simplyjan

A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

A Glimpse into Another Life

My sitter had an appointment today, so I picked Emily and Ian up from school following their half-day kindergarten. On our way home we pass Small Town Park, which apparently has become the favorite hang-out for 4-year-olds and their moms. I know the sitter takes the kids there regularly. Having pretty much cleared my schedule for the day, I turned into the parking lot and set my two children free to run and play with friends. I walked over to join the circle of stay-at-home moms.

Let’s just say that I stick out like a sore thumb in this kind of setting. These mothers are now a tightly knit group, talking of teething babies, best buys on sandals, the t-ball schedule, what errands they had to run next, etc. My only ‘in’ was with a neighbor of mine that I already know from other circles. I felt like the interloper or the wallflower, trying simultaneously to fit in and disappear.

About that time Emily came running over to see if I would go with her to the big kid swings on the opposite side of the playground. “Watch me and see how high I can swing!” she said happily. One of the moms said, “She’s really gotten good at pumping her legs. She’s really good now.” Now I know she said this to compliment Emily, who was still standing eagerly in front of me listening to every word. And Emily glowed when she heard it. But let me tell you what I heard. I heard something like, “I come here everyday. I’ve been here regularly watching your child improve. I know better than you do what she does on the playground. Too bad you’re not a stay-at-home mother like me.” Mind you, she didn’t say a word of that. In fact, she probably didn’t even think it – although I guess you never really know. It was my own Inner Critic talking, the one who attacks everything from my writing to my pastoring to my appearance to my parenting. Damn Inner Critic.

I gladly retreated with Emily to the far corner of the playground. I helped her jump up into the high swing, gave her a small starting push, and watched as she did indeed pump her legs and rise higher and higher into the air. In just a few minutes, one of Emily’s friends – a petite blonde pixie of a child – came running to join us. I helped her up and got her started. She wasn’t sure how to pump her legs so I kept her going while Emily instructed her on the finer points of leg pumping. Then a shy little girl began hanging around, keeping a safe distance. I asked her if she wanted to swing. She timidly shook her head yes, so I lifted her up and got her started. The next thing I knew three of the boys ran to join the fun and I became the official swinging mom. (Yes, I know you could read that two ways. Don’t go there!) It was fun! I looked across the playground and saw the circle of moms still standing there, hands on hips, deep in conversation. I decided I was in the better place.

After awhile, one of them came to join me. “I wondered if you wanted someone to share the swing duty,” she commented in a friendly voice. A few minutes later another one came, this time bringing conversation that was open to this lonely outsider. Slowly the clique cracked open a door for me to enter – just with a visitor’s pass, I’m sure; at least I was in for the day.

As a rule, I am content with my life as a single working mother. I can’t quite picture life as a stay-at-home mother, although I don’t think I’d mind giving it a try under the right circumstances. I don’t really think about it often. Today, though, the realization came rushing back to me that my family is not ‘normal,’ that I do have to utilize childcare so I can work for the basics of our life. I don’t have a husband whose paycheck lightens the load (or carries it!) or who could join me in the joy of raising the children. I put up a good front that it doesn’t matter to me or that I never think that much about not having that male influence in the house for the kids or the companionship for myself. My front is so well crafted that I sometimes even fool myself.

All it takes is a short glimpse into another life to remind me of the real person behind the front.

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11 thoughts on “A Glimpse into Another Life

  1. It’s too bad the Inner Critic makes us all so prone to protecting ourselves. There may well have been moms thinking, “What could we say that would interest her? She’s a pastor not *just* a stay-at-home mom…” Having been on both sides of the divide, all I know is that finding common ground is the key, and I’m glad someone took made the effort to open the conversation to include you.

  2. Jules on said:

    (((PM)))Hooray to you daughter for excellent leg-pumping, and for being able to teach another child such skills.Hooray for you for being the Swinging Mom, and Hooray for that other Mom walking over to join you.I’m sorry for the things you miss…

  3. I have slowly come to the conclusin that there is no such thing as normal when it comes to families these days! Good for you for being swing mom….your daughter sounds like a confident and thoughtful young lady, she must have a great mom!

  4. I know that playground feeling. I’m new in town and have been trying to make friends with other families with kids outside of the church, but the only place I have found those groups are through stay-at-home-mom playgroups. My schedule is flexible enough to join them sometimes. Sometimes the fit just isn’t right. I can only wonder what it would feel like to have that divide and one as a single mom, too. I feel for you.As you pointed out, I think we do have the “plus” of being the mom who wants to play at the playground, though, and I think sometimes that makes us special to the other kids in a way the other moms aren’t. We’re ready for additional interaction (being the Swinging Mom) when other moms need a break, so I think we have the ability to build a different, important relationship with other kids, not just our own.Prayers for you in your own situation!

  5. Single mom pastor who is right there with you…I feel like I don’t fit in with the other moms even though they are nice to me. I get those “looks” too.And I like being the mom who gives a little push to the kids too!

  6. I found your blog through revgalblogpals. I’m a new mom and, although I am married, I still seem to have many of the same feelings. I don’t think that I have ever felt so lonely in my life as I do now, mostly because we don’t have any family around or any friends with kids. Basically, without a support system, I feel stuck with trying to be everything for my daughter without anyone being there for me. Going back to work as a minister adds to that sometimes. Being in ministry is sometimes just as isolating on the mom-front as being a single parent (and you are dealing with both!). My prayers are with you, it’s nice to know that there are others who struggle and that takes some of the burden.

  7. Bless you. I think normal is pretty relative and you are more normal than they are…you were on their turf though.Whyncha send your Inner Critic down here for a good drubbing? I’d love to. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. I have slowly come to the conclusin that there is no such thing as normal when it comes to families these days! Good for you for being swing mom….your daughter sounds like a confident and thoughtful young lady, she must have a great mom!

  9. Single mom pastor who is right there with you…

    I feel like I don't fit in with the other moms even though they are nice to me. I get those “looks” too.

    And I like being the mom who gives a little push to the kids too!

  10. I found your blog through revgalblogpals. I'm a new mom and, although I am married, I still seem to have many of the same feelings. I don't think that I have ever felt so lonely in my life as I do now, mostly because we don't have any family around or any friends with kids. Basically, without a support system, I feel stuck with trying to be everything for my daughter without anyone being there for me. Going back to work as a minister adds to that sometimes. Being in ministry is sometimes just as isolating on the mom-front as being a single parent (and you are dealing with both!). My prayers are with you, it's nice to know that there are others who struggle and that takes some of the burden.

  11. It's too bad the Inner Critic makes us all so prone to protecting ourselves. There may well have been moms thinking, “What could we say that would interest her? She's a pastor not *just* a stay-at-home mom…”
    Having been on both sides of the divide, all I know is that finding common ground is the key, and I'm glad someone took made the effort to open the conversation to include you.

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