11.23.2004

Baby group anxiety

Today, for the first time in almost two months, I attended the Baby & Me group at our hospital. Buddy Boo and I first started attending the 0-4 month old group when he was about a month old. We attended every week until I went back to work. No matter how tired I was or what kind of a mood Boo was in at the time, we went to the playgroup. Today was the first time we attended the 5-8 month group, and I was admittedly very nervous.

For me, there's a lot of anxiety attached to these type of groups. I almost turned the car around to go home halfway there. There are a lot of pressures being a mom (kind of like being President, according to Idiot: "It's hard work. I'm under a lot of pressure." Half of this country would like to relieve you of that pressure, sir. But, I digress). These groups are supposed to be a safe environment for moms of all walks of life who believe in all types of parenting. Yet it's hard not to compare yourself to other moms, to compare your baby to other babies, and to question your way of parenting when you are in these groups. It's inevitable, and sometimes, even though I know I will be so grateful for going afterward, I am filled with anxiety on the way there. I'm plagued by pointless questions: Who will be there? Will I be surrounded by the militant SAHMs who are appalled that I went back to work? Will I be the only one there who doesn't have set nap times for my baby? Nobody likes to stand out, and as a new mom, I definitely don't like standing out in a group full of what I deem to be are competent, with-it moms and their perfect children.

So Boo and I ventured to this new group with many unknowns. As always, I am very glad we went. The older group is a smaller group (I suspect because many of the moms have gone back to work full time by this age and don't all have flex schedules). There was E and her sweet daughter Baby L, whom we first met in our birthing class. J, her husband R, and their early developer son Baby A, whom we first met in the younger playgroup. A man, his mom, and a set of rambunctious and adorable twins. A full-time WOHM, her husband and their son. Finally, there was our group leader.

As I arrived late, I opened the doors to see smiling faces and hear welcoming greetings from everyone. I felt better instantly. Gym mats were on the floor, and I realized why they were needed as soon as Boo and I sat down and he lunged for the toy I just placed in front of him. This was definitely a different group from the one we used to attend. These babies now had real personalities. They were crawling, climbing, sitting, reaching, screeching, and playing games. I looked at Boo, sitting up all by himself, eating his teether toys, reaching for Baby A's stacking cups and smiling at Baby L, and I realized that I had a different baby now too.

There was a gentlenes to this group that I didn't always feel with the earlier group. People were more apt to ask and answer questions honestly than to simply brag about their baby's newest accomplishments, as they were apt to do in the younger group. There was a general feeling of support and encouragement. Perhaps it is because not only are our babies growing up, but so too are we as parents. We no longer feel the need to impress others as much. We know our babies better and understand that no other baby in the room is exacly like our own. We have learned to embrace parenthood with all its bumps, bruises, and glories. We now know it's okay not to know. We're more comfortable in this new skin, which is no longer new but feels like an old comfy coat that we've had for ages and never want to part with.

The parents in today's playgroup, above all, were nice. They were friendly, and they made me feel welcome. They made Boo feel welcome too, and I relished watching him watch the other babies and attempt interaction. He's not quite at the "Hi, my name is Boo can I pat you on the head?" phase as some of the older babies are, but he's fascinated when they come up to him and initiate communication. I love that. Baby A really wanted Boo to wear one of the stacking cups on his head like a hat, and Boo seemed intrigued by that. I love watching him take everything and everyone in, and then try to crawl over to join the party or laugh back at a smiling face.

For Boo's sake, I'm going to try to go as much as possible. Maybe every playgroup won't always feel as warm and fuzzy as today's, but I know with each visit Boo will learn something, and see something or someone new. Each visit will help me feel more comfortable in my role as Mom, and help Boo find his place in the world. Or at least, learn playskills that will help him on the playground years from now.

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