The IT Crowd of One Vs. the EF'ing Martha Mommies
December 6, 2010 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Introverted thinking moms, would you please share your tips and practical strategies for navigating the shoals of extroverted, feeling-driven motherhood norms?

This blog post makes spot-on observations about being a mother whose temperament and public presentation of the self as a mother don't mesh easily with prevailing practices. I will certainly read "MotherStyles," but it seems to deal only in part with my concerns; I know my temperament, and my kids' temperaments, and am intellectually comfortable with the goal of teaching them to be independent, self-directed problem-solvers with a taste for free-ranging and pursuing their own projects. It works well for us.

But as I discovered recently, a mother who responds to a minor injury with "No blood, no foul--you're all right, hon, go play" gets funny looks. My children run around in the chicken coop and the pig pen, and handle sharp objects, and climb trees and I guess other kids don't? Huh. I'm OK with being an "individual integrity mother" at home, but how can I *feel* more comfortable in my choices when among a much more sensitive, feeling-driven group of mothers? Are there books, articles or blogs that focus on the narrower issue of being an IT mom in an EF circle?

IT moms, how do you sustain (for YEARS) the chit-chat, gift closets (gift closets?), playground chat--gracious motherhood for *others*--when just surviving the mommy madness at home is tough enough on your temperament?
posted by MonkeyToes to Human Relations (25 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, that blog post sounded familiar. How do you survive? Well part of it is, you just do. Another part is that it gets easier as your kids get older -- that is, I have found that the most judgmental mommy moments I experienced came when my kid was really little. You also have to weed out the mommies (and thus the kids) whose funny looks annoy you.

And you have to disconnect your emotions and your intellect when you're having bad moments. That is, if you know you're doing the right thing for your kids and your family, you really do have to have a "screw 'em" attitude if the rest of the mommy brigade is aghast.

And those chit-chat moments, at the playground or the birthday parties? You will find a mom who thinks like you, I bet. And you smile and say hi to the others, and then gravitate to the one friend you like. Or like me this past weekend, you smile at the bowling party, at all the moms with gift closets, who wrapped those giant presents over on that table, and you hand in your small, reasonably-sized, reasonably-priced gift. And you watch your kid bowl a bit and you say happy birthday and you leave. And you don't let it affect your psyche, your idea of yourself as a person or your idea of yourself as a mother.

And lastly, you cut those other moms a tiny bit of slack. Because we want them to accept us. Which means we do have to accept them right back. And maybe we can recruit a few of them over to our team.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:02 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

We mommies are so terribly horribly judgmental of each other, aren't we? I am surprised you don't have more moms around you in the free-range/you're fine, kid camp. Maybe we all evolve and you are just a bit ahead? Find some moms with two or three kids--they will be much more blase about it all, I suspect, when it comes to the second and third offspring.

And as you gain confidence and find close mom friends, the playground chatter becomes less important and less part of your regular routine.

I think lots of moms, on the inside, feel like they're the only one doing it their way.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:08 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Read/watch Mompetition.
posted by pised at 10:17 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be upfront, secure and honest and I guarantee that some moms will be more open with you about their various parenting quirks/imperfections. You have to accept their style of parenting while still doing your own thing. Room for all kinds. If you don't like the group activities, lead different ones or bow out and cultivate individual friendships. The. Introversion can't be making group stuff and chatter fun, so why do it?

One good bonding activity is to share a problem and ask for advice, especially from more seasoned moms. Ask if they've ever worried about sleep routines or whatever.

Ah, and another good one, admit to boredom or exhaustion. Make it clear that you're not interested in some kind of perfect motherhood ideal and that you wont judge them against that standard, either.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:31 PM on December 6, 2010

I have found that many mothers are struggling just as much as I am, and are willing to let down their guard only when I let down mine. This is not easy for me, but it has always been rewarding.
posted by bardophile at 10:34 PM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've found that having one or two like-minded mommy friends goes a long way in making it easier to feel ok with my choices, but when it was just me, I figured that's just how it was & different strokes for different folks. In the meantime, I found trying to find the things I have in common with people went a long ways towards making things more bearable. Whenever we veer off in one of those moments where we are clearly not living in the same worlds, I try to go back to the ground that I've figured out we share and let the rest slide. Sometimes that takes more doing than other times, and sometimes it works better than other times. I think I've gotten a lot better at cutting everyone, myself included, slack. We're all just doing what we need to, to get by.

Sometimes the snark in my head helps too. But I try to keep it in my head. It's really unhelpful when it escapes & totally counter to the cut folks some slack thing.
posted by susanbeeswax at 10:39 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Argh, I just typed this big long thing and lost it.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I do my best to be fully honest with other women even when I'm saying things that make me look weird because I think we need more ways to be mothers and the only way to achieve that is for mothers to be seen.

When I went back to work people left tissues on my desk because they expected me to cry all day. All day long people stopped by to ask me how I was doing and I think I was probably radiating pure glee, which threw some people off.

I'd love to find a web community to talk with other women who don't mind if the kid eats the dog food or an occasional ladybug. I got snarked at on Metafilter once for saying our infant had a weekly overnight with her grandparents, as if I was the worst mom on earth.

I'm fortunate to have Mr. Llama's support and shared philosophy of parenting.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:20 AM on December 7, 2010 [9 favorites]

Bravo for you! You've found a way that works for you, which is so, so brilliant.

I've dealt with mummy judging with humour and humility - but I gave myself permission to dismiss unsolicited commentary long ago.

I just don't give a good god damn about anything other than friendly advice. I KNOW I'm doing a good job. I KNOW my little girl is doing well.

This confidence issues boundaries I don't have to maintain: people accept and respect them for me.

Trust yourself and your kid cause I bet you're doing an amazing job.
posted by katiecat at 2:46 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think we've all observed that kids and families are at their best when parents have the resources to be themselves (and it does take resources to be any kind of happy parent). Happy families look as different from each other as the dysfunctional ones--and as the same. Parenting is a long game, and what your family and you need now may not be what it needs in the future; plenty of parents find themselves working to be okay with uncomfortable ways of living and parenting because of a lack of resources, a special needs kid, or other life weirdnesses and disruptions.

So I enter parenting groups, events, mom gatherings, places where my family will be intersecting with others with the deliberate, loud thought that I am coming to this place meeting everyone where they are right now. I may have been or need to be like any of these parents at any point in my journey as a parent, and we're all doing our very best with our resources at hand. I focus on the kids and how rad they are, and ask lots of questions because I assume I will need to know how some parent is what they are doing at some point.

Most of us who are actively going to a lot of these kinds of family events have young and school-aged children, which means that none of us have been doing this for very long! Given that all of are coming to the table with a comparable level of experience, we're not in any position to do anything but try to learn as much as we can. There is a parent in my regular group who is deeply feeling and emotionally connected, and there is another one whose commitment to structure and citizenship in their parenting is inspiring. Within the group, my parenting does not resemble theirs at all, but I watch how they work with their kids with interest, because I have found myself using some of their techniques with my kid when they have seemed applicable to where I'm at on certain days. And hey, I bet a lot of those 'Martha' parents have days where their kids wrestle in giant mud puddles with no more supervision than a quick look from the kitchen window now and again.

The more I practice this mindset, the more support my partner and I receive for our parenting from other parents. Also, the more I practice this, the more I learn from all different kind of parents and am prepared for different kind of days as a parent. The only thing that stays the same is that I am a rookie making all kinds of daily mistakes with awesome days and days of shame that I am only sort of starting to be able to predict. More and more, I find that I seek other parents out with not a small amount of relief--they get it, what it is to bring your own ideals and self to the table and have them suffer as much as they triumph. And of course, the best teachers any of us have on how to do this is the kids themselves.

Thanks for the blog link and book rec--very interesting!
posted by rumposinc at 5:07 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

IT moms, how do you sustain (for YEARS) the chit-chat, gift closets (gift closets?), playground chat--gracious motherhood for *others*--when just surviving the mommy madness at home is tough enough on your temperament?

You just sort of do. Nthing the idea of having a couple of close friends who either share your philosophies or don't care what philosophies are. I've felt for a long time that I'm mostly just playing the game when it comes to interacting with the majority of parents I see/spend time with/know from my kids' schools. I've even found some parents who share my views on parenting and have made some really good friends. You might be surprised, too, by some parents actually appreciating your style.

Just be yourself and try not to judge the other moms (and dads) too harshly. We're all just doing what we feel is right or what we're comfortable with. Unless there's clear abuse going on, no one is psychologically scarred by gift closets.
posted by cooker girl at 5:07 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My name is peagood, and I am a former Overparenter.

I may be lucky in where I live, but I think most of the Helicopter Parents in our neighbourhood belong to younger kids, and it's exposure to those with a less intense style that helps immensely. So, you're doing a good thing, as long as you're doing it with care. I was always on the fringes of hovering, but it was finding two other mom friends with a similar style and internal conflict regarding modern parenting trends versus how we were raised - we ask one question when we talk about interactions with other moms: "Can you say cocksucker in front of her?"- that helped me to realize that everyone's so busy dealing with their own shtuff that nobody's freaking about me. And now we're actually confident in enough in our kids and in our parenting to not really care how it appears to other parents and have found others more like us once we let our freak flags fly. The only rule we follow not for ourselves and our kids is the Four B's: "Be polite and no blood, brains or broken bones).

I re-read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" yearly because I love it - but also to remind myself that in another life our nearly seven year old daughter would be running around the city looking for tin scraps to sell for pennies, and caring for her toddling sibling in tow. I'll find occasion to mention at the playground to someone who gasps at the callouses on her palms from the three months she's spent mastering the monkey bars "Pearl S. Buck's mother used to send her, at five years old, to the tops of the trees to get the sweetest peaches."

You might feel more comfortable in your choices when among a much more sensitive, feeling-driven group of mothers if you think of the more like co-workers. You have to get along with them, you have to have a good working relationship for the sake of your friends - but you don't have to like them or even be friends. There are books and articles, but really, the answer is inside yourself. There have been articles lately about the pendulum swinging back toward more free-range parenting - I think there was one in Salon not too long ago about how all this hovering on playground equipment has been leading to kids losing their common sense. Sharing information like that as an intellectual matter casually can lead to conversations about parenting styles, and maybe lead to eye-opening experiences for both sides. Knowing that some of the parents have reasons to hover (For example, one little boy has problems with gluten, and can't be trusted to turn down treats, and the result is horrible stomach problems and rotten behaviour and a long, sleepless night for his mom) helped me to have empathy.

As an introvert who finds it draws on my reserves to make the chit-chat as much as to play with dolls - but also as someone whom as a person has a gift closets and wrapping station because that's me and being prepared in advance alleviates stress and that I enjoy gift-giving - I find that it's not such a struggle any more as I learned that, as a person, I need quiet time and boundaries with everyone, including my kid.

So, to wind up a very long answer - I'd look to yourself. Are you sleeping and eating well, are you finding time to do things you like and that sustain your sense of self so that you can recharge and rebound? In Nick Hornby's "How to Be Good" the protagonist finds that reading gives her rooms within her mind that she can visit whenever she's overloaded. That works for me too.

And if you're experiencing mommy madness at home that's draining - does that need fixing? Is individual integrity at home really working, or is it secretly stressful because having kids running around in chicken coops and pig pens and handling sharp objects is actually harder to be laissez-faire about than you'd care to admit? As a lunchroom & recess supervisor at our school, I can see that there is a difference between those children with absolute freedom (beyond benign neglect) and freedom within a consistent, defined and reasonable structure. Maybe, actually, working for what you need at home and in your heart will help in the larger world.
posted by peagood at 5:28 AM on December 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

Stop thinking of yourself as so different from other moms. You're different people with different styles, but...well, I have a friend who doesn't think that she gets along well with other moms in her playgroup because she's introverted and intellectual and rational, and the other moms...are 'those moms' with whom she has nothing in common.

The problem is not the other moms. I mean, sure it kind of is, because I've seen the mommy-judgment in action. But, boy she makes it a heckuva a lot harder on herself by quietly radiating not just introversion, but also 'I'm the only person at the mom's group like me, and the rest of you are Very Different People.' I know a lot of introverts, and her attitude about 'those moms' shows beyond the shyness.

Being a natural introvert who has been forced-extrovert due to the two serious jobs I've had, and being forced to interact for long hours with people who have been all over the map, personality-wise, I found that nearly all of them are pretty decent and do cool things, even if they are so dramatically different in style and attitudes from me that I might not get it. When I went in with the attitude that I could probably get along with them or they had something interesting to teach me, even if they did things differently or didn't necessarily grok how I work, plus hey, I was doing the best I could and that'd have to be good enough for everyone, including me, I got along with people very, very well. I've never found a total lack of common ground with any of them--if nothing else, we had one common goal: getting through particular grueling but rewarding experiences (providing 24/7 care for disabled children, or the sink-or-swim world of graduate-professional school).

Honestly, what's served me well is being open that 'Hey, I'm doing the best I can here with what I have. You probably are, too.' And asking for advice like I respect people with other styles. Not necessarily parenting advice, but man, I do admire people who can juggle gift closets, and decorate and get places semi-on-time and all of that, because damn, I just cannot do that without chopping up a finger with pinking shears and accidentally glittering an eyebrow and gluing myself to wrapping paper and leaving my purse in the closet and shit like that. And I can do fine work on the spinal cord without breaking crazy tiny structures. I'm awesome at that. Not approved at kids' parties or grownups' either, though, honestly.

Pinking shears or nice wrapping or the ability to decorate the most beautiful (or afford the most beautiful) cupcakes at birthday parties? DANG, I'M SO HOSED. HOSED. I DECORATE FOR MY STUDENTS BY WRITING 'HI!' ON A BOXED SHEET CAKE (FROSTING INCLUDED IN THE MIX) WITH PEANUT M&Ms. THOSE ARE A BIG ALLERGEN, AND I FORGET.

I'm not even a mom. So, dang, people who can juggle parenting and any of those skills or anything else, really, I'm impressed. turns out that a lot of people are impressed with some of the stuff I can do, too.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:51 AM on December 7, 2010 [11 favorites]

I'm so glad that this question was asked. I suffer from the same thing on occasion. My ex-husband and I have a very amicable relationship, and we co-parent our son very well. He's remarried with a 2 year old and the best thing is when we all show up at our son's school functions together. While sometimes I wonder what the other parents are thinking (likely, nothing), I think it sets a good example of how divorced parents can get beyond the shit and do what's right. I add here that I am extremely lucky and grateful that our relationship is this way, because we are the exception rather than the rule.

The town I live in is a wealthy, suburban, two-parent town that thrives on sports, academics and involvement in the PTA. Many moms do not work, and therefore are able to join the committees, be the classroom moms and run the fund-raisers. I do not participate because my job prevents that, unfortunately. That being said, I have had periods of unemployment where I tried to join in and get involved, but I just couldn't break through the barriers. I just don't fit the mold, or whatever the "requirements" are. I dress differently, drive an old car covered with old Grateful Dead stickers and generally turn one way, while they seem to turn the other. I've been to mom-functions (jewelry parties, tupperware stuff, and the like), and usually find that I have nothing to say, and nothing to offer.

Despite this, I like my individuality and have learned to embrace it. And lately, I have discovered that I can usually find one or two moms who, once we get to chatting, will divulge something that surprises me. Like some secret code word that identifies them as "a lot like me". Also, I've learned to accept myself as I am and not let the whole thing bother me too much. My job is to raise my son, not to fit into the high school clique.
posted by sundrop at 5:55 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, excellent question. This plagues me regularly.

To date, I just haven't done it -- the parties, the playground chit-chat, co-op pre-school -- if it was at all avoidable. While part of me worries about how I'm perceived, apparently the bigger part of me is willing to be seen as anti-social. But there have been times when I've wondered if I needed to be different so the kids could have more opportunities. Probably.

When I feel that way, I try to focus on my main goals: do my kids 'get' me? Am I certain that they (and their grown selves) will read me as loving? Are their needs being met? And then the reflexive worries from how I was raised: do they know they can come to me with anything, and I will respect their concern, and apologize or whatever if needed? (It never dawned on my that my mother would care if another kid hurt my feelings, and she has never apologized for anything -- I don't want to be that.)

Barbara Coloroso has a good book -- Kids Are Worth It. Bad title, lol. But in there she says things like 'kids over a certain age can figure out for themselves if they need a coat' -- and IIRC, she meant like 5-7 yr olds. This concept is considered FREAKISH in my neighborhood where all kids have 72 accessories for every kind of weather, but makes a lot of sense to me, and I refer back to it when I need to be reminded of *my* goals.
posted by MeiraV at 6:13 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

a mother who responds to a minor injury with "No blood, no foul--you're all right, hon, go play" gets funny looks.

Only because those other mothers wish they could be able to be that strong about a situation.

Or they are airheaded morons.
posted by gjc at 7:11 AM on December 7, 2010

Best answer: From Uniformitarianism Now! "Stop thinking of yourself as so different from other moms. You're different people with different styles, but...well, I have a friend who doesn't think that she gets along well with other moms in her playgroup because she's introverted and intellectual and rational, and the other moms...are 'those moms' with whom she has nothing in common.

The problem is not the other moms. I mean, sure it kind of is, because I've seen the mommy-judgment in action. But, boy she makes it a heckuva a lot harder on herself by quietly radiating not just introversion, but also 'I'm the only person at the mom's group like me, and the rest of you are Very Different People.' I know a lot of introverts, and her attitude about 'those moms' shows beyond the shyness."

Yes. Yes! YES! That blog post made me shudder and I was trying to put into words why, and UN did a much better job than me. This self-labeling, this "I am this way and can be no other," this "here is my justification for whatever behavior I engage in whether acceptable or un-", this "you are that way and I shall only interact with you as a type" ... it really bothers me. (I'm also kind-of bothered by the implication, which I may be reading in, that you give that free-range, hands-off parenting goes with introversion only.)

So, first, I'd say recognize that moms are often different with their kids than on their own. I am a very rational, logical, intellectual person, I think, in my adult life; I am known for those qualities in my adult life, which including teaching philosophy nights and weekends and working as a lawyer very part-time. But when I'm with my kid (which is 3/4 time, let's say), I'm not having those conversations. First, mostly nobody cares and I don't want to be boring. Second, it's hard to be super-intellectual while trying to prevent your toddler from triggering the emergency door alarm or eating glass. Easier to talk about cute baby clothes and front-facing car seats and whether infant seats fit in a subcompact and who the good pediatricians are. Yeah, it's "mom-talk," but I get lots of good information that way, and it doesn't matter if it gets repeatedly interrupted.

As for interaction, I'm just too shy to initiate conversations at the park or at open gym except for a really good reason. (I do sometimes try to initiate them with dads, since I think dads often feel even more awkward than moms at these things.) Instead, I save up my sticking-my-neck-out friendliness for mommy-and-me classes and things where I will be seeing the same parents for several weeks (or even months) in a row, where I can build a relationship over time and it's more "worthwhile." But I have yet to meet a mom who LIKES "mom-dating." Some are good at it, but hardly anyone likes it. It's very fraught, trying to meet other moms like you, sticking your neck out to meet others on your own behalf AND your kid's behalf -- it's awful. I actually asked the question on facebook and EVERYONE, even people I know to be raging extroverts of super-friendliness, professed how much they hated trying to befriend other moms and how stressful they found it. Since then I've really made an effort to reach out and take the first step. I think most people want to like you (general you), but they like it if you make befriending you easy for them.

You don't say where you live, which I think makes a difference in parenting styles. Where I live, "Walk it off, kiddo! You're fine!" is normal and acceptable and helicopter parenting gets polite smiles of amusement at its silliness. (Where I live, if someone thinks your parenting style is ridiculous, they are going to say nothing about it unless you are obviously putting your kid in danger. Is your kid fed and reasonably clothed and not punching other kids in the head consequence-free? Then you could be making them walk everywhere on their hands and other parents will be like, "Okay, weird," but will never say anything about it unless you bring it up.)

I really think the best way to get along, as someone who's shy, is to try to be relaxed, friendly, and nice to all comers. People will know you're shy, but they'll also know you're a pleasant person who's friendly and nice. It won't make you BFFs with everybody but it will ensure people think well of you and don't actively exclude you.

It does help to have other moms you click with, whether they share your parenting style or not. But I've found, really, that EVERY parent is quirky and interesting in some way, and most are pretty tolerant of other people's quirkiness because they're quirky themselves. I have this theory I call the "Midwestern Social Acceptability Index" and the goal is to score 100 points. If you can get to 100, everyone (in the Midwest) will thereafter excuse all of your oddities as charming and interesting rather than threatening. So, like, are your kids fed and clothed? 50 points. Do you take good care of your pets? 25 points. Are your kids polite to adults? 25 points. Look! You're at 100 already! You could be circus people riding unicycles everywhere in brightly-colored clown outfits and everyone will say, "Oh, that's just the Smiths, they're great, they're in the circus!" Other point-gathering opportunities: Dressing appropriately for weddings and funerals, being employed in some gainful fashion, maintaining the exterior of your home to neighborhood standards, liking beer, cheering for the appropriate sports teams as local fandom demands, volunteering for some community organization, etc. Note you don't have to do ALL these things, just enough of them to get your 100 points. And then everyone will be like, "Well, she's a Pagan lesbian single parent keeping goats for organic cheese-making AND she cheers for the Miami Dolphins, which is a clear sign of mental illness, but gosh-darn doesn't she keep her house up nice and her kids are so polite! And have you tried her cheese? So good." So as long as you've got your 100 points, I'd just operate as if OF COURSE other people find you likeable. What's not to like?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:16 AM on December 7, 2010 [61 favorites]

Hello MonkeyToes, you are me, circa 1996!

A couple of things:

1) If your kids are young (not in school yet, or just getting started), this feeling gets worse for a bit, and then gets a LOT better when you see the personalities of some of these other kids emerge. You'll feel a lot better about your style when your kid turns out to be a self-reliant problem-solver, while the other kids run to mommy for every little thing.

2) Those other moms are probably faking it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:48 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't really understand the question. Others do it seems. So my answer may or may not be worthwhile, but ultimately --- I parent the way I parent, and I'm not any longer apologetic for it. I've found what works for us. Other families have found different things work for them.

It probably helps that I regularly commute with Toddler Zizzle with another family. The other family has different rules for their daughter on the train than I have for Toddler Zizzle. Toddler Zizzle's friend has to sit down on the seat when the train is moving. Toddler Zizzle just won't do that, so I let him stand so long as he lets me keep an arm around him. His friend cries out, "Sit down, [Toddler Zizzle!] You have to sit down!" Her mother explains to her that Toddler Zizzle has different rules than she does. I explain to her what Toddler Zizzle's rules are.

This friend of Toddler Zizzle's has different parents than Toddler Zizzle and she is a different kid. Therefore, different rules apply. Neither of us have ever had conflict. We've had some simple discussions about what has worked for each of our kids, and I think in both cases we've traded some wisdom about our parenting and I've tried out some of the methods that I've seen work for her. She's much better about consistency than I am. And I told her as much and how I felt I just couldn't pull that off, and she commented to me that she thinks I'm much better at redirection and have a lot more patience that she says she just does not have. So we learned something from each other, about each other, and maybe even about ourselves.

I've found that rather than judging someone else's parenting, maybe I should look at it as others doing what works for them, or that someone lost their cool for a moment, and that no one is perfect. When I'm on the receiving end of being judged --- usually by grumpy commuters --- I've started making direct eye contact with a, "I'm doing the best I can," type of look.

A shorter version: Observing before commenting helps people to keep a leash on being judgmental and may yield more open and honest conversations from which all parties involved may be able to learn something.
posted by zizzle at 8:09 AM on December 7, 2010

I'm not sure if your question is about being an introvert in an extrovert world or about different norms surrounding parenting. I understand there are some places the two bump up against each other, but I don't find the sub-sets as clear-cut as you're feeling them now. Anyway, I'm a very introverted person with primarily extroverted kids. That's been a challenge since I've been called upon more and more to face outward as my son(s) (ages 5.5 and 2yo) navigate friendships and the logistics of socializing in the ways they want to. When you add the layer of adult/"motherhood"/extroverted social expectations on top of that it can be tiring, if not oppressive, to an introvert. My forms of coping as an introvert who is also a parent, are:
1. Have a clear, simple picture in my mind of the qualities I want to encourage in my kids
2. Have a clear, simple picture in my mind of the parent I want to be
3. Agree with myself that I don't have to hedge on those things and I don't need permission from anyone to act (or not act) if it's consistent with those pictures
4. Understand that my "rules" or "permissions" are more about the unique needs and skills of my child than about me (ex: My kid can climb anything they want on their own - I figure if they can get up safely they can get down safely. Other kids maybe so, maybe not.)
4. Also--and this was a big one for me--acting on #3 doesn't have to be a big deal. Shed the victim-underdog-me-against-the-world mentality. It's a disservice to you, your kids, and the multitude of forms other families take in the moment.
5. Maintain friendships to the level that feels nurturing and sustainable to me, but also...
6. ...Step outside my comfort zone. This gives me some new skills for interacting with others but isn't a commitment to change my personality or anything. Plus it's something I want to encourage in my kids. An example might be inviting my son's friend and mom over, even though I'd really just prefer the kid to come over. I get to know the mom a bit and that reduces stress about interacting with her at other times.
7. Let my guard down with other parents: "I wiped #2's nose with a post-it yesterday." Basically walk the talk of Being Me.
8. Make sure I get enough time to myself
9. Seek out communities where I can be myself (for me these are often online, like AskMe, YouBeMom, etc.) but also a subset of parents I've gotten to know.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:29 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I guess I'm such an I of an IT mom that I never felt a need to surround myself with a lot of IRL mommy-friends. It probably also helped that until my kids were in upper grade school, we never lived in the sort of white-majority middle/upper-middle-class community where a certain sort of perfectionist parenting can go overboard. So I didn't really experience the sort of criticism you're experiencing for not embracing the gushing, emotionally immersed style of motherhood.

What I did find was that it was easier to find like-minded parents on the Interwebs, which I think tends to attract a higher percentage of thinkie introverts that you find in the general population.

A Terrible Llama's story reminds me of a conversation I had with a fellow grad student in the lobby elevator as we were taking our bags up to our room for an academic conference--my 6-mo-old firstborn was staying with the g'rents so I could attend this event. She asked me if I missed him, and I was like, "Are you kidding me? My boobs are a little uncomfortable, but other than that, this is the HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE."

So we are out there. And we have no clue what a "gift closet" is.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 8:47 AM on December 7, 2010

IT moms, how do you sustain (for YEARS) the chit-chat, gift closets (gift closets?), playground chat--gracious motherhood for *others*--when just surviving the mommy madness at home is tough enough on your temperament?

Hey, I'm in my 18th year of this, so I can 100% promise you this:

Someday, you will meet another mommy who says "I'd rather stick a fork in my eye than take my kids to DisneyWorld," and you will find your new best friend for life. Trust me; she's out there.
posted by dzaz at 12:43 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: WOW. I would hug all of you, but, you know... Your answers made me laugh, and I hope that others will join in. Your words were so great to come home to; thanks.

I have a good group of mothers, and we are good about cutting each other slack (and revealing our messy houses and selves, to lesser extents, depending on the friendships that have evolved within the group). A "screw-'em" attitude won't work for me, as it implies an anger at them (yeeee-ah, I couldn't resist the wordplay in the question title). I'm not angry; I am *flummoxed* and don't always understand the secret protocols of the EF Marthas, or how to respond to them appropriately. If you want me to counsel you on a problem, or help you clean your house, I'm there. But like BlahLaLa's gift example, when I am asked/required/implicitly expected to participate in social rituals, I choke and walk away wondering what's wrong with me that I can't master these simple mommy tasks. The word "party" arises, and my first and silent response is "Why would anybody want to do something like that?" I know I need to take part, so I'm looking for guidance about how to do so, given my lack of intuitive feeling for the softer, social side of motherhood.

Some specific responses to your comments:

BlahLaLa: I *do* accept these other mothers. Although I don't change my parenting around them, I still *feel* awful about my own difference and inadequacy.

the young rope-rider, bardophile: My group talks about the topic of the utopian mother. We all claim to dislike her. Some of these women excel at at the ESF norms despite their protests, and I respond to their ease with insecurity. The fault here is mine.

A Terrible Llama: Hahahahaha! Tissues? Hahahahaha! Listen, I was physically attached to my kids for the first two years of their lives--breast-feeding, sling-wearing, co-sleeping, you name it... They are very, very secure and assertive kids who thrive when, say, get dropped off for play dates or park time. I asked a few friends about sleepovers, and their negative responses made me feel like I was insane and borderline negligent for the assertion that a kid can be away from home. Again, *this is not their fault.* This is my own insecurity about not understanding ESF mommy norms.

rumposinc: Oh, do I ever learn from other parents! I always stole my best parenting lines from my (now late) MIL.

peagood: The Four B's are excellent. I have a farm, and a *lot* going on because of that. Restorative time is close to non-existent, although I do read before bed.

MeiraV: I will certainly look at the Coloroso book; thank you.

Eyebrows McGee: Where I live, there is a strong religious component to parenting and the 100 point scale (while brilliantly observed--I love it!) starts with "Attends a church, 50 points" and major deductions are taken for voting Democratic, empathy for or friendship with GLBT folk, not being churched. These are the moms who take free-range as a matter of family tradition, and not discussion, and boys start hunting with Daddy as soon as they don't need constant potty breaks and can keep quiet for extended periods. No mollycoddling there. These are the mommies who think I and my kids are going to hell. Conversely, the few mommy friends I have here are more aligned with attachment parenting, progressive thought, etc., and tend to be more protective and ESF oriented. My divided sympathies trip me up in both camps.

cocoagirl: Close, but no cigar, because, as you very helpfully put it, the question I have has lots to do with 1) understanding and constructively responding to situations where the "correct" response involves my least-developed and least-preferred skills (lady-hugging in a sad moment, planning parties for children, creating structured activities for play dates, etc.), and 2) forgiving myself for feeling inadequate when I don't get it. Despite my introversion and preference for individualism, I still have to do what I consider the dumb stuff (Valentine's Day? Really?) that other people take Very, Very Seriously because they enjoy being social, and creating special moments for others and making memories. Holidays? Ugh, logistical nightmares. But I have to suck it up, for various reasons. How do I know how and when to do so?

SomeTrickPony, dzaz: My kids are great. Parenting them is sometimes a PITA, and mandatory fun is ALWAYS a PITA (for me; not others, it works for them). I don't need to head to the bar when I drop my kids off somewhere, but honestly? I would rather mow the pasture and haul several hundred pounds of feed rather than sit and chat with other moms while our kids are doing a structured activity. My idea of fun (for me) is getting work done/creating/volunteering, and my idea of fun for kids is that I should provide opportunities for them to *make their own fun.* These tendencies put me well out of sync with common ideas of motherhood, and enough out-of-step with my mommy friends that I am uncomfortable and am looking for ways to fake the acceptable and get hold of *what that is.* I feel badly about that fork in my eye, but at least I got to choose the pattern.


It occurs to me that this question reminds me of the posts that get answered with: "Go read the Five Languages of Love! Adapt to your honey's love style!"

Where is the "Five Languages of Motherhood," and how do I adapt, in public, to the prevailing norms? What secret codes do I need to crack?

I had a very, very hard time crafting this question and I appreciate the wit, wisdom and great kindness that has been shown in your answers. More discussion is welcome. Thank you for your insights.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:51 PM on December 7, 2010

Best answer: I can offer a few specific ideas, and it IS hard when so much of the 100-point scale depends on religion. Very tough.

"My divided sympathies trip me up in both camps."

I usually shrug nicely and say, "We just do it differently in our family" when I run up against a mom who vehemently disagrees with me. I'd say 75% of them are being preemptively defensive and if you don't argue back, they stop feeling attacked and drop it. The other 25% are going to try to pick a fight no matter what because they're either very insecure, or super-evangelists for their "thing," or both.

"1) understanding and constructively responding to situations where the "correct" response involves my least-developed and least-preferred skills (lady-hugging in a sad moment, planning parties for children, creating structured activities for play dates, etc.), and 2) forgiving myself for feeling inadequate when I don't get it."

I've told this story before, I think, but one of my closest friends came over when I had had a TERRIBLE day and had just broken down in sobbing tears in the kitchen moments before my guests started arriving. She and another friend arrived at the same time, found me crying, and she said, uneasily, "Crying makes me really uncomfortable so I'm just going to go sit in the other room until you feel better." (The other friend came and stirred my soup and comforted me.) She felt absolutely sympathetic and hurt for me that I was sad, but she Does Not Do emotional displays. (And even just relating this story in type makes me giggle because it's FUNNY.) It didn't make me think any less of her, although I presume she wouldn't have been as blunt if we weren't as close. Honestly don't worry so much if your responses aren't standard -- be relaxed, be nice, be honest. (And really, there's a reason Miss Manners and Emily Post have chapters on what to say when someone dies/gets married/has bad news/gets promoted/whatever -- most people are NOT GOOD AT THIS! Give yourself a break!) And you can certainly ask a friend to help you plan a party, or get one off the internet, or hire a place that does all the party-planning for you.

"My idea of fun (for me) is getting work done/creating/volunteering"

You can bring a handicraft with you to social hour ... When I know it's going to be tedious and/or I'm going to feel super-duper shy, I'll bring some embroidery. It's a nice conversation starter and it lets me sit in the conversation without having to participate very much. You can also propose the moms bake cookies or something while the kids play.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:34 PM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: You can bring a handicraft with you to social hour

Bingo. Will do. Good idea!
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:45 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

As it turns out, no one can tell you the codes. There are as many codes as there are parents. You've got the religion/hunting/gift closet parents by you, and I've got the nannies/competitive pre-schools/organic food-and-woolen-clothing parents by me. You fit in with your set inconsistently (co-sleep with your babies but comfortably send them off to sleep with strangers when they're older), I fit in with mine inconsistently, and they fit in among themselves inconsistently.

As all introverts must (at work and college and other group situations), you can look for moments of common ground to connect. They are flying to Disney; you are flying to Prague, but you both have to take your children on a flight. It might help to realize that one person's gift closet is another person's wine cellar or sewing room or home recording studio -- an interest, a strategy, an outlet for creativity.

It helps to smile so they know that you mean well and aren't judging them when you're quiet. It helps to reveal as much of yourself as possible. Just like with this question: your OP came across one way, and your follow-up added a lot more to help me try to understand where you're coming from.

I've gotten lots of hints and clues from Facebook, as silly as it is. On Fridays, the other moms sit down with their "yummy" wine and sigh that "life is good," and through those expressions and the comments that others leave, I can witness their interactions and get some tips to use myself in the future.

It is hard, though. I think we create lives for ourselves where we've made our quirks work for us, and then, unexpectedly, it's like junior high all over again -- we have to be with a bunch of random people thrown together by virtue of location, and deal anew with being the nerd or bad at sports or the one with the odd hobby.
posted by xo at 7:26 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

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