I enter the room. Quickly and discretely, I scan the crowd looking for anyone who catches my eye. I don’t have any special characteristics I’m looking for….just someone who has a nice smile, an open face, and an easy going disposition. I spy somebody who just might fit the bill, and as inconspicuously as I can, I meander over to their general area. I take a quick peek at their ring finger and then, slowly, I inch my way closer and closer to my intended target. Finally, we are within speaking range. Nervous but excited, I open with some bland and innocuous observation, maybe about the weather or how it seems busier than usual here. If I’m lucky, a small conversation will spring forth and maybe we’ll both feel a spark, a connection of some kind. But all too soon come the awkward goodbyes….the person has another date to get to. Disappointed, I wonder, is it appropriate to give this person my phone number, even if we did just meet? But if I don’t pursue this, then how will I see them again? Not feeling quite so bold, I mutter a lame, “See you around,” and hope that maybe our paths will cross again.
Late night bar scene during my single days? Nope. Open playtime at our community center with me trolling for new mommy friends, circa 2006? Yup. By this time, I had been happily married for 3 years and thought my days of dating were over. Little did I know that with my decision to become a stay at home mom, I’d be navigating the even more treacherous world of “mommy dating,” where everything happens in the harsh light of day and tequila shots are few and far between.
What makes “mommy dating” so difficult, you ask? I mean, how hard could it be to round up some other bored housewives, put out some muffins, and start a play group, right? Well, let me tell you…
e-not-so-harmony: In the real dating world, singles have the benefit of multiple dating sites that cater to very specific needs. Looking for a hook-up? You have the aptly named datehookup.com. Perhaps a long-term relationship? Visit e-harmony. How about single Jews who share a love of travel? Then letmypeoplego.com is the site for you (no, I am not making this up…do the Google). But stay at home moms? What clearinghouse of information do we have if we want to find other moms with similar interests, complete with pictures, mini biographies, and instant messaging services? Not much really. But think about it, how great would that be?
Stay at home mother of two (girls, age 2 and age 6 with peanut and bee allergy) seeks other stay at home moms for long walks around the lake, visits to the park, and some spontaneous but not overly rambunctious fun. We are open to all races, disease free, non-smokers, and nap between 1:30pm and 3pm.
Slow and Steady: While in the dating world, things can move at a rather fast pace, mommy dating is absolutely glacial. Generic get-to-know-you conversations that would take a single man and woman (or man and man, or woman and woman…we like to be inclusive of everyone here at servant mommy) a course of one evening takes us moms weeks, maybe months to complete. We are, instead, at the mercy of a series of mini-conversations which could, at any time, be aborted to change diapers, soothe tears, wipe spills, or referee our offspring. What us stay at home moms really need is speed dating. Let’s rent out a bar, pour some drinks, get an egg timer and GO! So much more efficient.
Talk Amongst Yourselves: Ok, so you’ve actually located some other stay at home moms to chat with, and you’ve gotten past the initial exchange of life stories (which, by the way is exhausting…I was boring even myself with how many times I had to say, “I grew up in Texas, I used to be a consultant, yada yada yada.”). Now, it’s time to see if there is a real “love connection.” This means getting into very sensitive topics that could potentially ruin this fragile new relationship. Am I referring to politics perhaps? Or maybe religious differences? While yes, these are indeed potential minefields, I’m talking about such subject matter as co-sleeping, sleep training, breast feeding, nursing in public, bottle feeding, vaccinations, and television viewing. To you non-breeders, these may sound like rather mundane topics, but let me tell you, ask a room full of moms about any of these and prepare yourself for a shit storm of controversy. Hunker down and take cover, my friend. So yes, after the euphoria of finding a potential mommy friend and perhaps making a lasting relationship, the romance quickly dies when you discover that she is the Newman to your Jerry Seinfeld. Sigh. The search continues.
Unrequited Love: When you date someone, and you like them, you make an effort to be with them. You clear calendars, plan weekend get aways, arrange elaborate dates. But, in the mommy world, even if we want to make time for our new mommy love, sometimes, things are just out of our control. Maybe your potential friend has an older child or a newborn who places other demands on their time. Perhaps, to your horror, you discover that your children have absolutely no chemistry together or even worse, try to put each other into a chokehold anytime they see each other. Or, your kids taking alternating turns catching the virus of the month, forcing you to each cancel playdate after playdate after playdate. I remember one particularly bad flu season, it took me and a friend 6 tries to get together over the course of 3 months. Or maybe, saddest of all, your children are on opposing nap schedules, making it nearly impossible to “date.” Whatever the underlying reason, the bottom line is that a mom’s time is not her own. She is chained to her children’s nap schedule, feeding schedule, extracurricular activities, doctor’s appointments, family commitments, and illnesses. There are cosmic forces greater than ourselves at work, and like star-crossed lovers, the relationship is just not meant to be.
These are just a handful of hurdles us moms face in our dating world. As for me, I spent my first few months after Sarah was born trying unsuccessfully to “pick up” new mommy friends. Being a stay at home mom can be a lonely business and I remember looking longingly at other groups of moms who were clearly friends and wondering how I could break in. I’d hover around playgrounds near other mothers with babies, hoping to get invited to join in. Sometimes I’d make a move only to discover that the woman I had just spent 20 minutes talking to was actually the nanny, not the mother. (After much trial and error, I wised up and realized that the moms have the better jewelry and accessories, even if we are all dressed like bums.)
I finally joined some Mommy and Me type classes and after “putting myself out there,” I did find some wonderful long-term relationships complete with elaborate (play) dates, picnics in the park with our little ones, deep, meaningful conversations about things other than the best brand of diapers, and even some fabulous weekend get aways. Yes, it can be intimidating, scary, and difficult to forge these new relationships, but in the end, isn’t it always worth it when you finally find “the one?”