By Paulina Grace Hay
One thing I’ve felt and heard many times is about being locked out of the “Mommy Club”—a club we felt we had a natural right to join, no special requirements necessary. Then infertility, illness, age, or time black-balled us. We stand wistfully outside trying to get a peek of the mothers inside living their ideal lives. We imagine all the judgment about our “child-free” lives will be washed away once we walk through those golden Mommy gates.
I live in an odd situation where my life straddles having no kids and having one kid. I have a teenage stepson. He was a toddler when I started dating his father. I am not a full-time stepmother and my son’s mother is very active in his life. Due to this unexpected loophole, I have been granted a “special guest pass” into the Mommy Club. But with restricted privileges. I’ve been outright ignored, given the once over, and warmly greeted. Sometimes by the same person.
I found my place at the club in the fly-on-the-wall seat. I’ve done my share of listening and observing over the years from this post. From the moment a woman is pregnant, people have lots of opinions to share in front of her face and behind her back. I’ve watched the awkward “Congratulations” and subsequently more awkward baby shower for the 19-year-old who got admitted too soon. I’ve watched one mother look down her nose at another for paying for lunch milk rather than packing it. I’ve heard one mother refer to another’s young child as “homely”. In return came an insult about their son’s need for a haircut. I’ve watched smiling faces drop like lead balloons after having an unexpected insult directed their way. I’ve heard the voices lower and eyes begin shifting as a group insult gains momentum.
If anything, admittance into the Mommy Club only ramps up your potential areas of judgment. Some are the old stand-bys. Your age. Your weight. Your hair. Your outfit. Your car. Your house. Your husband. Your ex-husband. Your job. Your decision to stay home. Then multiply all of those things by your child and husband. Possibly your parents and your dog, too. How you raise your kids has the highest potential for conflict of all.
The Mommy Club is not for the faint of heart. Often I saw these women enter with full armor on, even if it looked like yoga clothes, in the chance a battle may begin at any time. Very different to the rose-colored version I imagined, where a new mother would be greeted with open arms and loving support once inside the club walls.
My biggest lesson from access into the Mommy Club is this: Being a mother does not make you automatically connect with another person. I’ve found the same holds true for infertility. It just might give you something to talk about for a few minutes or a few get-togethers. We are more complex and interesting than our children. Or lack of them. I choose to instead consider that we are all part of the Human Club. And for that, there is no special admittance required.
Paulina Grace walked away from the infertility roller coaster six years ago. She hopes to help other women let themselves grieve and then let themselves live. Outside of running her own business, Paulina fulfills her need to nurture by being an involved aunt and caring for her aging parents.