The strange and surreal female(-only) factor of being a work-from-home mom.
When I became a mom, a whole new world of friendships opened up. Nearly anywhere I strolled in my Brooklyn neighborhood with my newborn, I could count on connecting with another mother. I picked up mom friends on the street, in coffee shops, waiting in line at the grocery store. And the conversations I had with these other mothers – even complete strangers – were instantly intimate. It would be two minutes and then we’d be talking about our c-sections or our raw nipples, or our desire to send our husbands off to get vasectomies. Being a mother is the great equalizer, I guess. This community of mothers with whom I’ve enmeshed myself and without the company of whom I can’t imagine raising children is a wonderful thing except for one tiny factor: I almost never talk to men anymore.
My life is like the 1950’s. From the time my husband leaves work to the time he returns, I inhabit a nearly all-female world where pretty much the only men I interact with are those that I pay. Is this a feminist utopian fantasy? Or is it the slightly strange life of being a stay-at-home mom and freelancer?
Here, hop onto the kickboard on my double stroller, and I will take you through a typical day in the life of my virtual testosterone wasteland and the men I meet along the way.
8am: The Couch Guy. A guy comes to fix the Crayola “washable” marker stain on my couch. He speaks only Spanish and I do not, so this doesn’t really count as male interaction. I say goodbye to my toddler and his sitter and head off to the café where I like to work.
8:15: The Doorman. The affable, young doorman at my building wishes me “good morning” when I walk by on my way out the door. Again, not really a conversation. Plus, I think he’s paid to do that.
8:30am: The Security Guard at Preschool. My husband forgot to bring my son’s lunch when they left for preschool drop off that morning, so I head to his school. I am greeted by the male security guard, who laughs at all my jokes and is therefore up there on my list of favorite people. He’s a captive audience, however, I’m not really sure he would willingly talk to me if he weren’t stuck at his post.
8:45am: The Stay-at-Home-Dad. On my way out of the school, I pass this unicorn and wave hello. Sometimes we talk for a minute and I am reminded that I do, in fact, know how to engage with members of the opposite sex. I would love to have a play date with him and his son, but being that he is a rare species and in high demand, his dance card is always full.
9am: The Waiter at my Local Café. When I sit down to work, my favorite male waiter and I catch up on the daily gossip about the other patrons and who has quit since yesterday. Possibly the longest conversation with a male that I will have all day.
10:30am: Mom Friend Alert! A mom I know from the neighborhood is on the take-out line, waiting for her coffee. We chit chat the way moms do: how heavy her period is this week, decide she should remove her IUD, and then we compete over how much we each drank the night before, after the kids went to bed. Typical womenfolk stuff.]
12pm: The Baby Music Class Teacher. One of the two teachers at my baby’s mid-day music class is a dude, and he could easily pass for a Fred Armisen character in Portlandia. I swear he’s singing right to me and my son but he hides behind his moustache and his guitar as soon as class is over.
1:15pm: Male Patron at the Communal Table. Back to work at the cafe. I ask the man sitting next to me if he can keep an eye on my laptop while I run to the loo. He seems annoyed at the Netflix interruption and grunts in response. When I return to the table, he’s gone. My computer is still there though!
2:45pm: The Ice Cream Man. Snack break with Mike, the ice cream truck operator. We engage in the conversation of: “Chocolate please” and “Thank you!”
4:30pm: The Guy at the Market. On my way home, I stop at the little market for overpriced milk. The guy working the counter is so familiar he is practically my “guy friend,” but even though he knows how I like my coffee, he doesn’t know my name.
5:15pm: Cute Piano Teacher. Note: When starved for the company of men, relatively decent-looking becomes cute, or even handsome. Cute Piano Teacher and I talk about Pearl Jam, and I try to impress him with talk about music. I fail miserably, but at least it is an interaction that involves an exchange of ideas. So I guess this counts as “meaningful.”
6pm: The Hero Returns. Finally, my husband comes home. Both the dog and I follow him from the front door to the bedroom where he removes his tie, to the kitchen where he starts on dinner, and basically I do not stop talking at him until we close our eyes to sleep.
There’s nothing wrong or bad about not talking to men in a real way during the day. It certainly isn’t terrible living a life that is all #girlsquad all the time. But admittedly, I don’t always like living in a female-only bubble. You see, the thing about bubbles is that your perspective rarely changes if the view from inside is always the same. So Male Patron at the Communal Table, I hope I’ll see you again tomorrow. Maybe, just maybe, we could be friends?