The girls had their first night at dance class last week. Now, dance was not my first choice for my four-year-old, but the teen’s been dancing for ten years. And their grandmother, who is sponsoring the commitment, was a dancer turned studio owner when she was younger.
I was on my own for the two-hour adventure because my husband was away on business and my mother-in-law was traveling overseas. I had a 20-month old little man in tow, who was making friends with all the young dancers waiting for class. What a flirt.
The room was packed on a Thursday night — not an empty seat in the waiting room. I could not help but look all around me, surrounded by moms and a handful of dads, and wonder...
“Which mother am I?”
There was the “business mom” still in her business clothes, typing away on her laptop. Was she struggling to balance it all? Last minute assignment, or just trying to get more work done? I felt a slight twinge of jealousy; I used to be a business woman back when I “had it together."
There was the “seasoned dance mom,” who sat there looking chill. No doubt she had been through this routine a time or two.
There were the “mom friends,” sitting face to face, engrossed in conversation. They were discussing whether their daughters could handle the feeling of tags on their clothes or tight waistlines.
There was the “husband and wife duo,” with another baby too young to dance. They were dressed in work clothes, her in scrubs and him in utility company clothes. They looked uncomfortable at first; he stood the whole time. They loosened up later when joined by another mom they knew.
Can they tell I am a strict mom? “No” means “no” and all that jazz? Or, that eating well is important to us? That we sit together for dinner every night?That I don’t care as much about their learning milestones, preferring instead that I teach them about life?
There were the “super excited moms,” getting pictures of their girls with the dance company logo to commemorate the new dance year.
There was the “smoker mom,” who left to grab one, displaying her cigarette pack for all to see. If I were still smoking, there is no way I would have been brave enough to pass through that gauntlet of women.
There was the “distracted dad,” engrossed on his phone, minding another daughter who was doing homework by his side. When little man went up to babble at her, it didn’t even make dad’s radar.
There were the “longtime friend moms,” who loudly exclaimed when they saw each other, and immediately picked up where they left off…
As I sat there, trying to keep the boy entertained, I wondered how these people saw me.
Could they tell it was my first time to a dance studio waiting room? That I was a “novice dance mom?” Did they judge me because I forgot to wear my wedding ring? Could they tell that my oldest was my stepdaughter, from how she looks or perhaps how she sat somewhat separately from us?
What kind of a mother am I? How do people really see me?
People always think I am younger than I am. Sometimes that’s nice, but mostly it comes with judgment like I must be inexperienced. I am a complicated mom, trying to bridge the nine-year gap between my full-time stepdaughter and her siblings. Juggling a rowdy boy in a waiting room, nervous about my special needs daughter’s first time at dance. Will she be overstimulated with the music and the movement and the other kids? Acutely aware that my teen is buried so deep in her phone that she barely notices the people around her.
I used to be the business mom, but now I can barely manage flexible hours at my part time job. Some days I have time to work, some days I don’t. Do I look like the kind of mom who is a nerd about the stock market? That could give you a rundown of all the stocks in my portfolio, why I selected each, and at what price I plan to sell the shares?
Can they tell I am a strict mom? “No” means “no” and all that jazz?
Or, that eating well is important to us? That we sit together for dinner every night?
That I don’t care as much about their learning milestones, preferring instead that I teach them about life?
What kind of mother am I? Do I look put together or as frazzled as I feel? Will I ever fit in with this tight knit group? Will I have anything in common with the other moms and dads stuck here in this waiting room?
Everyone already seems to know their place.
One day, I will figure out where I fit in this complicated mom puzzle. Looking back at my life, I can see the cycles of new experiences and insecurity, followed by familiarity and comfort. The early months of each new job. The first semester of each new college (I attended three). The newlywed phase, dating or marriage. When I first became a mother. It took time to sort it all out and learn where I belong.
I may never be the typical “dance mom.” But I’m a mom who’s devoted to supporting my children in activities that are enjoyable and push them to grow. And maybe that’s what makes me a “typical mom,” after all.