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I ring the bell. A young-ish, attractive lady with dark rings under her eyes, which I've come to know as a trademark feature of nearly all moms including me, answers the door. I greet her with the sort of enthusiasm that deep down I know is kinda fake but on the surface, it seems only natural. She greets me back with a little less enthusiasm. I enter the room and the conversations gradually die down. It's a bit stifling to stand there when four pairs of eyes that instantly flocked to me in warm welcome earlier are now holding me at the door, sizing me up. Ok, fine. I haven't seen them in a while and things are bound to change one way or another.
But wait. Is it me or do I sense a bit of hostility?
Me [sheepishly]: What's up guys? Am I late?
Mommy 1: No no. Class is just about to end. Where were you?
Me: Oh! It's just that I come to the park a little late now. Household errands to finish. You know how it is.
Mommy 2: We mean where were you at the beginning of class? We came in and saw Saanvi all by herself!
Me [quizzical face]: What do you mean all by herself? Mommy 3 told me class is going to start in ten minutes. And she asked me whether I wanted to stay to meet the teacher or leave. I thought I'll meet the teacher after class. And since, Kid 3 and Saanvi had settled down to play, there was no reason to stay.
Mommy 2 [half-smiles]: You know we all stay until the teacher comes. Even if we'd also like to be able to go for a run.
Me: Oh, do you? Well, that's your choice then isn't it?
Mommy 1: Ok. Stop it guys! Accha tell me. Is Saanvi going to a big school yet? Have you at least thought about which school you're enrolling her in....
I don't know how picking up my kid from a class quickly spiralled down to being an audition of "Who's the Crappiest Mom?" I know what was happening there. The sorority was beckoning me. They were attacking me for being a lax mom.
Umm...have I lost you? Let me explain.
Maybe I should start by saying something about myself. You see, I have never been the kind of person who clings to a sorority or a club or any group of like-minded people. For that reason, I never was a part of any. I didn't join Rotaract or AISEC in college, even though most of the people I'd have liked to get to know better were a part of it. It's cos I'm just so much better at one-one conversations than group discussions. I also think that when you are a part of a big group, you act and behave differently — groups have a tendency of bringing out the ugly side of people. Fine, I'm just being weird about it. Well, the truth is I'm an introvert so that's got a lot to do with what I feel about large groups and gatherings. Sure, I'd love to belong to a sorority where everyone's got my back. But I've got my family and friends for that. That's just redundant then, isn't it?
So, it only came as a surprise to me, that after I became a mom, I was unknowingly pulled into the biggest sorority ever - the sorority of moms.
Initially, I didn't understand. I was enjoying the whole new independence of taking my baby out to the mall by myself but on an unfortunate day, she'd start wailing, producing unfamiliar, high-voltage sounds that could bring down the whole mall. I'd look around helplessly, pretending she wasn't my baby. And just out of nowhere, an empathetic mom would emerge and hold my baby for me while I got her feeding bottle out. We'd be sitting at a restaurant — well, I'd be sitting and my husband would be taking our baby sight-seeing around the restaurant while I continued to wolf down my delicious, steaming-hot sizzler. A mom from another table would look at me, smile and say, "I've been there." I'd be in the ladies room, in one of the booths with my three-year old daughter expounding at length the sacred ritual of my private business for the benefit of everyone. I'd hear a giggle from the other booth and while washing hands, another lady smiling ear-to-ear would tell me how I'm never going to pee alone. EVER.
It took me a while to accept my unannounced, lifetime membership into the Universal Mommy Club. But now that I am a somewhat-known member, I'd like to say Thank You! Thank you stranger moms for having my back when I needed it the most. Thank you society park moms for listening to my rants, even though most of them featured DIY jellyfish costumes, Peppa Pig anecdotes and the very popular "What are you paying your kid's nanny?"(Not that I have one.) Thank you mommy groups for teaching me how to say "Hang in there." or "I know what you mean." to other moms before sucker-punching them with "You should know better."
Mostly, I'm happy to be in this beautiful, all-inclusive club that comes with free playdates, inside-jokes, Ellen Degeneres type heart-to-hearts and party favours. Although, I still don't know if I whole-heartedly BELONG to this wonderful tribe of women raising children. There are times when, I won't deny, I feel like I'm above just being a mom and I want to have a life of my own, detached from being just another mom. A life that includes uninterrupted Game of Thrones marathons, writing guest columns for Vogue, Sangria nights with single women-friends and talking at length of vague, cotton-candy dreams and high-flying vacation itineraries. It is in those moments that I find myself withdrawing from this club. I find myself taking other moms for granted and judging them. I find myself cringing away from moms who speak their mind a little too blatantly. I stay clear of moms who go a little over-the-top to add magic to their children's lives (while all I can do is add Maggi Magic Masala to my everyday aloo-gobhi).
But even in those weak moments, my sorority comes forth to the rescue and pulls me back. Sometimes, my tribe wants me to tag along and do everything with them, exactly the way they're doing it, including talking about the baby's bowel movements and sippy cups in the same sentence. But mostly, they just plain understand me. And even in moments when, in my confused identity, I started relating more to my single friends or married friends without babies, my tribe stood there by me and guided me back. The Moms Club makes you appreciate how much fun it can be to raise a family and yea, the fact that they're also pretty much in the same boat as me. Juggling their personal dreams with familial reality and going a wee bit crazy on the way.
And it occurred to me, that no matter what they'd say to me, no matter how much we'd annoyingly ramble on about baby fat, no matter what I'd feel about them, no matter how much I'd run and hide from them, we're sisters of the same sorority. For life.
And I can't tell you how comforting it is to know that :).
Are you a happy Mommy Club member? But do you also sometimes feel the need to pretend to be, you know, NOT a super-mom and just an ordinary girl wanting your ME-time? Mommies, I'd love to hear from you!