For the first six months after the wee one was born, I thought of myself as a mom, but not necessarily as a Mom. There is a distinction. A mom has a child: she loves him, she cares for him, she holds him in her arms and the world shrinks to a perfect little circle of two.
With time, you become a Mom. Moms drive SUVs or mini-vans. They carry snacks in their very large purses. They organize play dates. They fret about picking a preschool. Most importantly, they have other Mom friends with whom they discuss SUVs, snacks, play dates and preschools. Moms are a part of the collective Mom-hood, the tribe who knows which brands of diapers don’t leak overnight and which parks in town stay shaded on sunny days. We know exactly what time Sesame Street airs on PBS and, if we find a good sitter, we share her with our fellow Moms because we know just how important it can be to get a night out of the house.
I learned I was pregnant with the wee one a couple weeks after making a transatlantic move. Forget about having mom friends in Dayton; I had no friends in Dayton. With time, I gained a few friends — some with kids, some without– but our connections didn’t necessarily happen because we had children the same age. Even after the wee one was born, I relied on out-of-town friends and both of my sisters-in-law to talk mom-talk.
When the wee one turned six months, however, I began to see where our tight knit circle of two could do with being a bit bigger. I sensed that it was time to join the wider world. I found myself wondering what the mothers of his peers were doing with themselves all day long. At the time, my boy had a killer gummy smile and the fluffiest little natural mohawk, so I decided to put those charms to good use making us both some friends. I joined a local moms group. In other words, I entered the Mom Zone.
Before I had a child, I was only vaguely aware of the Mom Zone. I knew it existed, of course, but there was no reason for me to pay much attention. They weren’t my tribe. Their concerns were not my concerns. Ah, but how life changes. Where once I knew no one under the age of five, I can now list a couple of dozen other wee ones. These days, I worry about things like potty training and toddler beds. I read Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle morning, noon and night. I buy gallons of whole milk, cartons of goldfish crackers and bags of organic grapes that I carefully cut into quarters. Within any five-minute stretch of time, I’ll cuddle and wipe and admonish and chase and laugh. Then it’s time for coloring and crawling and choo- choo- chooing. My jeans all are a bit worn at the knees and the idea of jewelry seems laughable. So much of my day – my thoughts, my feelings, my actions – now revolve around a little person. It helps to have some big persons in my life whose thoughts, feelings and actions all have a similar focus.
It’s good to be a mom. It’s even better to be a Mom. I type this on a day that included a trip to the library where 30 of my tribe gathered in a basement activity room to give our little charges the chance to dance, shake bells and clap along to music that only little ears could really appreciate. Afterwards, a few friends dropped in for an impromptu play date. The babies rested and the toddlers played and we Moms talked. Maybe an hour passed and it was time to scatter again so our children could be fed or put down for naps. It’s like that in the Mom Zone. Right now, the rhythms of our lives are dictated by the unsteady beat of our kids’ playing, feeding and sleeping needs, not to mention any other number of responsibilities. It’s nice that — along the way – we can find that our own need for friendship is met, too.