Cool Mom. I love being a dad. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I have a one-year-old and a three-year-old. They’re awesome. I work from home and my wife works many hours in an office. That means I’m the one who’s most often taking our kids to the park, to weekend classes, to birthday parties. I’m not complaining about this at all. She works hard and I’m down to be with my kids as much as possible. It’s just that, in our neighborhood — typical suburb USA — I’m a rarity. It’s mostly moms taking care of their kids. And, I have to say, some of the mom groups, especially at the playground, are so fucking clicky (sic) At the park, there’s this one group of moms in particular that give me the side-eye, never invite me into any conversations, and typically do their best to make me feel like an outsider. I’ve even approached them on several occasions to chat and they treat me very coldly. The chats have been very short and awkward and they never ask me any questions. I don’t mind this — well I mind a little because how could I not? — but what really bothers me about this high school shit is that it effects my kids. I know these women would get to know my wife and probably arrange playdates. But these moms are fucking brutal. I’m an OUTSIDER. This much is clear. There are some moms in classes and parties that I can talk to no problem, but they’re rare. I don’t really have a question . But what the hell? — Curtis via email
Oof, yeah, as someone who frequently feels like an outsider in mom groups, I totally sympathize with your plight here. I try to tell myself the other moms are just intimidated by my overwhelming coolness and MILFitude, but yeah, that reasoning only goes so far.
I imagine this applies doubly to you because you’re a dad: unfortunately, many people have internalized some pretty toxic stereotypes about stay-at-home dads, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case here. It’s possible that some of these women are probably looking at you and seeing not the awesome, hands-on parent that you are, but a shiftless, layabout schlub, and even if that’s not at all the case, it would account for some of their suspicion towards you.
To an extent, there’s nothing you can do about the fact that some of these women may be assholes. And if this is the case, the fact that they’re freezing you out shouldn’t bother you that much. After all, it doesn’t seem like you find them particularly cool or interesting, and in any other context I doubt they’d pass the middle America presidential electability test (i.e. whether or not you’d have a beer with them). But as you mention, their cliquiness is affecting not just you, but your kids, which means that you’re going to have to find a way to meet them on their level.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how your social skills are), there is a solution to this problem: good old-fashioned ass kissing. These moms are a tough crowd, and you’re going to have to make a significant effort to work them. That doesn’t mean being overly solicitous or effusive, but you do kind of have to approach them the way a presidential candidate would on the stump (For inspiration, I’d watch YouTube videos of Bill Clinton on the campaign trail. I don’t care if he’s problematic now, that motherfucker was charming.)
Make it clear to these moms that you are a person who can be of use to them. Offer to have one of their kids over for a playdate so they can go out for a paint-and-sip night or a Robyn concert or a facial or whatever the hell they want to do. Volunteer to bring homemade snacks to the park one day. These women spend 12 hours a day alone with their children. Any small effort you can make to make their lives easier is going to be appreciated.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t take offense if these women don’t make the effort to engage you. You have to do the work to engage them. These are stay-at-home moms. The most intellectually rigorous conversation they have all day are likely about whether dinosaurs had feathers, or if Elsa has prettier hair than Moana. They are champing at the bit to talk to an adult about literally anything. They couldn’t give less of a shit about you and your needs and interests, so don’t wait for them to ask you questions about your life — ask them questions about theirs. I can almost guarantee that after a few minutes, you won’t be able to shut them up.
If all else fails, and good old-fashioned politicking and social finessing doesn’t do the trick, then you have one last tool in your arsenal: identifying the weakest link. In my experience, there is always one person in every social circle who feels a little bit like an outsider, and is desperate for the opportunity to spill the tea about their friends. Find that person and befriend them. Because when all else fails, there is no greater unifier than talking shit.
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