A-Men Monday: Man Amongst the Moms

Monday, November 1, 2010

Welcome to A-Men Monday!

Every Monday this month Ms. Mary Mack will feature a guest post by a fabulous father—some of theses men are first-timer dads, others have been around the block twice and are even considering a third lap. But one thing is certain about all of them: there are fine, fine fathers.

As mentioned last night (in a rare weekend missive), that A-Men Monday is happening during Movember makes us even more excited about our series.

And remember to tell us what you think.  Leave a comment, weigh in, share your own tales from the (father)hood, or maybe post a pic of your Movember whiskers. We always want to hear from you.

So, here we go …

First up to bat: freelance writer and dad to two boys, Michael Myser.

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Man Amongst the Moms
By Michael Myser

Amanda was the one who got away. She of the slightly conservative dress and political views. Then there was the easy conversation.

She was a mom, with a daughter the same age as my older son. We’d met in the Morristown Moms and Tots club and hit it off immediately.

As a stay-at-home dad and freelance writer, the lifestyle I lead doesn’t lend itself particularly well to forging new friendships. It did help that Amanda lived in the same townhouse complex, and the kids had matching nap schedules (a key to any meaningful mom’s club friendship).

Less than a year later, however, she’d moved south about an hour away. Our (really, my) attempts to keep up contact fizzled with the birth of our second kids.

With a 3- and 1-year-old, I’m now the lone Dad in the Moms Club of Somerville. I joined, ostensibly for the kids, but like parents everywhere in search of adult conversation, I also joined for me. This now being my third moms group in just over three years, I’m examining five critical characteristics—other than naps, of course—that can lead to a man making friends in a mom’s world:

Multiple Kids
As if life weren’t hectic enough with a single newborn, lack of sleep, new diseases and feeding schedules, anyone who knows the ins and outs of a moms club realizes he needs another kid. Why? Playgroup. The lifeblood of moms clubs, playgroups are broken up by age, dividing a handful of children and their moms (and dad) into self-selecting cliques. Two kids doubles your chance of making a new connection. My wife wants a third baby. I’m actually considering it … for the playgroup opportunities.

Well-behaved Children
A corollary to multiple kids is that the child be on his best behavior. In order to have an adult conversation, the kids in the playgroup (you know, the reason we’re there), must play nicely together. If you’re breaking up fights, picking up crying infants or chasing a three-year-old on the slide because he’ll play with you and only you, there’s no chance of chatting. Adding a degree of difficulty: the other kids in the group must behave as well.

Willingness to Over-share
The first time I met Amanda, she was discussing how her daughter tore her up during birth. Yes, down there. But I’d heard it all before—after all, my wife went through the same thing and discussed it at length with every one of her friends. And me. So when Amanda brought it up, I didn’t recoil, I joined in the conversation! And from that point, I knew I was in.

Other common and uncomfortable topics:

  • Religion
  • Complaining about your spouse
  • Politics
  • Questioning others’ parenting techniques
  • And while I wouldn’t dare be the first to bring up sex, especially as the only guy in the group, it too must be on the conversation table.

Female Football Fans
Look, we’re men. Whether we’re the stay-at-home parent in the family or not, we love our sports, and can only over-share for so long. It’s imperative to have that lowest-common-denominator conversation starter. I’m an Ohio State graduate and football fan (2002 National Champions!), and our current infant playgroup has both Penn State and Notre Dame fanatics. Lull in the conversation? Make fun of Joe Paterno or show pity for Notre Dame after their most recent embarrassing loss.

Chance Encounter
“I’d rather be lucky than good” is one of my own father’s favorite proclamations. Throughout our lives, we’ve been stuck together by chance. You might sit next to someone in 8th-grade history class, get assigned a random college roommate, move to a new city or start a new job. Moms group is the same thing. Sure, it’s a slightly different equation as the only dad, but ultimately, I’m relying on luck of the draw to make new friends. Once I came to grips with this fact of life, the pressure to control the situation disappeared.

The truth is, I typically have nothing in common with most of these women except that we have two kids. Still, I might be lucky enough to meet one mom I’ll click with. So here’s to finding the next Amanda.

And if not, maybe we’ll have that third kid.

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Michael Myser is a stay-at-home dad of two and freelance writer in Somerville, New Jersey. Listen to his journalist v. PR podcast The Hack and the Flack, and follow his parenting, sports and other random tweets at @mywrite.

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