I've been trying to find a group that has regular playdates for my daughter, playdates with kids her age. Ever since we moved, she hasn't seen any of her old friends and hasn't really made any new ones that are her age. This may be my fault, but I am trying to remedy it.
I knew this was going to be a problem when I was out with her at the grocery store the other day. A family passed by with 3 kids, one of whom was her age. Now, I thought she would go ballistic because they were in a kid's shopping cart (the one with the little car on front) and she usually goes crazy if she sees anyone else in one. This time, however, she pointed at the kids and started to shout, "Friends!" over and over. She wanted me to follow them, and even pointed out where they were in the store the rest of the trip. It really broke my heart.
I decided to do a little digging. I'm looking into the Notre Dame Women's group, which sometimes has playdates. I'm not sure how frequently, however, but they are definitely on my list. There are a few other moms groups in the area, though one stuck out as head-and-shoulders above the others. The Michiana Mom's Group on meetup.com had good reviews and sounded like the kind of place Addy would like. Kids below 5, regular playdates (8-10 a week!), family outings... perfect! I'm sure she'll have a lot of fun there and make a bunch of new friends. There's just one problem.
Apparently, The Michiana Mom's Group can't handle a stay-at-home dad. This is the charming (insulting) email they sent me explaining why I was not allowed into their group:
Thank you for your interest in our Michiana Moms Group. Our group mostly caters to 5 year olds and younger and while our group does have activities planned for the whole family to be involved in and we do have dads join in on occasion at public events, our group voted that it is just for moms (as we encourage site breastfeeding, private home playdates, post and pre-natal care discussions, not to mention some cultural restraints with men outside the family, etc.).
We hope there are no hard feelings and want you to know that there are some more parent groups in the area on Meetup as well as Bigtent.com and we hope you are able to find what you are looking for. Again, thank you for your interest, we wish you the best of luck.
This, by the way, is printed on their "about" page: We strive to make our group an inclusive, safe and friendly place where we and our children can come together to play and learn, share the common experience of parenthood, and support the neighborhoods in which we live.
This does not sound inclusive or friendly, and it most certainly isn't supporting the neighborhood I live in. I don't know if I should be more insulted that they think I cannot be mature enough to handle breastfeeding and natal discussions as an adult or the fact that they think this email is friendly and inclusive. I tried to respond to them, but all my emails are flagged by Meetup.com's spam filter and never sent.
This is walking a very fine line between community support and sexism. That's right, sexism against a man. I understand why a group of people, be they men, women, children, or what have you, would want to have a place where only they could meet, a place they could talk freely and openly, a place without judgement or stress, a place of acceptance. And, I understand that mothers may want to take their kids to that place, especially stay-at-home moms whose kids are not in daycare. I ask, however, why "mom" is not "parent" in a situation like this. Let's face it, 90% of our experiences are the same. Men are capable of being stay-at-home parents, of being nurturers. We go through the same things every parent does. I change far more diapers than my wife does. I'm the one dealing with potty training (and could use help). Addy comes to me for comfort more than to mommy. There are very few things that are different, such as breastfeeding. And there's a really good chance we don't care if you breastfeed - not because we're perverted, but because it's just part of nature and being a parent. The Le Leche League goes after businesses that tell women they aren't allowed to breastfeed in public. It seems backwards to me that a mom's group would kick a man out because they're worried about it.
But look at the victim here. It is not me. I don't care that they wouldn't include me. It's my daughter. She's the one who has to wait now until I can find a less close-minded play group. She's the one who is not getting the chance to make friends with their kids. I wouldn't be in the group because I like hanging out with moms. I would be there to help Addy make friends. I want her to get into a regular schedule of playdates. Sure, I'd love some adult conversations once in a while, or some time where I'm not cleaning the house/cooking or preparing meals/acting as the only object of Addy's attention/writing. But I am used to this being my schedule, I can live with it if I have to. I can't live with knowing that Addy's best and only friend is currently a cat. I try to take her to the playground (despite the cold), but she's either alone or overwhelmed by rowdy boys. I try to take her to events at the library, but she's usually either too old or too young (what a fun day it was when we had to cancel Addy's special treat because she was too young to celebrate Mickey's birthday). Our outings consist of walks, me chasing after her while she's on a bike, playing together in the yard, going to an empty or way-too-crowded park, visiting the zoo (which is now closed for the season) or a museum (which are small around here and not worth visiting more than once a month, if that), and going on errands together. Perhaps I just need to find more things to do, perhaps I'm just missing something. I sure wish someone would point it out.
As I look at the other meetup groups for parents (which aren't nearly as local), I notice a trend. All the members are women. I have a feeling I will have to fight tooth and nail to find a group for us if this is the case everywhere. Sexism, believe it or not, exists against men as well as women. And, like in all cases, it affects everyone.
It's depressing knowing your kid has no friends. It's more depressing knowing you're the cause.