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. 🙂 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.