with every day or nearly every day about big and little things, and neither of you are that for me because of the ages of your kids. You’re that because of who you are as a person. There will be stretches of much more constant contact, and stretches of less contact, because of life stuff, but the friendship (in the big picture) is just as solid. And that will last long after the kids are all grown and off to college and married/partnered and having (may they be lo lucky) kids of their own.

    But I hear you. Having an infant can be a lonely and tough time for one’s identity, one’s sense of self, and one’s friendships. Who has time like she did before to feed and water the friendships? Gone are our daily 20-25 minute long phone chats. Well, not gone. Just temporarily suspended. We’ll get ’em back. And the nights out, too.

    In the meantime, playdates with kids demanding our attention and making it near-impossible to finish a sentence much less a conversation sounds like a great thing to me. And, can I sniff your baby’s head? Mmm… only one of many great things about having a friend with different age kids. When your friend has a baby, you get to sniff his baby head. Yum.

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