Dear School Moms,
Yes, you! And you, and you, and you, and of course, you. Allow me to start off by saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry for so many things, and believe me when I tell you I have a lot to be sorry for.
You see, my son attended this elementary school for six years, and for six years I secretly judged you. I judged the coveted circle you stood in. I judged the inside information only you seemed to know. I judged your relationships with teachers, administrators, and yes, even students. I judged you because I didn’t know you, sure, but I really judged you because I was jealous.
I envied you walking your kids to the school gate while I commuted to work in traffic. I resented every forgotten lunch pail and homework assignment retrieved on a moment’s notice while I pounded a keyboard in my cubicle. I was jealous of your class volunteer efforts, chaperoned field trip memories, and presence at every student recognition assembly, no matter how small. I wanted what you had. I wanted my kid’s school to feel like a familiar stomping ground. I yearned for the camaraderie of my fellow school moms. I wished for my kid to be able to look out into a sea of parents and see me there every time. But I didn’t have those things, and your faces were the ones my kid saw.
Part of me wanted to know you, probably just so I could say I did. Maybe it was my inner 7th grade misfit hoping you’d notice me, maybe it was to boost my mom cred, or maybe it was to prove to myself that y’all weren’t worth knowing at all. It would have been easier that way, you know? If you ladies were rude or shamefully exclusive or only wore pink on Wednesdays, at least then I wouldn’t have felt like I was missing out on so much.
I wondered how I could ever break in when I never showed my face at school. Could we ever have something special, you and me? Could I offer a friendly “hello” and a nervous smile on an occasional day off or would it be met with an awkward pregnant pause? Would one of you say something like, “Who are you? We don’t see you around here, like ever”? Would I burst into tears because I knew that was true?
There was so much I wanted to say to you, school moms. There were so many questions — questions about science camp deposits and fundraising. Questions about classroom discipline methods and comprehensive spelling tests. But they were questions I never dared to ask because I didn’t know how, especially of you.
And then a few years ago, my face began to show up more. I left my commute and my job behind to focus on my kids. Suddenly, I was at school all the time. No longer was I the mom who’d wistfully peek over to your circle at the annual school program or rare school drop-off. I was as much of a school fixture as a hoodie cast aside on the blacktop or a chip bag blowing in the wind. Every once in a while, we’d spot each other and lock eyes. I’d smile, you’d return the favor, and we’d go back to not knowing each other, but not for lack of wanting to.
It took everything I had one unseasonably warm October today, to mutter an awkward hello. My youngest had just started kindergarten, and surprise! So many of yours had, too. Kindergarten parents were a different breed, I learned. While the transition rattled so many of the parents, it didn’t faze you, school moms. You had older kids and I had one, too. We didn’t spend our mornings cajoling our kids into the classrooms like the first-timers. We offered heartfelt hugs and hefty goodbyes before sending our kids packing in the care of their teachers. We walked away. We didn’t look back, and we noticed we had this in common.
From that day forward we said hello. Hellos turned into mini conversations. Mini conversations turned into larger conversations. Larger conversations turned into deeper conversations until one day and every day after, I found myself standing in the circle. With you.
I learned you weren’t rude or shamefully exclusive, nor did you only wear pink on Wednesdays. I learned that you were moms who worked alternative schedules and/or tirelessly within your homes. I learned that you gave so much of yourself to the school not for your ego, but for the kids — yours, mine, and everyone’s. I learned that you were even more embarrassed when your kids acted up because you were so invested there. But more than all that, I learned you were just like me.
You didn’t have all the answers, but you had each other and that was almost just as good.
School moms, I underestimated you out of ignorance and insecurity. I allowed jealousy to make unfair assumptions about the women you were and the truth of your intentions. You never judged me or my fellow moms for working outside the home. You never once thought you were better. You only did what your circumstances allowed you to do and dammit if our school and our collective student population wasn’t so much better for it.
I didn’t know it back when, but I should have been thanking you for all the conversations witnessed afar from your circle. Conversations involving PTA matters, parking lot safety, field trip logistics, and ways to help our teachers. You weren’t taking inventory of the parents who weren’t there or which kids rode the daycare buses, you were busy managing school affairs, dropping off another mom’s kid so she could take that early shift, or picking up another so she could finally get that mammogram. You were the kind of friends every mother deserved and your circle was open. It was always open.
It was open and invited me in, not because I needed an invitation, but because I was shy. And now that I’m here, I see how our circle expands large and wide for any parent who wants in — either to ask a question, kill time, or simply say hello. We may not know your name, we may not know your story, but we want to. We really, really want to.
So thank you, school moms for having my back, for looking out for my kid, and for making the impossible possible at school. Thank you for listening to my concerns, helping me, and allowing me to help you. Thank you for your friendship, your kindness, and your understanding, but most of all, thank you for proving to me once again that mothers are better together.
I may not have all the answers, but I have you and that’s just as good.More On