There are only a few situations in which my paranoia runs rampant. One of which is being the only dad in the room full of moms.
Have you ever walked into a into a room full of strangers, and as you look around everyone is staring at you? Slowly your skin feels as if it’s tightening around your muscles and you begin to shift around uncomfortably. Being the only dad in the room is exactly like that. All the moms are silently judging you, wondering if you are worthy of parenthood.
It started when I entered the cold warehouse space filled with 5 blown up bouncy castles, and a 25 foot slide adorned with 2 ropes and foam filled blocks for climbing to the top. A dark blue and black carpet decorated with red and orange swirls, covers the play area where hordes of children are jumping, screaming and flailing about erratically. The signs posted clearly say no eating or drinking in the play area, but they must have forgotten that toddlers can’t read and parents don’t care. It’s almost as cold inside this huge space as it is outside in the blustering negative degree temperatures. We find a nice cool spot on the linoleum to get changed out of the winter gear and to get into play mode.
After getting my 4 year old Kammy situated so that she can hopefully find a new friend to play with and forget that I exist, I scan the room for a friendly face. Anyone that I could possibly talk to and pass the hours of boredom that are ahead of me. Looking around, friendly faces are nowhere in sight.
There are about 10 moms that have set up shop at various locations around this open space. At each location there is stroller parking, a coat stacking area and a snack area littered with trash and diaper bags. One station even has a breast feeding area where several moms are huddled together talking. My chances for prime real estate at any of the couches are nil. Wandering over to the outskirts of the warehouse, I set up shop in the only other habitable area. A bar where every seat is sure to have enough wobble to make you sea sick.
People are staring at me! And as the stares grow I begin to panic more. Their stares are filled with angst and reservation. I start to think that maybe my zipper is down, and right now I’m flashing a room full of moms and toddlers. Maybe everyone is to polite to say anything, instead they just stare. Maybe, they think that I’m “one of those guys” and they didn’t see me come in here with a kid. While having a small spat of paranoia induced fear coupled with a slight panic attack, I listening for police sirens in the distance.
Jumping to less dramatic conclusions I remember that Kammy was digging in her nose and didn’t wash her hands afterwards. Maybe their moms intuition has picked up on this and now they are silently judging me. Mocking my standing as a parent. Maybe by walking into there once “Moms only” inner-sanctum, I have violated one of their mom codes. I sit there silently apologizing.
Feeling like the outcast in Grammar school at recess on the playground, no one would come near me. Everyone is staring and standing, pointing and judging. (Maybe that part is my paranoia but it sure does feel like it). And I think that even a few of the snootier looking moms are snickering.
What did I walk into? I can feel the thick fog of bewilderment filling the room as I sit there looking around. Being the only dad in the room is like having leprosy. Only without the nerve damage and sores.
Getting my paranoia under control, I notice a few uncomfortable smiles flashed my way when I look in their direction. Some moms make accidental eye contact with me, this is immediately met with the look of sheer panic on their faces and then frantic eye darting all over the room. The mom sitting in front of me keeps looking back anytime I shift in my seat. I waved, she grunted. I think that we had a moment!
For the remainder of my 2 hour stint in what I can only describe as parental time out, I attempt to make small talk with my new friend sitting in front of me. She wasn’t really having it. She decided to go stand by her son and watch him jump up and down. I made my way to the play area where the younger kids congregate to check on Kammys culinary skills, which involved germ encrusted Lego’s and and a fine selection of broken model cars just slightly less dangerous than a plastic knife. I tried making a new friend here as well but I believe there was a language barrier. When I smiled and said hello this mom must have interpreted as I want to take your baby and run away. I’m not sure, but she just smiled and took her toddler to another part of the annoyingly cold warehouse.
Being the only dad in the room can seem like a torture sentence sometimes. The stares, the silent judgment, the moving and the disapproving looks from all directions. Trying to arrange play-dates are thus out of the question which makes surviving life with kids… that much more difficult.
Trying to break the ice with a new group of people isn’t always glitter and parties. Although the kids are the common link, perception is everything and as the only dad in the room usually that perception is skewed. What are some ways as a new parent to the group do you break the ice and try to get an in?