I’m writing this post because of situations I’ve had recently both with coworkers and old friends. One reason I have created this blog is to talk about some of the difficult issues that come up surrounding motherhood. For me, isolation is one of those issues. To be honest, I’ve never really fit in anywhere. I’ve always had trouble meeting people and making friends. Maybe it’s my shy and introverted personality. Maybe it’s my visual impairment that puts people off. Maybe it’s another flaw in my personality or maybe it’s the world we live in today. Whatever the reason, I’ve never really found my tribe.
This past week, I reached out to an old friend. We exchanged a couple of messages, but the conversation fizzled out pretty quickly. It ended with me asking about his kids and how his work was going. Whenever I hear from this person, there are always excuses about how busy he is, but it’s clear he’s just too busy for me. It’s like that with most interactions I have with people. I make all the effort to keep in touch, but get very little in return.
I hear this from a lot of adults. They feel isolated. It’s hard to make friends and it’s hard to see the ones we have regularly. Another friend and I were talking the other day about how isolating parenting can be. She told me that many of her friends had kids young, so now they are in a completely different stage of parenting. They don’t want to deal with the birthday parties, the baby showers etc. It’s harder to find things in common. I miss the ease of childhood friendships. Kids bond over playing the same sports, liking the same music or it could just be as simple as deciding they will be friends and then sticking to it. Then we all grow up. Now that we have smart phones and the internet, we seemed to have forgotten how to interact with the people around us.
Are we passing our isolation on to our children?
Rosebud is social by nature. She still has trouble with sharing her toys, but she generally loves to be around other kids. The thing is, she doesn’t have much of an opportunity for that since she is not in childcare. I want her summers to be fun and memorable, so I took her on a few field trips last year. For starters, I took her to the library where they have a play room. Presumably, children can play together there. We spent some time looking at books and playing and hoped another kid would show up. Well, a father and his two kids eventually did, but he sat with his kids outside the room and was clearly waiting for us to leave. It was awkward, so we left.
Our next trip was to a small children’s museum. Honestly, it was just a larger preschool classroom that advertises itself as a museum to get funding for their program. Rosebud had a good time playing with the different toys there, but I hoped she’d get to play with other kids. There were a couple other kids her age, but instead of encouraging the kids to play together, the parents hovered and followed the kids from place to place. When I was a kid, the kids played together and the parents would talk. This was true even in new places with new kids. Especially if the place was relatively small and you could see the kids from where ever you were.
Our third trip was to a larger museum for children where Rosebud’s favorite thing was a room full of blocks and balls. There was a boy around her age who was there with his brother. They were building a tower with the blocks and then filling it with balls. Rosebud noticed this and started gathering balls for them, but whenever she brought balls over to them, the smaller boy would tell her to go away and that they weren’t playing with her. She was too young at the time to feel the rejection and kept filling buckets of balls for them.
After a while, we went to another room that had different kinds of tunnels with balls. They also had an exhibit where you could keep balls floating in the air. It was basically a cone with air being forced out of it. Anyway, there was another boy around her age and she noticed his dad bouncing balls over the cone. He could keep several going at once which made her laugh. When she noticed the boy, she went over to stand next to him. There was plenty of room for them both to play with the ball machines, but the boy kept hitting her and pushing her away no matter what she did. I kept having her move away from him, but she really want to play with him. After a little while, we decided to leave because I didn’t want the boy to keep being mean to her. Maybe he was the one who should’ve left, but I didn’t want to cause a scene or try to have an awkward conversation with his dad. However I told Rosebud to tell the boy that she didn’t like it when he hit or pushed her. I also told her to stay away from him and that she didn’t have to be around people who were mean to her. While hitting and pushing is developmentally appropriate to a point, as a childcare provider, I’m seeing an over abundance of aggressiveness. That seems to be the first response to everything. Many kids seem to get physical without remorse and I’m convinced that there’s more involved than kids just being kids.
Then one day at our neighborhood playground, Rosebud was enjoying the slide when a father and his four-year-old daughter showed up. While Rosebud was excited to see another kid, I couldn’t wait to leave. I had a quick conversation with the father and we left. While this is what I complain about, I couldn’t help but feel like I needed to get away. First, I wasn’t sure if they wanted the playground to themselves. Then all these things ran through my mind. What would I talk to this guy about while our kids played? What if Rosebud did something to the other child that I didn’t see? What if his daughter did something to Rosebud? What if I had to chase her if she ran off the playground? Sometimes she’d run off and I had to run after her. I didn’t want to do that in front this man who I didn’t know. I didn’t want him to notice my visual impairment and think that I was less of a parent. I didn’t want this stranger to see me make a mistake, so it felt safer for me to leave. Then I wonder if I denied Rosebud an opportunity to make a friend. Will I have to keep doing that?
Final Thoughts and
This brings me back to the struggle I have with making friends. Am I unintentionally passing it on to her? Before she was born, I thought it’d be easier to make friends as a mom. I thought there’d be play groups and more ways to connect. Of course we’d have something huge in common, being a mother. Then real life happens, insecurities pop up and then motherhood becomes more isolating than ever. Most of the play groups or children’s activities in my area are during the day. I’m a working mom, so it’s not possible to attend. There are also the logistics of transportation which makes things even more complicated and I usually decide it’s not worth climbing the mountain.
Since I haven’t figured this out yet, I’m posting some questions to you. How do you make friends as a mom? Do you feel isolated or have you found your tribe? How do you facilitate your children making friends? Let me know in the comments.