Dear Therapist..."I Don't Fit in With Other Mums"
Since my child started nursery last Spring, I haven't felt like I fit in with the other mums. They're cliquey and seem to have formed a group and I don't feel like I'm part of it. I know it shouldn't be all about me and my kid's happiness matters more, but I feel down about the whole thing. My husband doesn't understand why I care so much. He's probably right but I feel overly sensitive. Can you help me make sense of why this is bothering me so much? I don't get it.
Your experience matters as well as your child's. Maternal sacrifice can go too far, and tends to backfire and cause resentment later on, so acknowledging your needs now is helpful.
Seeing children go to nursery and school brings up all sorts of associations and feelings for parents. Old wounds get reactivated. Your feelings about the group of mothers may evoke feelings of outsiderness and exclusion from your past. Compassion for your inner-child and your grown-up self, please!
I feel strongly that we're overly pressured to fit into groups, starting as children. Cooperation is essential, but the truth is that fitting in is complicated; groups aren’t always aligned with our values or personalities. Hold onto your integrity as an individual and try not to expect endorsement or validation from any one group. Look for individuals.
There's a brilliant absurdist trick. You tell a joke, and the punchline is: No Soap Radio. If people laugh, the laugh is on them. It's a fake joke and No Soap Radio means nothing. I love it because it's really about how groups feign agreement and want to conform, even when they don't understand what things mean. In other words, think for yourself. You may find that other mothers are appealing when you get to know them individually. If you feel like an outsider to the group, you may easily be judging the group too. The point is to recognise what motherhood stirs up for you. I like the idea of mothering the mother, and also mothering the inner-child in the mother.
Hang in there!