When I left my high-tech corporate job to be an at-home mom, I had no idea of the changes I was going to encounter. No, I am not talking of the usual baby stuff like not freaking out when food or something worse gets rubbed on my nice clothes…if and when I get a chance to where nice clothes. Nor am I talking about the fact that I could no longer have extravagant and expensive knicks-knacks on my coffee table. What I am talking about is something else…and someone else. I am talking about having to relate to those other, more seasoned, at-home mommies.
Sure, everything seemed okay. Friendly glances at the park followed by a short spurt of conversation, but getting into those little cliques are just as tricky, if not more difficult, than the ones I encountered, and came to master within the corporate environment. Though I was efficient in my conversation and quick with my wit; though I laughed at the right jokes and wore appropriate attire; and, even when I stood in the widest opening of the park letting everyone see that I was available for chat, the mommies shied away from me. My best bet is that they probably gathered in a far counter to chuckle over my desperation. Heck, I may have even laughed at me too had I not been distracted by the small hovering cloud of post-partum depression.
You can liken this to the city gal in the country. There are many movies with a similar story line about the loud and obtrusive ‘outsider’ that everyone sees as the square peg. While she may want to fit in, she knows from the get-go that it is going to be a long journey, due to all that tension she feels from her new peers. That is where I began to find my thoughts. (And let me tell you, if you think your co-workers in their Armani suits are pretentious, try a mommy-clique in t-shirts and capris. I kid you not, they can be downright condescending.) While acceptance is hard, it is a form of closure, and after a year or so, I decided that I was just not going to fit in with the bobby-socked, sneakered mommies littered throughout my day.
But, then…and here’s the light at the end of the tunnel…something happened. To this day I cannot tell you how we came across each other, but I was invited to a play date by one of the sneakered-mommies. There, I met another mommy. The playdate started slowly and was light in discussion. But, it was consistent…and stayed consistent on a weekly basis. I began to look forward to my sessions. At the time, I did not know much about them, but every week that knowledge grew. To make a long story short, the friendships ‘stuck’. These days I do not always see them as much as I used to, but it is more of a hectic schedule issue than a lack of want. As well, more mommies came and I am proud of my little mommy network that I have slowly gained. And no, I didn’t have to become a bobby-socked, sneakered mommy to mesh, though dropping those Armani suits probably helped my cause a bit.
A few times since, I have seen a new mom on the playground fresh from corporate, possibly on a trial period of this new career. I observe what those other mommies must have seen in me. There is a look of uncertainty on the face of an entry-level at-home mom. Perhaps it’s a mix of “Am I doing the right thing (I loved my work, not to mention the money and acknowledgement), “I absolutely did the right thing” (the proof is toddling before me) and “How the heck did I get here” (it’s a totally different world). This uncertainty is projected in facial expression as well as through actual conversation. I reflect and believe that my uncertainty mixed with a mild case of PPD must have made me real stimulating conversation. No wonder they ran the opposite direction. As well, trying to bring a corporate mentality into the position of at-home mom was another stumbling block. I looked at building the new relationships as a strategy to accomplish and, subsequently, master. When really what it takes to build relationships with other at-home mommies is genuine honesty and a grounded sense of self. Only after that takes place and solidifies can a dash of cattiness be added. But, the details on that topic are a completely different article.
The next time you encounter a corporate mommy grasping for the sense of her new entry-level position, have patience and compassion. Yes, she could quite possibly start off awkward and maybe even insulting, but most likely, she wants to succeed in this new career. Mentor her in a non-invasive way and she is sure to become a great friend.
Sherri Dodd is the creator and author of Mom Looks Great - The Fitness Program for Moms. She is also an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant with over fifteen years of exercise experience. She is dedicated to a life of fitness as well as encouraging others to establish healthy habits and a better quality of life.