Back in my swingin’ single days, I used to spend all week waiting for the weekend to kick off with Friday night happy hour. Although I think it really should be called happy hours since many weeks I found myself still lugging my work bag around town at 1am on a Friday night. As a mommy now, obviously things have changed. But I still look forward to Fridays, but mostly because that’s the day I meet with my French mommy group. It’s a far cry from the happy hours I used to have, but it still is one of my happiest hour and a halfs every week.
But finding the right mommy group is hardly easy, as many of my mommy friends can attest. In fact, when I think about it, it’s kind of like dating all over again.
The ideal is to find a group of educated women who have laid-back personalities and a sense of humor, varied but complementary interests, keep to a similar schedule, live relatively close to you, and, of course, have (at least) a kid around the same age as yours. It’s a tall order by any standards. I’m not sure I had as many requirements when looking for my last boyfriend. (Thank god my husband found me first.)
But where do mommies go to meet other mommies? The options are somewhat finite:
But let’s get real… chances are you’re looking for a mommy group because you don’t work at the moment, don’t go to church (or at least aren’t active in the community), don’t get to the gym as often as you’d like to admit, don’t have time for volunteer activities, and don’t want to shell out anywhere near $70/month for a membership to a baby club. And if you had friends with babies who lived in your neighborhood, you’d already be hanging out with them.
I lucked out and found a mommy group on the Internet, through http://www.meetup.com. (I totally get why people Internet date now and would admittedly be going down that road if I was single, as it’s an efficient and economical way to meet people.) I had to give on some of the said requirements–I drive roughly 40 minutes (although it’s probably less than 10 miles from my house) to get there–but the French connection outweighed the distance.
I think I lucked out, too, in that I’m sort of an inaugural member of the group. I found out about the group and was able to show up for the first meeting, and that likely made all the difference. It’s so much easier to try something new when everyone is new at it. I definitely think it would be much harder to jump into a very established group.
With that said, I always look forward to seeing if there are any new people at our weekly meetings and even if it’s a bit awkward and forced, I feel like my group’s organizers really try to make everyone feel welcome. But I can tell almost immediately who is never going to come back. In our group’s case, it’s usually someone who realizes the second she walks into the room that her French language skills maybe aren’t as good as she remembered them being in college.
But even as one of the regulars, more or less, I still find myself trying way harder than usual to have these women like me. I literally get up a half hour early, so I can spend extra time on my hair and make-up. I also spend an abnormally long time (for me) deciding what I’m going to wear; I always feel like I want to look fresh and chic and not the strung out and underdone that I usually am. I even stress a little over what baby is going to wear.
That’s when I know this is so like dating. Only minus the drinks and the free dinner.
And perhaps that’s why I find mommy groups, at least the one I’m in, a little awkward. Basically we sit around and watch each others’ kids play and make small talk about breastfeeding, nap schedules, and our husbands’ jobs. We don’t even have coffee or donuts, which makes me think that maybe I should bring some next time. Then again, everyone is currently thin, so maybe that wouldn’t go over so well, if it became a regular thing.
Maybe this whole blind-date, first-date feeling lasts for so long when getting to know other mommies because everyone sort of knows that they either (a) would never have crossed paths or (b) never become friends, if there weren’t babies in the picture. That fact is just sort of the Barney in the room. No wonder so many of my mommy friends who have tried some mommy groups have never gone back to them; that’s kind of a hard thing to get over if the chemistry just isn’t right. And seriously, when you have an infant, who has time to make an effort to spend time with women they don’t necessarily like?
But for as awkward as it can be during some of our meetings, I’m so glad that I’ve stuck with the group. Of course, I love getting the chance to practice my French, but every week, I get to know the women, at least the regulars, a little better and I like them not just a little but a lot more every week.
I just hope they feel the same way about me. I don’t want to have to try to pick up another mommy group any time soon.