The other day I went for a long, scenic drive. It’s amazing how gorgeous autumnal colors are when your vision is slightly blurred from a combination of exhaustion and a slight caffeine overdose. My 3-month-old son was fighting naps again and I needed to get him moving, only my poor feet couldn’t take another trek around our dead silent, near-vacant neighborhood. So, car it was.
We ended up in a small town loaded with boutiques, eateries and – shock of all shocks to a suburbanite on a work day – people. Pulling my now-rested babe from the car, a panicked thought hit my brain: I needed a bathroom. Badly. Now. But how was I going to manage this alone? Most of these places were small. If they had a restroom for customers there’s no way I’d get a stroller in there. Well, I reasoned, I’d have to wing it. Mommies, as I often remind my son, don’t wear diapers.
Stopping into the first café I could find, I quickly asked where the restroom was while everyone, staff and patrons included, stared at my baby. Want a quick show-stopper or change in subject? Bring a baby into the room. After I apologized for getting in one woman’s way with all my baby bulk, she simply smiled and said, “Oh, I was going to hold the door for you.” And after I was directed to a room the size of a corner-closet for a bathroom, a waitress volunteered to watch my baby. That’s when the fear set in.
That was the quickest trip to the bathroom I’d ever taken. But, I realized that if I didn’t trust this motherly-looking woman and her co-workers I’d be in a far worse situation fairly quickly. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I did what was ultimately best for my son and put a drop of blind faith in a woman I’d never met. It wound up not being a problem, but that wasn’t the point. What was the point was that we spent a few hours in a town full of lovely people who not only complimented my child, but clearly understood the practical logistics of being a mom and were willing to lend a hand so necessary things could happen.
You don’t get that in the suburbs.
I should note that I am very fortunate to have good neighbors. That being said, suburban life is not city life. People come and go as they please. Rarely do they hang around their houses. Most work. And in today’s culture, most homeowners in our neck of the woods are either senior citizens or DINKs – Double Income No Kid couples whose idea of parenting involves dogs or cats. If you do see a woman pushing a stroller, chances are you won’t even get a smile because she’s on her iPhone. The nods you get are from the little old ladies power-walking their way out of boredom.
Socialization for the suburban mom requires joining a mommies group. Some are free, but most charge membership fees and are crafted around a particular interest or activity. There’s Mommy Boot Camp for those seeking to restore their bodies to pre-pregnancy fabulousness. There are the holistic mommies who breastfeed and attachment parent. There are county mommies who go to wine tastings and playdates together. Charming, for sure, but where are the “open the door for you” mommies, or the all-important, “bathroom break” mommies? I don’t need an excuse to party, I need some freaking practical help!
This is why I empathize with Elizabeth Broadbent’s wish to raise her kids in a commune of sorts; Big Love without the polygamy, as she calls it. What she describes is the suburbs of the 1950s when most women were at home when their babies were young and neighborhoods were alive 24/7/365, not just on weekends or after 5. Playdates are great, but on a daily basis I don’t need a social group, I need a helping hand, some company for my kid and a hello or two. And I’d love not to have to load up half of my life into a car and drive an hour away to find it.
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