A few years back I was sharing a glass of wine with some moms from my daughters’ school. We were chatting about how busy it was with school starting and the fall schedules ramping up when I overheard a woman say: “I just want to hang out with the people I know already like. I mean, I have my family and my close friends…is it wrong that I don’t want to spend what little free time I have with people I don’t even know if I’ll like?”
As I watched a few heads bob up and down I was stunned — mainly because we just spent 30 minutes before that talking about mean girls.
Can you say ironic much?
Unfortunately this is not the first time I have seen this sort of isolationist attitude. As the new girl in town, I’ve spent a lot of time this year on the outside of the Mom circle…at my kids’ schools, team practices, at the pool. People may give you a nod and a smile, but they don’t always invite you in if they’re in their circle. I’m not sure if it’s because they are clueless, feel awkward, or just don’t want to be bothered, but it does seem to be common. Don’t get me wrong, I have met some fabulous people in my latest hometown, but there are also times when I feel like the last kid picked for dodgeball.
Earlier this summer I was attending an event with one of my daughters. As she took off with her new friends, the mom who organized it warmly welcomed me, handed me a slip of paper then turned around and joined a group of seven women — in a circle — leaving me standing there by myself. For ten agonizing minutes I stood there feeling like the village idiot while I listened to their conversations about Boy Scouts, vacations and pilates. Not one person came up to me or even looked my way.
Of course I did the obvious. I subtly smelled my pits to make sure I used deodorant that day. I checked the zipper on my shorts because my good friends can attest I’ve left the barn door open on more than one occasion. I even coughed in my hand and did the breath test. As far as I could tell I had no serious bodily offenses going on. What was even worse was I left my iPhone in the car, so I had to stand there practically naked.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I could have gone over to the group myself, but when someone comes to you, then turns and joins a group….it’s a little awkward. I made up for it the next day when I purposefully went up and introduced myself to each and every parent with sunshine and unicorns sprouting out of my butt, and each woman was kind and talkative and is now my friend in return. I don’t hold grudges — in fact I’m pretty sure they were not even aware of what happened — but I won’t forget how I felt either. And I could imagine how it must feel for someone who is more shy and introverted than myself.
Now I’m not the new girl as much, and I get to hang out with the parents I’ve met over the past year. Recently I was chatting with two sweet moms and asked one if she could tell me who a woman was that was standing by herself underneath a tree. I said: “I see her all over town whenever I’m out so I feel like I have to go introduce myself.”
Her response: “That’s so and so’s mom. I don’t know her very well.”
And that’s when it dawned on me. I circled myself and didn’t even realize it. We could not be more un-inviting. One mom had her head in her phone, another was looking at her watch and I was just standing there yapping.
As I watched that mom walk away with her son, I knew what I had to do. I needed to start circle-breaking. I mean, I have super human powers: I will talk to anyone who will listen, I like to think I know a little about everything, and I’ve broken into mom circles in four states. I even have little circle-breaking children.
I attempted my powers with my daughter’s new soccer team. I could have stood off to the side while the other moms and dads who have known each other for years talked about bar-b-ques, jobs and their summer breaks, but I took a deep breath and broke right in. I even brought another new mom with me. And guess what? That circle just disintegrated.
And I found out that you can bust circles even easier from the inside, just by being the one to let someone in. In fact, most of these circles are toilet-paper quality and rip pretty easily. I particularly like to show these powers off in front of my children. It seems to make their force even stronger.
Now I’m not saying every time you’re chatting with your friends you have to invite someone in; BUT be aware. When you see someone hanging off to the side nervously checking their phone, think about breaking it open. Give them the opportunity to join your circle for a few minutes.
I hope more moms start becoming circle breakers and using their powers for good and not evil. Be an example for your child on how to build relationships, build a community, build a positive life. And don’t make someone feel like a loser because they’re on the outside looking in.
For those moms who build their circles out of steel, well I don’t have your kryptonite….yet; but I do believe in karma. Sometimes life happens and you become unhinged from your circle. I just hope someone lets you in.
And for that mom I see hanging out underneath the tree. I’m coming for you.
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