I adore Bravo's "Odd Mom Out" for its cunning wit and sarcasm in depicting the relatable feeling of not fitting into the phenomenon known as a "mom group." The show focuses on a group of wealthy moms from New York's Upper East Side who mostly share the same environmental variables. The hilarious difference is in the moral grounding of the main character, Jill Weber, that leads to conflicting parenting priorities compared to her head-in-the-clouds socialite family and extended circle of friends.
Though the show depicts the high-pressure parenting expectations of New York's social elite in an amusing way, there's a truth to the awkwardness that can occur within these mom groups. This is especially true for those moms who don't fit into society's perceived stereotypical all-American family; the moms who find themselves feeling like the "odd mom out." These moms are the minority, usually not heard from because they are too busy trying to keep kids, career and home afloat without missing a beat. Moms of households that don't look like the preconceived "norm" are underrepresented and inaccurately portrayed on television. I've never met a single parent mom who was as relaxed as Lorelai on the "Gilmore Girls" and there are few, if any, other referenceable examples of starring roles of moms of children with disabilities.
In my own experience as a single, working mom since my daughter was an infant, I've spent much of the last five years feeling like the "odd mom out." For me, the odd-mom-out experience first emerged at birthday parties, where I was the only single parent. I thought the other moms assumed something must be wrong with me since I didn't have a husband in tow, or worse, if my daughter got a boo-boo, I was terrified of being judged for not successfully preventing the offending scrape or bruise. So I kept to myself in a nice cozy corner, and spent the time mindfully studying my piece of birthday cake as if I were a pastry-obsessed Sherlock Holmes.
To make matters worse, I lack the inherent skills needed to create cutesy things for holidays, teacher recognition, birthdays, etc. Pinterest has provided a platform for resourceful DIY moms to construct adorably creative crafts, gifts and accessories for all occasions. If I had a dollar for every time someone said "you should check this out on Pinterest," I would have enough for my daughter's college tuition! Mind you, it's not that I haven't tried to be a crafty mom. I once attempted to make "easy" pizza twists which turned out looking like mini volcanos that erupted on my stovetop. Being craft-challenged and time-restricted, I rely on store-bought goody bags for my daughter's parties and gift cards for teacher appreciation events. And I still haven't been able to overcome the Pavlovian cringe response every time I hear the word "Pinterest."
The one thing I do have, as a single mom, is time to myself. Many married moms tell me they are jealous that I have "time to myself," but I'm sure if they had legally obligated time away from their children, they would not covet this "free time." Either way, I've made single friends who like to go out, see some concerts and check out new hot spots. But I quickly learned that singles go out on a whim, and many nights I had my daughter and couldn't drop everything to hit up the cool event that evening. I enjoyed single-life gossiping about dating successes and hilarious failures but my stories were also peppered with the saga of losing baby teeth and the funny things my daughter would say at dinner.
Feeling disheartened and disconnected, my odd-mom-out sensitivity reached a breaking point when, at an elementary school fair, my daughter's feelings were hurt when her two friends hopped on a ride that only allowed two kids at a time. Despite my continual efforts to reassure her that they didn't leave her out and did want to play with her -- it was purely bad timing in where the line broke -- she melted down, retreated to the top of a hill and sobbed. I sat next to her and my eyes welled up with tears because I couldn't honestly say I felt any differently. I looked around and desperately wanted to find another single parent at the event who could empathize but it was clear this was solely on my shoulders. I started to wonder how I was going to be enough support for her for the next 13 years of school life.
And just when I was sure the evidence was damning enough to prove I was the odd mom out, my daughter's friends' parents came over and reached out to us. They shared stories of how they helped their children with similar sensitivities. They repeatedly offered help anytime I needed it, telling me I can't be afraid to ask when I need a helping hand. They offered future fun activities for our kids to do together. That night, we all walked home together in a group of giggly kids, babbling toddlers and ever-tired, yet jovial adults.
At the end of the evening, I stopped to observe the scene and realized I was never the odd mom out. Just because my situation was not the same as other families, as parents and children, we were no different. Moreover, some of the same parents who reached out to me at the fair were also at those initial birthday parties. It wasn't just me who was worried about being judged for what might happen to my daughter - it was every mother. And the Pinterest moms who have enviable creative skills, resources and time - they have told me they don't know how I hold together a career and a family. They don't judge my store-bought party favors, rather they are impressed I pull together a great party for my daughter year after year.
Many moms of families who do not fit the preconceived "norm" may find themselves feeling like the odd mom out, not fitting neatly in with any one social circle. The fact is the things that make us feel different are the same things that help us relate to almost any type of family. We have the extra grit and determination that comes with facing situational challenges and we share the same worries that come with being a mother. My hope is that anyone who is feeling like an odd mom out will be able to step back and see we are all in this together, raising our children to the best of our abilities and offering a hand when someone else needs a little extra help.