When you work and have a long commute, sometimes you feel like a stranger in your own neighborhood.

No Country for Working Mom

When you work and have a long commute, sometimes you feel like a stranger in your own neighborhood.
When I was a kid, I spent many summers in Florida. My cousins had a house in the Keys, and whenever we visited Key West, I would pose by the sign – 90 miles to Cuba. I would spend hours cruising on my cousin Bobby’s boat, and when he docked in one particular spot, I could jump into the Atlantic, then swim around until I was enveloped in the warmer waves of the Gulf. I thought it was so cool to be half in one place and half in another. Now, as a working mom in New York, residing in Connecticut, I no longer love dividing myself between two geographical boundaries.

You are hereThe Hubs and I are both teachers in Westchester County, NY, which affords us an amazing life, but not so much a large home in that area. After we were married and decided to start a family, he asked me one question: “What would you rather have: A big house or a short commute?” I replied without hesitation, “a big house.” I grew up not far from where I currently teach. My sister and I shared a room smaller than most people’s closets in Westchester, we had one bathroom, and my parents could not keep up with the Joneses. I did not want my kids growing up having to wait their turn to pee and worrying about the next mortgage payment. I also knew my husband has a multitude of talents, but they do not include home renovation. I wanted a home that was affordable, big enough and required little, if any, handiwork. It was CT or bust.

I love my home and I love my neighborhood, but it’s been four years and I am still getting adjusted. Both my babies were born in New York, my doctor is in New York, I know where to shop for the best whatevers in New York. Thanks to my friendly neighbors, however, my kids’ pediatrician and dentist are in Connecticut, and Joey’s pre-school is right around the corner. The Hubs found a great butcher shop and we have finally found a few great restaurants. But the other day I was in the parking lot of Shoprite and my neighbor spotted me. We exchanged pleasantries, but when I got in my car and proceeded to go left, he frantically honked his horn. “Where are you going?!” he yelled. Confused, I answered as a question: “Home?” His look was incredulous. “Follow me,” he said. After four years, I still use the highway to get everywhere, and apparently that is ludicrous.

When I was on maternity leave with Charlee, my daughter, I decided to join one of those Mommy Fitness Walk groups in hopes of meeting some women in my situation. As soon as they welcomed me, (which was kind of like Charlee and I were at an AA meeting – they clapped and sang, “WEL-COME DA-NA AND CH-AR-LEE!”) they also asked if I would like to join for the year. The invite was dead the moment I opened my mouth and said I was going back to work. They clucked their tongues in sympathy and pretty much forgot about us the rest of the hour. I was too baffled that none of them worked to even be upset.

My routine is like many of yours: drop off child(ren) at childcare facility and speed to work. There is no time to chat with other working moms in the morning – a quick wave and knowing look suffices as we hand over our children and run toward the door. The way home is the same, tacking on making dinner and getting ready to do it all again the next day. There is no leisure time to get to know back roads, to make friends or to join Mommy and Me groups. Some moms tell me it will get better when the kids are in school, and others say there is a continental divide between working moms and those who stay home. They say it’s similar to a middle school cafeteria or an episode of Housewives. Yikes. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Joey just got invited to a pre-school birthday party, and I am actually excited. Maybe a mom and I will hit it off. Meanwhile, like you, I try to balance and imagine myself swimming in the Gulf.

11 thoughts on “No Country for Working Mom

  1. I sometimes feel blissfully ignorant of this working/SAH mom divide I hear so much about from others. Perhaps it’s because I have awesome neighbors, family and friends, most of whom have done both the working mom and SAHM thing — which gives them a greater sense of empathy and less room to be judgy about working. Also, I live in the part of town where I grew up, so I already know the back ways and local go-to spots. Not as much of a learning curve. I must admit, you have a tricky situation there. I don’t know if I have any great advice for you, other than find an advocate among your daughter’s school parents and neighbors. One friendly face is better than none, and maybe she can be your “in” to others in the area. Just a thought.

  2. I enjoyed the article. I have been there and I can tell you, when they are in school it gets better. When my kiddos were under 5, the SAH moms were less than hospitable. we moved to a new town when my 1st kiddo was 1 yrs old. I didnt know a soul. I tried to find play groups but they were all filled with SAH moms and met in the middle of the day or at night for drinks. Then one day I found an ad at our local community center for a Working Moms playgroup. it met Saturdays from 9-10:30am. In the winter we met inside, otherwise we met at various playgrounds. It was a savior, I am still friends with all the moms 9 years later, If you cant get into the SAH circles, try starting your own working moms group. There are plenty of women out there feeling just like you are. Now that both kids are school age, I meet lots of working moms on the soccer field and in the PTO. My circle has definitely expanded. good luck!

  3. Don’t let yourself be trapped into the Mommy wars. Your choice is great & their choice is great.
    Now what do YOU need? Think about it & be as specific as you can – do you want new friends or specifically new mommy friends or new families friends, parents with kids that are the same age as yours, people who are like you (define), someone to exercise with, someone to talk baby stuff with, someone to talk work with, etc.

    That will be make it easier for you to spot “it” when you see it.

    Then they are lots of things you can do:
    *if your daycare is close from home, invite one of your kid’s friend for a mommy-baby playdate over the week-end. That give you 1-1 time to make friends.
    If your child is not very verbal yet – ask the preschool teacher who her good friends are.
    Or bring a card to hand over to the moms you greet in the morning.
    *if there are no week-end playgroups, join a week-end workout group for moms, you already have 3 things in common 1) you want to work out, 2) week-end is best 3) you are moms – even if the others are SAHMs, give them a chance, all you need is 1 person that you will “click” with.
    *sign you kids up for some week-end activity – gym, painting, iceskating, etc. You’ll meet the other parents and can start creating your circle – plus it’s fun to do something different with your toddler.
    *consider an evening out – mom’s date night: again SAHM or not – those evenings say: I am more than a mom. I need time to make friends without the wee ones (and be able to actually carry a whole conversation on…), etc. You might be the odd one but in this scenario you definitely fit in.

    Finally, remember that you are the “new” one. The other ladies have been around for a while and are all set. They have their favorites everything, they have their friends, etc. They do not really have a major incentive to opening up to you.
    I have moved so often that I have seen this over & over again. It’s not that they are not friendly or do not care, it’s just hard to change routine.
    So you are the one who has to be proactive, to organize playdate, and extend invitations for tea, playdates & walks…. At least in the beginning.

  4. Thank you all so much for your thoughtful comments and insight. I never thought about how the other moms have been in their routine/situation for a while, and like me, they are busy, just in different ways. I love the advice about being pro-active; it’s another thing on the to-do list, but it’s the only way to make a situation change. Thank you for reminding me of that. You guys are right about me needing to know exactly what I want and/or need to change as well. I may run an add for working moms looking to make friends/get in the loop/feel like our neighborhood is a home! I am going to make an effort, starting with this weekend’s birthday party. Thank you again!

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