Mom’s Club

By: Julie Gamberg

I live in a hip neighborhood in a major metropolis. Like maybe 8 out of 10 on the with-it scale. If I didn’t live here, I’m not sure if I would have joined the local mom’s club as a way to find camaraderie, support, and connection with other new mamas. Open-minded, cool, alterna-mamas.

Why are open-minded, alterna-mamas important to me? Well, besides being one myself, I’m also a single mother by choice. Meaning I’m not single because of a separation, death, or abandonment. I was single when I figured out how to best make a baby, I was single when I conceived, single during pregnancy and — you got it — single now. I have an inquisitive, fearless, quirky, adorable little eight-month-old and she and I are a very happy, very functional family.

Which brings us back to the mom’s club. The mom’s club in the 8 out of 10 neighborhood brimming with open-minded, thoughtful mamas. Mamas who I hoped might say: “Wow, you’re doing it on your own, that’s so cool!” Or, “Hey, if you guys ever want to come over for dinner, we’d love to have you – we enjoy hanging out with other families.”

I had my first suspicion something might be off in alterna-ville when, the organizer of an upcoming event said, “All families are welcome. Oh, and Julie, you should come with your, baby too.” But by the time of PlaygroupGate 2010, I knew I was in trouble. While a few of us tried to organize a weekend playgroup which included working moms, amongst others, we received a cease and desist notice which included the chilly announcement, “Playgroups are not permitted on the weekends. According to international bylaws, weekends are reserved for family time.”

Hello June Cleaver wannabes! You’re sort of freaking me out. My family includes a baby who would like to meet other babies. Is neighborhood socializing something we want our children to see as part of the “work” week, and not an enjoyable “weekend” activity? Are your families really that insular? Should partners not attend playgroups?

I decided to ask the other single moms in the club, in the fairly hip, 8 out of 10 neighborhood, what they thought of all of this. And, there was only one. Out of nearly 100 members. Well, maybe the queer families would feel differently – alternative ways of building strong community are sometimes more common in queer culture. So what did they think? There were none.

Uhm, mom’s club? What’s up?

I don’t think you even mean to be such a throwback. It seems that something about the act of becoming a new mother produces some kind of enormous values upheaval. All of the values get thrown into the air to be re-ordered in such a way that will fit into this life-altering paradigm. Jaywalking and other forms of minor civil disobedience? Out. Talking to any and all strangers with babies, in. Sex, out. Weekend family time, in. Sleep, out. Sleep training, out; then in. People just like us, in. Different from us, out. And so on, in a constant flux of reevaluation, identity loss, questioning, and reinvention in the face of daily decisions (many of them about minutiae) which may have a profound and lasting impact on another human being, and for which most of us received no training whatsoever. And on top of all of that, there seems to be a lot of relationship mayhem. Particularly, gender disparity comes into relief and some women, especially those who may think of themselves as somewhat post-feminist, are challenged by aspects of parenthood in their relationship with their male partners. And in all of that, it seems that many, even in an 8 out of 10 neighborhood, perhaps cling to international bylaws to help get them through.

And I’m pretty sure no one means to say Fuck You Single Moms! Yet here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, with my awesome little one, prowling the streets of my very walkable, trendy little neighborhood, feeling like a gawky kid who just showed up to school on the weekend.

Yet this is not just a woe-is-me tale. I love being a mom! As much as I wanted to become a parent, as much as I thought I would love it, I love it exponentially more. And I’m proud of the fact that I’m modeling for my child warm, loving friendships, self-worth, joy and pleasure in one’s self, good values, a sense of fairness and social justice. And I’m also relieved that I’m not modeling an unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship, and that I’m not trying to navigate both being a new parent, and being in a relationship that has problems so big, they will eventually prove irresolvable (as the very high divorce rate would seem to indicate is the case for many couples). Do I wish I had a partner with whom to model gender parity, strong communication, conflict resolution skills, and a loving, fun, harmonious vibe? Absolutely. Do I wish I had someone with whom to share this profound joy, and these daily moments of hilarity and pride and wonderings that my baby brings me? Yes! A partner would be great when that happens. And when it does, and in the meantime too, what I especially wish for is some other moms. Some open-minded, cool, alterna-moms who love talking about their little ones and who are part of families who want to know other families, and who, without bylaws to guide them, know a family when they see one.

CODA: By the way, mom’s club, we did organize that playgroup. We’re called the Rebel Playgroup and we meet two Saturdays a month. And I can’t believe I’m ending this blog post with the written equivalent of sticking out my tongue.

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Comments

  1. Madge Woods says

    Stick it out proudly. Loved your story. With so many single Moms and Dad out there I can’t believe you end up with this group. Your search will be fruitful. I suggest going to the park on the weekends and search out singletons with their kids. Hopefully, you will find some there.

  2. Mary says

    I have found mom’s groups to a bit depressing myself but I know a lot of people that swear by them although most of them are straight, 2 parent families.

  3. Tanya Ward Goodman says

    Rock on, Mama. I was in a “rebel” Mom’s Club group for awhile and then, found my own posse. Once you’re a parent, there’s already so many rules to follow, who can keep up with bylaws?

  4. Valerie says

    Love it! Hey, would love to join your weekend playgroup. Things were a bit odd for me as the only single mom in the San Fran Potrero Hill group when they had a Dad’s night…they invited (pregnant) me and I alternately hung out with the moms in the living room and the dads in the kitchen while the moms were nursing.

    SMC in Burbank.

  5. Julie says

    Hey Valerie! Go to singlemothersbychoice.com and join and they will give you all the info for the L.A. group. We would absolutely love to have you! Thanks everyone else for your lovely support!

  6. Malka says

    Julie,
    Your post is rawkin’ and you inspire me to be an amazing mom! Keep up the great writing. All of us “Next”ers need all the representing and modeling we can get.

  7. Kristy says

    Hey Julie! I’m really excited that you’re starting this blog. You mentioned looking for allies in queer couples, and I was thinking: in our hip little cities, it seems that being a single mom by choice at this moment is often harder for (many) people to grasp than queer parenting. Well, maybe up there with with gay daddies. And even when people say the annoying things they often say (for us: OMG, you guys could totally get pregnant at the same time; Will Kristy get pregnant someday so she has a baby too; I bet I could find a guy who would have sex with you and get you pregnant), having a partner to respond thoughtfully (that’s a terrible idea; yes, it’s too bad that Kristy and all non-bio parents don’t really have children; I bet I could find a special someone who would be willing to do unpleasant things for you too) or roll my eyes with is a relief. Grr! to the lady who singled you two out as not a family! I hope that you continue to find like-minded SMBC to commune with; it’s so vital to have that unspoken understanding and to be seen as the awesomest mom ever with the sweetest little pea known to humankind, rather than Julie, the SMBC in the group. Your writing is so poignant and astute–such a pleasure to read this multi-faceted experience of looking for home as a mama. I can’t wait for the next post!

  8. Linda says

    Julie, I loved reading this! You are an amazing writer and, having personally watched you with your gorgeous daughter, an amazing mom. You have been a wonderful resource for me as I poke along a couple months behind you. I love seeing you as you pass by my window; I’m often wishing could yell “hello” and join you, but M always seems to be napping when you walk by!

    We live in a great little hip neighborhood, but it could certainly be more welcoming. You are always welcome at our house, lovely lady.

  9. Barb says

    What a great post. And timely. I am currently dealing with some mommy group issues myself, and your post made me realize how ridiculous some of the drama can be and how if we all just focus on what’s best for our kids, we’re better off in the end. Thanks for being someone who has the courage to stick out your tongue. It’s inspirational. And I can’t wait to read more from you.

  10. Giselle C. Barrera says

    Way to say it! Families come in ALL dynamics. Sounds like some “open” people need to evaluate their openness.

  11. Dana says

    Hi, it’s me again (I’m catching up!). Maybe I’m about to say what you said in the NEXT article, about how there are lots of single moms, and they aren’t all going to like each other. I had my first child a long time ago, before my friends were having children, and I sure did not find ANY camaraderie with other mothers: I couldn’t stand them, basically. You are now thinking about this, and wondering, and expecting something better. That’s good. I was just misanthropic, even misogynistic. The other mothers seemed annoying, petty, complaining, full of annoying advice, self-satisfied. And I slowly realized that I had always felt different than most other women, and that I’d usually had male friends. I also seemed to have different parenting goals. Having a child was not just automatically going to make me fit in with large groups of women. Over time (my children are 15 and 6), I’ve realized that I can feel comfortable in smaller groups, and that I am more likely to fit in with educated women who work outside the home, usually in non-profit or make-society-better kinds of jobs (teachers, doctors, academics, gardeners, writers, volunteers)–People who think and who live life (and parenthood) consciously and conscientiously. See how annoying I am!

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