Happy Mama’s Day!

In the spirit of Mother’s Day this Sunday, I thought I’d share something I wrote a few years ago for the on-line publication, Austin Mama. This was written before websites like Friendster & My Space grew popular as ways to connect with strangers. If you substitute some of my personal tastes in this essay with your own, perhaps you’ll be able to relate to periodically feeling isolated by what is arguably, the most amazingly rewarding job in the world: motherhood. Keep on rockin’ on, moms out there and know that, you’re not alone. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy Mother’s Day! xo, Vickie

Where the Hell’s My Village?
by Vickie Howell (early 2003)

New to the area! Semi-normal, but definitely not your average mama of two young sons seeks other hip, feminist-minded, intelligent, wickedly humorous but equally nurturing mom-friends for commiseration while our children co-mingle, bond and otherwise exhaust themselves in preparation for nap-time. Non-smoker preferred, unless it’s during off-hours and cocktails are involved — in which case, all bets are off.

Being a mom in a new town can take the motherhood experience from gratifying and amazing to completely isolating and claustrophobic. It’s day 167 of my residence in Austin and it’s finally hit me: I have abandoned my she-tribe — the women back home who served as my partners in crime — and am now adrift on the sea towards motherhood anonymity. There are no more holidays, affordable home improvements or welcoming relatives to act as distractions. The honeymoon is over.

I like to think that back when I was a single gal of the non-mom variety, I would’ve probably spent the first few months in my new digs exploring the city, checking out museums, shops, local bands and crafty hangouts. But that’s probably not entirely true. Pre-parenthood, I wasn’t necessarily one to find joy venturing out on my own. For me, it was always more about the company than the adventure. Now however, I fantasize about the theoretical days when I could’ve jumped into my car at a moment’s notice, heading off to, well, anyplace where there isn’t any screaming, tantrum throwing, Barney songs, dirty sippy cup valves or miscellaneous smells coming from undetectable places.

Today, even if I were to get a babysitter so that I could take off for one of those magical places where hip, fun people hang out, what would happen after the night o’ mirth was over? When would I get to hang out with these new (most likely kidless) friends again, and would I even want to be the token mom in this group of free-spirited members who would surely look upon me sympathetically when I had to decline an invitation to go mid-day thrifting or to lunch downtown because of the inevitable circus that would occur with two children under the age of four in haul?

So here I find myself scouting the neighborhood, the grocery store, looking for fellow hip mamas to befriend. I scan the crowd for prospects, casually looking mothers up and down, avoiding those donning Talbot’s clothes and tiny gold crosses (judging these strangers like I’d never want to be judged myself), putting on my best smile for the few I see with cat-eyed glasses, big shoes or the hint of a tattoo peeking from beneath a lower middle-class mom’s uniform of baby-tee and cargo capris. As I make eye contact, I hope that my kids won’t bite me, throw up or start screaming and going limp on the floor as said mama is about to notice that we most certainly should become fast friends and ultimate compadres. No dice.

And so it goes. I watch potential friends getting into their cars, paying special attention to those brandishing feminist propaganda or indie band bumper stickers. I am a veritable stalker, looking for that knowing glance from a woman with Vamp-colored toenails and the remnants of an edgy haircut. The mythical mama would recognize how out of place I feel in this sea of big blond hair and traditionalism. She would tell me that there are in fact more women like us here in this strange Republican dominion, and she will gladly make the introductions in the name of sisterhood!

Meanwhile, I find myself questioning why mothers have been left to fend for themselves. Why is it that a gig completely dominated by women has not yet managed to rally its grrrl-powered members together to network in a more effective way than on a few virtual bulletin boards? Why aren’t we challenging the fact that the word “mother” as a descriptive term unrealistically places all of us “breeders” into one tiny box, wrapped in a church-run mommy & me group bow? The Internet has spawned match-making sites to help singles find a mate and yet, women in search of a village are left completely to their own devices. If the personal ad format (which always includes a disclosure of interests, hopes and dreams) is a competent enough system for connecting with a life partner, then why not for connecting with fellow sisters-in-arms?

I do not have answers to my own questions. For now, all I can do is continue the search and do my best to be a voice for other women who have found themselves in this maternal leading role without a supporting cast. So funky mamas, if you see a tattooed, red-headed white gal lurking in your midst, please don’t be alarmed. I’m not some creepy assailant with miniature side-kicks in tow. I’m just a woman, mother, friend; reaching out to fellow passengers on this strange motherhood ride.

15 Responses to “Happy Mama’s Day!”

  1. Cheryl G.

    Amen sister! I am a new Mom. I have opted to be a stay at home mom. It seems I am a rarity these days. I’m not new to my town but as a stay at home mom, I find myself looking for friends in a similar situation. It would be very nice to have other human contact besides my little muffin and my husband. Luckily, my hubby is now comfortable watching the little guy and I’m able to go to a sit and knit on Tuesdays. Man, you shouldn’t have told us your mom is an English teacher. I’m a little embarassed by my grammar, spelling and sentence structure.

    Happy Mama’s Day to you too Vickie!

  2. jules

    vickie, you’re preachin’ to the choir here! i’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 4 years and it’s frustrating finding other satms to bond with, especially ones that are “hippie-geek” like me. i take my son to story hours at the library and have tried mommy and me groups but just don’t get the “mini-van/suv/my kids are in a hundred activities” types of moms that i meet. thank goodness for my knitting group, where everyone has the same mission – knitting – and the women are different ages, backgrounds, and moms and non-moms.

  3. Shannon

    Happy Mama’s Day to you,too, Vickie and all the rest of you mama’s and mama’s-to-be out there.

    I couldn’t agree more. We’ve just moved to a new town and I have yet to meet the perfect “mommy-friend” for myself with a little monster (I mean friend) for my little one (I mean monster) to play with. We’re only with one car at the moment and DH works so we’re in a prison basically, at least that’s what it feels like – it’s a very nice prison, but still a prison when I can’t leave. ARGH. If anyone knows of any crafty type moms in the Kalamazoo, MI area, let me know…:)
    Rock on Mama’s!!!! Enjoy YOUR day.

  4. Theresa

    I don’t have any children of my own, but I really enjoyed reading the article. So well written and well-put! Happy Mother’s Day to you, Vickie!

  5. Roe

    Amen, and I couldn’t have said it better myself, Vicki!

    I’m going through something similar now. I worked full-time up until late last year, when I decided that I wanted more time with my boys, while they still enjoy having me around. So now, I find myself in this exact position even though I’ve lived in this neighborhood for eight years.

    I find myself reaching out to the moms at my 7 year old’s school, trying to find the funky moms. Certainly I can’t be the only one wearing a skull ring and sporting a worn Ramones tee, right?

    Luckily for me, my knitting needles have been the perfect conversation piece; and it’s pretty wild, how many moms don’t know how to knit and want to learn. I’m trying to get a craft group together, so keep your fingers crossed!

  6. Jill

    Oh Vicki! Oh, how I can relate! I was a non-Christian … Latina-trapped -in-a-white-girl’s-body …. homeschooling … teenage Mom in a town of mostly conservatives. I had a bit of trouble finding like-minded mommas. I eventually created a world-wide publication for teen parents in the late ’90s.

  7. Jaime

    i chuckled, amidst the tears, reading this. i so know this feeling, and wish that i could do something about it. it is so frustrating, i have several friends who have kids–however none of them live close enough to me to really have a feeling of community. and we all know how phone calls go. we have one little boy–who is turning two tomorrow–and he is absolutely the light of my life. however, i often feel the same isolation, and desperation that is illustrated here.

    thanks for making me (as usual) proud to be–in no particular order–a knitter, mama, and woman.

  8. Celena

    oh Vicki, where do I start? what an awesome article. that is soooo my life right now. i gave up my career as an aerospace engineer in Houston to move to my hubby’s extremely small hometown four years ago. you may have heard about it now since it’s been on fire and all over the news … Lake City, FL. had two boys since, 1yr old and almost 3yr old now, and stay at home with them. i feel so trapped. i still have not found any moms like me. the first question people ask around here is “what church do you go to?”. when i say “i don’t go to church” they look at me like i have a third eye. i started asking about yoga classes when we moved here and was told that they don’t have those here “because of the whole eastern way of thought thing”. yikes! i sometimes drive 45 minutes on sunday to go to a knitting group. i would go every week if i could but life just doesn’t work out that way. haven’t found any other knitters around here. the mommy group here is full of those Talbot’s clothes and gold crosses and makes me soooo uncomfortable. and it doesn’t help that the chick who runs it is my hubby’s very wealthy high school sweetheart.
    i keep telling myself that “this too shall pass” and that life won’t always be this way. i just hope it hurries up while there’s still some of me left. so for now i put my energy and what little spare time i have while taking care of my rugrats into my craftiness.
    thanks for the great post!

  9. Anonymous

    Go Vickie!

    So many of my co-op preschool moms don’t get that my kids sing Plain White T’s songs instead of “this old man” and why a t-shirt that says “co-op moms do it together” is really funny and not crass. Lets not even get on my black nail polish pedis or my rockin the suburbs t’s. I shudder to discuss religion. Wide doe-eyed stares when I calmly say I have absolutely no interest in signing my boys for vacation bible camp. Still even more puzzlement over my election to PTA treasurer. (“She wears pigtails… is she qualified to handle finances?”) whispered behind my back. So I get you girl… do I ever get you. Perk up you will find like-minded moms if not in complete agreement with all your ideals then at least fun and willing to take you as you are.
    Rockin’ San Jose