|Noah Shand at his 1st soccer practice|
As a news reporter I've been called a lot of things, many of them not fit to print. Right now I answer to some kinder names, among them Mama, Mommy, Moooooommmm (said with hands on hips and eyes rolling- and he's only 3, Lord help me!), Meemee (when a certain 15-month-old really wants my attention), and on those very rare occasions when I'm able to converse with a bona fide adult, Mona. But there's one name I was called recently that made me shudder. It shook me up and made me stop in my tracks. It rocked me to my very core. That 4-letter word which actually contains 9 letters and comprises 2 words was none other than Soccer Mom.
Now you should know that we live in a soccer town. It's a place where every Saturday morning the town with no real traffic develops a major traffic jam, as hundreds of uniform-wearing, cleat-clad kids, their parents, and their parents vehicles descend upon the fields with one "goal" in mind: soccer. When we first toured our town with our realtor, it was yet another thing we loved. There was even a soccer supply store on Main St., for goodmess sakes! At the time I was pregnant with our first child, and my husband (a former soccer player) and I happily moved to Soccer Town with dreams of the day we'd join the Saturday herds.
A few weeks back we sealed the deal: I signed our 3-year-old son up with the local recreation league and picked up his uniform. "Congratulations, you're now officially a Soccer Mom!" the woman behind the desk called out cheerfully as we turned to leave. Frozen, my brain tried to put together the words "Thank you," but think it came out more like "Whabba wifup." Soccer Mom? Me? I think not.
I tried to brush it off but the frustration began to eat at me, so I took the issue to the modern day therapist's couch: Facebook. "Mona just picked up Noah's soccer uniform and his first practice is Saturday," I updated, "but so help me if you call me a Soccer Mom I will kick your teeth in."
So why does one term, one combination of sport and relationship evoke such a visceral response? At the suggestion of one of my therapists (OK, a Facebook friend), I decided to explore. Wikipedia defines the term as "a middle-class, suburban woman who spends a significant amount of time transporting her school-age children to their sporting events or other activities," (OK, I don't see anything terribly wrong with that) and goes on to talk about the rise of the Soccer Mom as a political force circa 1995 (still OK... power to the moms!), including various permutations like the post-9/11 Security Moms (now we might be pushing it) and the Sarah Palin-inspired Hockey Moms (not my cup of tea, and certainly not my kind of tea party, but OK).
Urban Dictionary is not quite as kind, including in its definitions of Soccer Mom "The downfall of human society," "a waste of body cells," and "usually seen screaming at people from behind the wheel of her SUV." Wow.
While that is certainly extreme, but to be completely honest the real issue for me is that Soccer Mom is a little too close, maybe even synonymous with another term I've been unable to accept: Stay At Home Mom. Believe me, I don't think there's anything wrong with staying at home, in fact quite the opposite. When I was working I convinced myself that I wasn't missing much at home, but now that I actually am home (and only working part-time, mostly at night and on weekends) I realize how wrong I was. It's simultaneously incredibly difficult and incredibly rewarding, but it just isn't how I ever pictured myself. Despite having lived and worked in 6 different countries and nearly every part of this one, the move to Soccer Town and Stay At Home Momville has been the most difficult so far. Try as I might to hang with the SAHM crew, a little voice inside keeps screaming "But I'm not like you!" I've playdated, pampered my inner chef and gone (book) clubbing with the ladies, but the voice is still there. And I'm pretty sure the other women have voices of their own screaming "But she's not like us!" Anyone who says the Mommy Wars are over needs to come spend a few days in my 'hood. But maybe if we stopped screaming at each other from inside our heads and started talking about it out loud, we'd make some progress toward a ceasefire.
As a coping mechanism, I think I've started to subconsciously reject anything that smells of that unfamiliar world. Baking cookies? Gross. (Even though I do in fact love to bake.) Driving an SUV? Disgusting. (Even though I drive the SUV's first cousin, the crossover.) Carting my kids around to activities in the hopes of enriching their minds and bodies? I don't have time! (That's of course because I have to drive my son to preschool and then go to Story Time at the library with my little girl.)
So does Mom + Soccer = Soccer Mom? Does Mom + Home = Stay At Home Mom? And even if that's the math, do the labels matter? In an ideal world, I'd say no, but that's not where we live. For now I'm working on accepting where I currently am, instead of dreaming of being somewhere else. And I don't want to be late for soccer.