I quit the neighborhood playgroup. In return, I experienced a lot of mommy guilt.
I never wanted to join a playgroup. I’m fickle, noncommittal and quite frankly, was scared of them. Playgroups seemed to me an incubator for my generation’s special brand of over-achieving, hyper-competitive, manual-reading and obsessive parenting. In other words, a place to expose my many imperfections. Once we moved to the suburbs, however, I figured it was time for me to fully embrace my minivan lifestyle. My kids needed friends and so did I. So we went to playgroup every Monday morning, 9:30 to 11.
My kids easily assimilated. They loved it. I tried. There was always a spread of wonderful food. Conversation revolved around parenting issues and neighborhood gossip, neither of which I care much about. I tried to be interested. I felt itchy and uncomfortable.
Once, another mother fastidiously wiped crumbs from the floor by my feet as I ate a muffin and then went after my “very messy” daughter with a washcloth. Another time, I asked if anyone had seen Black Swan, an Oscar contender at the time. Silence. Then, with a pronounced icky face, someone replied, “Way too much lesbian sex for me.” (Mental note not to discuss popular culture anymore.)
I even hosted once and without going in to detail, the kids’ discovery of some spray paint in my basement didn’t help my plight to assimilate. More icky faces, this time toward my parenting failure. So, I diplomatically quit.
Now, I take a Pilates reformer class on Monday mornings. I love it. My kids go to childcare at the gym and they’ve made plenty of friends there. They no longer ask about playgroup and since I’m happier, we’re all happier.
Courtney Messenbaugh is a freelance journalist in Lafayette, Colorado where she lives with her husband and three children. Vote for Courtney’s entry here.