I’m not much of a social person. I like to work alone, I’m not much good at parties, and small talk leaves me at a complete loss.
Now that I’ve got Ruby attached to my person most of the time that I’m out in public, I’m having to interact with strangers more often. They want to come up and remark on how cute the baby is, ask how old, etc., etc. Ruby is indeed extremely cute, and it’s understandable that they’ll be smitten by her cuteness. But I’m not crazy about having to have the same empty interaction with strangers all the time. I guess this is where my appreciation for small talk is failing me, but is there really any point to stopping me in the middle of the cereal aisle to ask me how old my baby is?
On the other hand, I don’t want to infect Ruby with my anti-social tendencies. I want her to be comfortable with strangers and I want her to experience diverse points of view. And eventually, I’ll suppose I’ll want her to make friends with other kids in the neighborhood. Actually, I’m not all that worried: Ruby’s been pretty strong-willed ever since she was born (as much as any three-month-old can be), and I suspect it’ll be her affecting my social style, not the other way around.
Related to this issue, two recent posts to the blogosphere gave me some food for thought:
The first post (from Dave R) is about a guy (and his unfortunate daughter) who refused to go into a playground because there was nothing but moms there. I don’t have a ton of sympathy for him at this point, since he (as he admits) is chickening out with pretty weak excuses. I mean, it’s not like you have to interact with the Mommies, do you?
Well, maybe you do. From what I’ve read and heard from friends, isolation is a big problem for stay-at-home parents. Getting out of the house to interact with people who are able to form actual sentences can help to break up a long drool-spattered day. When Ruby’s old enough to play at the playground, I think I’ll enjoy relaxing with some familiar faces — even if it is just small talk.
That brings us to the second post (from Stay-at-home, work-at-home Dad). This blogger talks about his overall experiences dealing with Moms at parks, and how they tend to be not-so-friendly towards the Dads.
I haven’t experienced this at a park (since Ruby’s too young for park play at the moment), but I’ve been to my share of parent support groups where I’ve been the only father among ten or twenty moms. The vibe wasn’t exactly hostile towards me, but when a bunch of women get together their social sphere can be impenetrable. Or is it incomprehensible? Either way, I wasn’t comfortable being there. It wasn’t the episiotomy comparisons or complaints of glass-shards-in-the-breast nipple pain. It was just an implicit feeling of being an outsider. Even their attempts at inclusion just turned me off more: invariably, once (and only once) per meeting, the leader would turn to me a and ask, “so, as a man/father/male partner, what is your feeling about this issue?” Thanks for throwing me a bone. She even once just asked me for “my thoughts about childbirth”. Um, got a few hours?
In mixed-sex parent groups the vibe is much more welcoming, and I feel like the discussion itself is more constructive. I don’t know if it’s the gender balance itself, or if it’s the people who are attracted to mixed-gender groups — probably some of both.
As an attempt to head off the isolation before it sets in, I’m going to hook up with a SAHD support group. Seattle Dads has regular meetups/playdates/nights out, although they seem to be concentrated in the southern ‘burbs of Seattle. I’m kind of waiting for Ruby to be older, so that she can play with the other kids, but that’s kind of a lame excuse: I’m the one who needs to get out to play with the other Dads.