The junior high of the Mommy Group

The junior high of the Mommy Group

‘I could never be friends with her! She’s far too attractive!’ The perils of Mommy Group are startlingly similar to those experienced in high school.

Originally published May 6, 2011 in the National Post

‘I can’t go for lunch,’ I tell my friend, ‘I have Group today.’

Saying this makes me feel terribly louche, like I’m tousled and troubled and court-mandated. But the truth is, I don’t trudge to church basements to talk to fellow sufferers about addictions, or anger management, or how I’m going to recreate myself after a lifetime of crime. The group I clock in for is full of much, much more dangerous sorts.

It’s Mommy Group.

Be gentle with me. It’s my first time.

Tomorrow will be my inaugural Mother’s Day, and even though I’m all grown up and have a four-month-old (Baby Ben, if you’re reading this, Mommy wants a gift card from H&M), a career, friends, nice shoes and a well-dressed husband who smells good, there’s nothing like being suddenly chucked into a world of random women to bring back memories of junior high, particularly when Mommy Group takes place at the local public school. I walk through the door and suddenly I’m bemoaning why I haven’t gotten my stupid period yet, why no boys will kiss me (it’s BO, I know it!) and, most importantly, how can I make friends with the popular girls?

I look around the room at the seemingly innocent and so-far friendly moms. The people taking parental leave seem to still be, by and large, women, though in my downtown neighbourhood, there are definitely a good amount of ex-hipster dads stumbling around with their hair sticking up. The jovial public health nurse teaches us lullabies, leads discussions about everything from baby sleep habits to the horrors of post-pregnancy sex (“Take some lube” appears to be her main advice, as she shoves free packets at us, along with a healthy handful of condoms. Thank you, City of Toronto). All the while, I’m scanning and assessing the crowd. Because Mommy Group isn’t really about the babies. They don’t need friends yet, Ben is perfectly happy playing with his spit-up cloth. And it’s not really about learning what foods to introduce, either. Let’s be frank, ladies. This is the first step in forging alliances with the other Moms whom you will be running into constantly for the next five years.

I like her, she’s rather jolly, now isn’t she? That one over there lives just down the street and has a boy too, hmmm … could be very convenient … That one’s too pretty — I can’t be seen with her. She’s off the list!

I look around the room and wonder if the mother of Ben’s future bestie is in here. Or maybe even, a new friend for moi? Though it might help if I learn their names. I’ve discovered that shouting: “Um, hey you there … um … … mother of Tessa!!” down the street doesn’t necessarily get the results you’re looking for. I’m lucky, however, in that I live in Leslieville, where the streets are paved with Bugaboos and they serve baby food at the local café (no, really). So if one mom rebuffs my lusty advances, I can always run her over with my stroller and move on to the one walking off her baby fat right behind her.

It’s a double-edged sword, though, these ladies with their boobs out feeding their spawn in a chummy, half-naked circle. Because while they may be my best hope for a not-deranged-with-boredom maternity leave, they are also my most vicious competitors. During one session at Group, a mom gamely gives tips on how to get a highly coveted spot at local daycare. I panic. What is she thinking! Doesn’t she realize we’re all fighting for the same spots? It’s like the class gossip announcing to all the prettiest girls in class that the boy you’ve had a crush on for months is finally not going steady with what’s-her-face. Couldn’t she have given me a head start? What next? Fighting over spots for swim class?

Apparently, yes. It’s a brave new mommy world. And I hear it lasts for the rest of my life.

So far, I’ve actually been a bit lazier than I should be about cultivating the other moms in my area. Thanks to the fact that we all waited until the very last nanoseconds of our viable fertility to procreate, it seems like almost all my closest friends have also had babies recently, though none of them live nearby. I make plans to spend the day with one.

“We could hit a baby group,” she suggests helpfully, in the same way she used to suggest: “We could hit an after-hours.”

Yeah, no thanks, honey. I’ve got my own.