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Making friends like it's your job


Being a mother has made me more isolated, but it's not what you'd think. Just as difficult situations can make or break a friendship, it's similar with parenting, especially in another culture. In my case I think I became somewhat intimidated by Russian mothers, and stopped reaching out. I mention Russian mothers because I think Americans are more individualistic, and can be more tolerant. But I am careful there, too. Just like with politics, I don't bring up certain parenting topics with American friends unless I suspect we'll be pretty much on the same page.

Anyway, when David was a few months old, I was talking to a friend from church on the phone. She'd had her second baby several months earlier. I confessed to her that the hormones were still getting to me. She said "really?" and I didn't know what else to say. I'd just assumed that there were certain maternal buzzwords you just had to utter ("diaper rash"...."teething"...) and another mother would automatically know what you were talking about. But our disjointed conversation made me feel like I was alone.

Pretty soon I didn't want to talk to anyone else about it, either. I didn't want to reveal how many hours a day we spent nursing, how David slept at night, how little we went outside for our fresh air, when we were starting solid foods, or how rarely we visited the pediatrician. And we dreaded the pediatrician, too. I suppose some people like to be reassured that their child is normal, but I resented having to even answer the questions. We have a pediatrician that attends our church, and I feel very awkward interacting with her, as though she is making an assessment just by looking at us.

So I don't lack friends, and can reach almost anyone by popping online and saying hello...BUT feel like I have to start from scratch because of being in this new phase of life.

We had a family from church visit today, and for some reason the wife always asks why we haven't sent David to preschool, and when we're going to start thinking about school when he turns 7, since there "isn't much time left." These questions always make me feel defensive! People on both sides of the ocean argue that kids are better-entertained at preschool, acquire valuable social skills, and need to get into the habit of getting up early, following a routine, etc. But usually by the end of the conversation it comes up that the parent is simply overwhelmed, and/or needs/wants to go back to work. So...call it what it is, I guess. Maybe everyone is afraid of saying that taking care of kids is hard, so they turn it into a discussion about early childhood education? Andrei pointed out to me that our friends are probably just worried about their OWN kids. So it's not necessarily criticism, just gathering information from friends and maybe commiserating. I guess a good approach is to just turn the conversation around and ask other people questions, to show that you are interested.

Thankfully, we had several hours, so the awkward first attempts at conversation gave way to deeper discussion. And the kids warmed up to each other, too.

Friendship takes work and putting yourself out there! I am pretty rusty at it. I remember when I came here and didn't have friends. I suppose that happened in college, too! In time it all works out.




Comments

  1. Wow, I would have thought mentioning postpartum hormones would be receive a pretty universal nod of understanding too! And yes, the preschool discussion. I guess you can't escape that anywhere, because I get asked about it all the time too! I usually say no, preschool isn't required and we are just focusing on learning through play.

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    1. I don't know, maybe it's a cultural thing or I didn't express myself well. No one at church talked about it openly. If you're planning on homeschooling, maybe you can kind of use that as an excuse for not going to preschool. With David being at home, people ask if I'm "doing anything" with him. I'm sure we could "do" more but these times of unstructured play are short!

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  2. Great post! Yes; there's minefields everywhere. I think maybe I am a LITTLE more confident - at least I can point to well-turned-out grown up kids, but I get the preschool questions, as well, and find myself hoping I'm not ruining Monica's life. Just be glad you are not Catholic, because we have the "Catholic School" thing going on, too. I am really leaning toward homeschooling Monica...

    Just curious - is homeschooling allowed in Russia?

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    1. That is a complicated question as to what is best for an individual child. My feeling is that if the child LIKES school, then he will have plenty of it later. And if he DOESN'T like school, you are doing the child a favor by delaying it. I think there will always be an adjustment period, whether you start at 2 years old or 6. I wonder if it makes a difference? Yes, homeschooling is allowed. I suppose like in the U.S. they are monitored in some way.

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