I spent most of high school and all of college trying to figure out where I fit in. This was a thing in high school, because, you know, high school. In college, I was the token Jew at a Jesuit university, and I made great and lasting friendships with other students that didn’t fit in, and a few professors that didn’t either. That’s where I fit in! I breezed through graduate school (thank you, Hillel), and then I got a big girl job. Two months later I got married, and 13 months after that, I had a baby. Oh, and in between there, I got hit by a truck. Bam. Brain injury. It was a busy year.
Now, five years after that first baby was born, I’m a mom of two—a Jewish Day School mom of two—and its like high school all over. Now, though, I’ve got a 5-year-old and a newborn to take care of, a husband whose response to everything is “girls are SO catty,” and a brain injured occipital lobe to deal with. And Mommy Wars. Those pesky little Mommy Wars.
And I don’t fit in. Granted, I’m more of an “I can pass out at any moment and have to go to the ER” kind of odd mom out, as opposed to a Jill Kargman kind of “Odd Mom Out,” but the result is the same.
The truth is, sometimes I’m not the nicest person. Pain, pregnancy, and more pain have been the culprits of multiple “I will not take your crap” floods, but I guess after a near death experience and five years of being pretty darn sick, you stop caring about walking the line, and you say what you think. It could also be misfiring synapses that make me say what I think, in which case, totally not my fault!
Some moms look at me sympathetically, some look at me inquisitively. I’m fortunate to say that no one looks at me with disdain or fear that they’re going to catch it. I get it…a brain injury is rare and complex. If I had diabetes, or God forbid cancer, people would get it. But a brain injury is a whole different animal.
I deal with people who don’t understand why my mom needs to be on the class email list (because I forget things and don’t understand everything…and why do you care, anyway?) And to some moms, I have to explain myself every time I miss an event. I can’t go if it’s hot—I could pass out, and that’s scary for your kids and mine. If it’s super loud, that’s possibly a night in the ER, and I would rather miss a birthday party than have to do that. I’m more than happy to volunteer, but always with the caveat that I might not be able to show up the day of an event…you just never know, and people don’t always understand that.
I had a baby four months ago, and in some ways, I think that “normalized” me for some people—everyone can relate to the pains of pregnancy and the craziness of a new baby. There are other times, however, that I’ve had to nod and smile when someone says, “Oh, I have heard about you, you’re the one who passed out on the Bima.” Thank you for reminding me (not that I remember).
In the circle I run with (or haphazardly float outside of, as the case may be), sometimes there’s a war of the mommy wills, and sometimes it all seems seamless and flawless when I’m looking at everyone else. Either way, in my case, it’s never seamless and flawless; it’s messy, complicated, and vastly imperfect.
I’ll never be a super mom, and I’ll never be a real contender in the Mommy Wars. That’s OK, I don’t want to be. All I want is to be the best mom I can be, and literally remember my kids’ milestones. When that’s what you’ve got to worry about, who has time for the rest of it?
My advice, brain injury or not, is don’t worry about fitting in…high school was so 2001, anyway.