Sunday, June 6, 2010

I've Been Called a Mother, but Only as a Prefix

My shul just made this announcement:

New Moms Circle Now Forming!
Open to all moms of chlldren under 5 yrs, and moms-to-be.
First play date is Sunday, June 13 at the temple, 1:30 - 2:30pm.
RSVP by June 10.

It prompted me to write this note:

Dear [Redacted],

Thanks for putting this together. Our son, [Redacted], is going to become Bar Mitzvah this summer, so I write not to join up, but to ask if you might consider widening the scope of this group a bit.

It's the dad in our family who stayed home with [Redacted] his first two-and-a-half years. He and I integrated a bunch of stroller groups and playgroups, but it wasn't entirely obstacle-free.

(A) At "Music Together," I was a novelty, but had no feeling of exclusion.

(B) Gymboree was pretty much the same.

(C) I was quite cheerfully welcomed into my local "Mothers First" chapter/playgroup and was happy to pay my dues. Being the only dad at the monthly Moms' Night Out (at a place like Bennigans or Crystal Thai) was usually cause for giggling by us all upon my arrival. Almost invariably, my arrival and announcement that I was looking for the Moms' Night Out group discombobulated the host or hostess.

But it grated a bit that, for two years, the fact that my wife and I had a joint checking account led to her name being enrolled in the national group with which our local chapter/play group was affiliated, rather than me, and that the occasional newsletter came addressed to her.

Five, count 'em five, calls to the national office never got it straightened out.

That one I filed under: "You can't win 'em all."

(D) At a play group at the late, not-so-lamented "Fun Company for Kids" (where the Target is now, at Skyline Mall on Route 7), I was actively shunned for two seasons and then gave up. The one parent in that group who treated me as a peer later told me that my failure to sign up for a third season was greeted by significant relief. Apparantly, I was viewed as having a lot of chutzpah to expect to be welcomed in a group where some moms breast-fed.

No one said I ogled or leered, which was a good thing because it would have been a lie, but the consensus was that even though it was obvious that I was careful to avert my eyes, my very presence made my group-mates uncomfortable.

That one I filed under: "Their loss."
At services this past Saturday, the D'var Torah started out being about tzitzit and tallessim. The Cantor talked about her own decision to wear a talit and opened the discussion up for comments about gender issues in Judaism. I mentioned the twinge of regret I'd felt when I saw the announcement of the new mom's group in this month's Bullettin.

The mom of a toddler picked up my refrain. She works outside the house. Her husband works from home, makes his own schedule (more-or-less) and would be a wonderful person to include in your group. But he wasn't inclined to change around nap times or other schedule-related matters to join up. She seemed pretty sure that he would have been more inclined to do it if the name made it more obvious he would be welcome.

He would be, wouldn't he?

I fear you will read this note and feel "No good deed goes unpunished." You volunteer to do a good and needed thing and some crank unloads his decade-old frustration on you. Please trust that this is not my intent.

I simply mean to point out an issue you might not have considered. If you find merit in my comments and observations, I hope you are moved to act on them. If not, I will pester you no more. You're doing a mitzvah by volunteering to coordinate this project, regardless.

With respect and warm regards, I am

Sincerely yours,



sybil law said...

Great letter! I hope you get a response!

David in DC said...

None yet. I'm kinda disappointed.

David in DC said...

Received a very thoughtful, clear response. Just in time for Shabbos.

That makes me happy.