Operation Caffeination

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Solitary Confinement

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Sometimes I am too tired to write. Other times, I am too tired to keep it all inside.

I met a mom well over a year ago who had a little girl just slightly younger than my son. She seemed nice, we hold similar religious and political beliefs, she only lived a mile away from me and we both had plenty of free time…but for some reason, we just couldn’t get our friendship off the ground. We tried play dates, walks, family dinners, everything. Something would inevitably come up that prevented us from getting together. Eventually, we resigned ourselves to the realm of wistful Facebook friends, both wanting to connect and build those meaningful relationships that are important for children and their parents alike, but somehow unable to make it happen in real life.

So we drifted on through the last year; her husband left her and moved overseas, leaving her to raise their little daughter alone. I found out about it through Facebook. I got pregnant, and she found out about it when I posted pictures of my new daughter…on Facebook. The friendship thing was not happening.

Last week, Facebook notified me that this lovely woman was celebrating a birthday. And, as luck would have it, she had her full birthday listed on her profile: she was born in 1988, just like me. We are both 23. We both have toddlers. We both got pregnant straight out of high school.

I emailed her, ecstatic. I felt like I’d found the missing link, solved the final section of Kryptos, found the match to every sock in the laundry pile. She replied, equally thrilled. We set up another play date. We met, in person, and had a great conversation. Our senses of humor click. We have similar backgrounds with church and homeschooling. Our ideas about parenting mesh well. Our kids get along.

“I can’t believe this,” my new friend laughed at the end of the afternoon. “I feel like we just threw the whole last year away by not hanging out!”

So why didn’t we connect sooner, I wondered. What held us back? What was unique about the two of us that made it so difficult for us get a friendship off the ground when we are both intelligent, friendly, funny women who get along with a wide variety of people?

I didn’t have to think about it very long.

It’s the shame.

It’s knowing that everyone who looks at you is looking down on you. Flushing guiltily when people assume that you are your own child’s nanny. Having to defend your life choices to every one you meet. The startled look on people’s faces when they find out that you’re pro-choice, the way you can always tell that they are silently tacking a “…now?” to the end of your statement.

I don’t have my birth year listed on Facebook. I don’t celebrate my birthday any more, in fact. I shop at L.L. Bean and listen to oldies and watch M*A*S*H* and try to blend in with the crowd. These weren’t conscious decisions at all, but over the last three years I have gradually learned to avoid divulging my age to people and instead play up the fact that my husband and I have known each other for twelve years. And it is excruciatingly isolating. I have a lot of wonderful people in my life, but very few of those people know anything about me. I am the Don Draper of motherhood, and, to put it youthfully, it sucks.

I wish I could find someone to blame, but I have to admit that I am part of the problem. I have met plenty of young mothers at my community college and rarely speak to any of them, assuming that they are just not my type. Some of them really aren’t my type; for some of them, pregnancy was inevitable, the bottom of a long downward spiral of poor judgment and an inability to self-govern. These women deserve loving, respectful support as they do the hard work of putting their lives back together, and let me be the first to admit that I rarely offer this kind of support to anyone. I can understand the hesitance to invite so much ambivalence and quandary into a life that is already full to the bursting with demands.

We aren’t all living in this kind of turmoil, though. There are women like me and my friend, who birthed our children out of a deep desire for motherhood. We are educated, assertive and determined to have it all, and are not interested in jumping on the sinking ship that is modern American motherhood. We don’t have answers, and we are undoubtedly in the process of making some awful mistakes of our own, but we love our kids, we make sacrifices, we struggle to maintain balance…we are mothers, just like all the other mothers in the world.

And it would be really nice if the rest of you would let us in.

 

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Written by GRSeim

October 25, 2011 at 7:21 am

2 Responses

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  1. I’m there with you. I was 19 when we got pregnant (not planned but very much welcomed), and it’s only now that I’m closing in on 30 that I’ve stopped feeling ashamed about it. It’s still awkward discussing a lot of things with my mom friends who are nearly all in their 40s, but confidence does come more easily as your children grow and flourish (just as it becomes easier to justify a teenage marriage the more years that marriage holds strong).

    Bethany

    October 27, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    • Literally, story of my life! I was nineteen and on the pill when I got pregnant, but when I heard the news I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. Ideally, yeah, having a yard, car, health insurance, etc. would have been nice, but plenty of my mom friends who had kids in their mid-30’s or 40’s are just as broke as we are now thanks to the recession, that great equalizer. I love my life and wouldn’t change a thing (although I might skip earning a degree and just go straight to HAVING one).

      Grace

      October 27, 2011 at 11:30 pm


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