Recently I came to the realization that now that I am a mom, I need to work on how to talk to non-moms!
Here’s the scene:
I’m at a networking thang, sighhhh, trying to stick my neck out and meet new people. So I strike up a conversation with 2 ladies. One whom was late-40’s and corporate and the other one young, fresh-faced go getter. I asked the corporate woman how she came to be in the role she is today. Her story began with, “well, I have been doing this for only about 5 years, I previously was a stay at home mom to 3 kids.” Lovely – how cool for her!
This statement instantly drove a wedge between the moms and the non-mom in this conversation.
There was now a bond between myself and the corporate mom. I have zero corporate anything in my blood, I probably actually related most to the free-spirited outdoorsy-bike-riding chick. BUT, now that the “mommyhood” was brought up, our secret club was revealed, and there was no turning back. It was just so natural, it rolled off my tongue…question after question about her kids and her journey with them at home and deciding to work again, on and on I went. All the meanwhile, I’m trying to drum up questions to engage the young lady to my right who was standing there, CLEARLY feeling left out of the conversation.
“…I have a cat. Haha” the young woman chimes in. And we all giggle a bit, kindly…but with a tiny bit of sadness that acknowledged that in fact, she was different.
This struck me so hard, because just a year and a half prior I did not have a child. I am so new to this mama gig, I have 1 child, and he isn’t that old. So why do I feel SOOOO distant from this awesome chick who I normally would have befriended?
Well, it usually goes back to MY fears or MY issues and has very little to do with the other person:
- I know/feel she won’t understand when I can’t (or legit don’t feel like) going to get a drink on a weeknight. My husband works 6-7 days a week in the evenings, so I AM the childcare. I also want to actually see my child awake during the day at least once, and that is my priority once I peel myself away from work (I work 6a-6p). So unless you want to go to Chick-Fil-A or come to my house and grab a drink…I’m probably not going to say yes in this season of my life.
- I know/feel she doesn’t want to hear my talk about all the new words, or funny things, or milestones Cooper has hit.
- I know/feel she doesn’t want to see 25 toddler selfies, or a video of him eating (again). Tangent, I have WAY too many pictures or videos of Cooper in his high-chair or eating in general…because that’s when he slows down enough to snap an in focus pic – I should work on that, his baby book…if I did that sort of thing…would only have pics in a high-chair. Tangent over.
- I know/feel that I would just want to tell her SO much about going after things and traveling now, and for pete’s sake – saving buckets of money now, and really…she doesn’t want to hear that warning. She wants to make her own path, and she should.
I left the event feeling so weird, like I’m now on the other side. I know that’s ridiculous because we are all the same, and we were all once not a mother, and we all don’t hold ANYTHING against those who aren’t mothers.
A few years back, I remember going to friend’s parties and for several years I was the only one in that group that didn’t have children. It was pretty obvious I was an outsider within my own friends. And it truthfully sucked, it hurt. I was left out in the conversations, not because I didn’t try to hop in but literally what information could I add besides saying ‘he/she is sooooo cute, omg,’ or ‘wow, that must be hard’ or ‘I can only imagine how crazy that is.’ It certainly created some distance, and I regret holding it against the moms for that.
So here are the things I wish I would have done and how I’ll engage non-moms in the future:
- Keep asking questions. Kids are the default subject, and well, I’m a little rusty on the rest of life’s topics. But keep digging, keep asking open ended questions and let her talk.
- Acknowledge that she may be tired too. We don’t own ‘tired’ or ‘worn-out’, and yes…we know a different type of tired as moms, but everyone gets tired, busy, stressed. It’s just with whatever is at hand. Do not try to trump her ‘busy’ or ‘crazy’ life by saying, ‘you don’t even know tired yet.’ That’s condescending and just rude. You were tired then too.
- Put your own fears, selfishness, or agenda aside. If I’m truly in a conversation to get to know someone, then I need to listen. Listen hard and look for ways to help them on whatever their journey is. Can I connect them with someone I know? Can I support her cause? Can I just listen and be kind. It’s not all about me.
- Celebrate her. Her accomplishments, future plans, small-wins, big-wins, personal overcomings, upcoming travel, school or career moves. All of these things are important, so celebrate and support those with a genuine heart.
- Remember how you felt. You’re really no different, you’re both strong and capable women. Enjoy that!
I hope these help, I ADORE the non-moms in my own life, and desperately need them and love them more than they know. I was just so caught off guard in this scenario. And how about a new term for ‘non-moms’ —- how about NORMAL PEOPLE!