Saturday, July 15, 2006

Social Work

The responses to my less than complete satisfaction with Noah’s playgroup lead me to a topic I’ve been meaning to blog about for sometime – the work of Mommy socializing. As a SAHM I consider it part of my job to seek out and maintain friendships with other SAHM’s and their children, both for my benefit and Noah’s. I’m a fairly social lass and in contemplating staying home with kids I always feared I wouldn’t be able to do it because I’d be too lonely. When Mark worked from home I repeatedly said I’d never be able to do it because I NEED the social interaction of the regular workplace. And yet here I am “working” from home, and actually enjoying it more than I ever thought possible. But part of what keeps me sane is socializing with other mothers who are also at home with their kids every day. They are my “work” friends. In the workplace I’ve always become friendly with people who were different then me – they had different viewpoints, different interests, different ways of being than myself. But we had work as common ground – both the location and the ins and outs of the work we did and the people with whom we dealt. And it’s those people who always got me to work every day, who made the drudgery of my job fun. As a SAHM I can’t merely peer over my cubicle wall to meet a new friend, I have to seek them. And I won’t just run into them every day in the same office, I have to make play dates and arrange playgroups. And though some of the Moms I’ve become friendly with wouldn’t exactly fit in with my longstanding pre-Noah friends at a party, they are vital to my happiness.

And of course Noah’s need for socialization is also key. Sure he might sometimes be cautious, passive, sensitive and downright uncomfortable in social situations with kids his own age, but that is all the more reason I have to keep up with the play dates. It won’t ever become manageable for him if he never has to do it. However that being said I also want to say that I don’t believe the reason for Noah’s shyness is because he’s home with me – it seems obvious to me that it’s an inherent part of his personality. Despite seeing some kids regularly for almost a year he’s just warming up to them. Of course if Noah was regularly in a preschool situation he would have to adapt a way of dealing with his shyness or at the very least adapt to the specific children he encountered at school because he'd have no other option. But I don’t think school is a magic pill to cure his sensitivity, caution and passiveness. And thank God. Because though I feel for him when he’s obviously a bit scared in a new situation, I’m also proud of how observant, thoughtful and sensitive he is. I’m glad he’s the boy giving up his toy rather than the one grabbing it out of another child’s hand.

Part of the reason I feel that Noah will most likely remain a bit anxious socially is because that’s how Mark is. I have a perfect example. In two weeks Mark’s aunt and uncle are having a fiftieth wedding anniversary party. And because Noah isn’t permitted to attend and the driving distance and timing involved, Mark has to go to the party solo while I stay home with the boy. And while I’m disappointed I can’t attend, Mark is more so. He’s anxious about having to socialize at a party without me there to help him. And it’s his FAMILY! Of course he’ll go and he’ll have a good time chatting with his aunts, uncles and cousins, but that fear of not having me there to lean on is exactly what I believe Noah experiences. And Mark hasn’t overcome that after many, many years of schooling. He even interacts with people other than me EVERY DAY!

So an occasional bad playgroup session is nothing to sweat. It won’t have me packing my bags and locking myself and the boy back in the house for the day. And if a Mommy friend can be a bit overbearing on occasion, I try hard to overlook it. (As I hope they and you will do for me.) I need those "work" friends desperately, even when I'm annoyed. (That doesn’t however mean I won’t bitch about it sporadically.)


lonna said...

I joined a play group while I was still working to try to meet other moms, and it just didn't work out. I think that I was too different because I was still working. That and the focus of the group was Waldorf, and that's just to hippy freakish for me. I'm all for wood toys, but plastic isn't going to kill Dermot. Anyway, I found that Dermot's interactions in the play group weren't very satisfactory to me. There were usually too few of the attractive toys, which caused possession fights, and some forced cohesion to work on the same projects, and that's just not Dermot's speed. I find that with daycare, he's given much more leeway. If he wants to be in a group, he can be. If he wants to be in a dyad, no problem. If he wants to be alone, great - explore. Also, when they do group activities, it was always a group of 4-6 kids with 1-2 teachers and all of the kids had the exact same discipline and expectations. So it was easier on Dermot to avoid some of his aggressive tendencies. I have noticed, however, that he's much more shy around other kids if we're around. Also, he takes a long time to get used to a new group of kids. This is even with being in daycare. So I also think it's a personality trait.

I guess that in my previous comment I was comparing preschool to the play group, definitely not to being home with you. It's fantastic how well the SAHM situation has worked out for all three of you. I'm sure that Mark is grateful that he doesn't have to worry about Noah during the day. I was also comparing your play group experience with mine and after hearing more details it sounds like I was comparing apples and oranges.

NME said...

Hey Lonna -
It wasn't just your comment that sparked my post - I'd been meaning to post about the social aspects for me and Noah for some time and the comments finally inspired me to do so.

And I need to clarify something about the playgroup to which I am referring. Maybe playgroup is to formal a term. It is merely a weekly gathering of neighborhood children and moms in a neighbors yard - and the moms chat while the kids kind of wander around playing in a wading pool, in the sand, with the toys, etc. There are no structured activities or forced interaction. So there is alot of leeway.

I am looking to join a slightly more structured playgroup soon so I can see how Noah does in that sort of situation.

Oh - and I had no idea what Waldorf was. I had to look it up. WOW. I never heard of such a thing. Seems very counter-culture and strict. That sort of thing can be interesting - but NO academics during the first few years seems a bit odd. But having no real experience with it I can't really say.

OldMotherHubbardSharesAll said...

Wow Lonna - here I was thinking it had something to do with a guy in a little red hat hidden amongst many other things! Okay at the very least going to a Hotel in New York to hang with other moms and kids. I now can go to bed because I have finally learned something today.

N - I think you do an excellent job with making sure Noah has plenty of chances to socialize! Poor Mark I am a very social person (as if that comes as a surprise to any of you on the blog) and I hate going to social things without Randy who is not a social person by nature......I cannot believe the family is having something the excludes the kids! Hello aren't they a part of the family? Anyhow - update Mark on all the latest and greatest movies, books, topics so he will be forearmed!

patrice said...

I always thought that I would do horribly as a sahm because of the social aspect, as well. and I'm not as committed to being outgoing as you are. truth be told, I'd rather take the easy way out and go to work and put bella in daycare. but all kids and all people are different. I love the choice you made and it suits you so well. and noah too.

NME said...

Patrice - going to work is not the easy way out by any means. Just thinking about all the rushing back and forth and balancing work and home life makes me dizzy. I'm pretty sure I'd feel like I was stretched too thin - and I'm sure I'd be miserable. So while you prefer working, I prefer being home. And it's obvious we're both happier that way. It's why choices are so essential to a families happiness.