I first realized I was a weird mom before I was technically a mother. I was pregnant, sporting a plump belly and afflicted with unending nausea and a broken rib, and perusing the baby aisle of a Target. I was lost amidst bedding, ducks, monkeys, weird miniature zoo animals with gigantic eyes and tiny bodies, matching curtains, and frilly crib things I didn’t even know the names of.
A fellow pregnant lady in yoga pants and a workout top, totally rocking the gorgeous-fit-pregnant-woman look while rubbing her belly casually, asked me what my theme was.
“My theme? In life?”
She had laughed and clarified that she meant the nursery theme. She held out a pale green swatch of cloth and a baggie with long paint cards in various hues of a soothing green.
Oh, the nursery, I thought. Like in ‘Peter Pan,’ where the kids stay all day and the older one looks after them, right?
She had picked some kind of zoo animal theme to go with her green and little creatures riding a train in a border around the nursery walls. Her mother was making lampshades. The Pinterest moms, crafters and super-decorators with their themes—these people have always amazed me, and I wondered what energy source they swapped for this superpower. Was it sanity? Or sleep itself?
The gorgeous mom-to-be told me about her about her plans—and she definitely had them—and then paused, as if I would chime in or could relate. I stammered awkwardly.
“I mean, I am probably going to get, like, a crib…and a changing table. I’ve been looking on Craigslist, but some guy sang ‘Your Body Is a Wonderland” to my stomach so I’m being a little more cautious. There will be diapers…”
This would be the first of many nursery-theme inquiries. I learned that I would either have to shoo the askers away with jokes about laziness (when I was truly far from it) or have a really good made-up theme to elaborately describe to them. I was thinking that if I told people my theme was Ryan Gosling, they would forget what they had asked me.
“You need a theme,” people told me over and over—color coordination, style, curtains.
The expectations mounted during my pregnancy. A baby shower? Please, no. Gender reveal party? What did that even mean? That’s a separate thing where you celebrate genitalia? I loathed the questions and pressure to participate in these rituals that, to me, seemed odd. A baby shower that I am at the center of sounds like a literal nightmare that I would awake from in a cold sweat and short of breath.
I eventually settled for a celebration I could exert some amount of control over. We called it a “Pre-Baby Barbecue,” and invited men (well, forced the men to attend) and women and had tons of alcohol that I couldn’t drink. People got drunk. We played zero games and didn’t do any weird baby shower things. And I did pretty damn well.
For some, like my mother who desired a fanfare of trumpets around me as I carried a child in my womb, my lack of culturally expected public celebration or ritual was disappointing. In my mother’s opinion, I was weird—all her friends’ kids did it and everyone I knew did it. But while I was thrilled to be having a baby, I felt no need to cut into a surprise cake. My poor child would be born without trumpets and would sleep in a theme-less room with no color palette.
Well into motherhood, I’ve accepted the reality that I don’t fit in with any given group of moms. I’ve often (though not always) realized that I am not like them. Don’t get me wrong, all these moms are amazing and doing things in ways that work for them and are true to themselves. But where are all the weirdos? I’ve always fallen in with unlikely and random friend groups, some with similarities to me and some with differences, but always strange and unique combinations in one way or another.
I had my weird elementary and high school friends, my weird college friends, couples friends and master’s program friends. And now I had to fall into a new group—mom friends—but where on earth were all the weird moms? I began to wonder if motherhood normalized or matured people into these adult, responsible roles, and I somehow lacked the gene that makes this happen. I was still me. I still didn’t give a shit about themes and wasn’t worried about finding a crib. I didn’t get any sort of mom haircut or wardrobe—unless they are calling unwashed, unbrushed, and covered in snacks and snot a mom wardrobe.
In a grocery store with my then-6-month-old wrapped onto me, screaming and wailing, another, slightly older woman aahed at me. “Oh my, someone must be hungry. He’s precious. Do you have him every day?”
No, I just borrow him for the joy of grocery shopping with a teething infant, I thought.
It wasn’t the first time someone assumed I must be a nanny, or would be shocked to find out that I had a child. And while I couldn’t quite pinpoint what exactly what made me appear an outsider, I just noticed that I was often telling myself to keep quiet or just pretend to know about this or that.
I breastfed in public, my kid doesn’t eat meat, I let his hair grow out, he wasn’t enrolled in a million classes, and his favorite song, for reasons unbeknownst to me, is “Boom Boom Pow.” There were a million things people had opinions and side glances about, wide eyes, or a lack of eye contact all together. He hugged an old fat bald man and called him Buddha, and he cries during sad songs, and I know he will undoubtedly be weird like me.
Shortly after my son’s first birthday, I had a little get together because everyone and their uncle was pulling out their themes again and organizing and decorating, and holy god. It had alcohol, and I pulled out a few conventional things like some pictures of my son and a smash cake (mostly because I, too, wanted a smash cake). By the end of the party, as I cleaned up all that crap and the pretty plates and their coordinating napkins, I was acutely aware that I was never going to be that mom. The dissonance was boiling up inside of me me. Matching napkins? Coordinated cups? It just didn’t feel like me.
It turns out, motherhood did not take the weird out of me. And while I have only begun to find my fellow weird-mom friends, I know there are more of us out there: There are the moms in the first stage who are still pretending to know what people are talking about when they bring up education funds, and the moms who are feeling guilty that they want to go out drinking. Then there are the moms in the second phase who feel like totally inadequate failures who don’t measure up to other gorgeous and successful and productive moms.
But now that I’m a little further in to the motherhood journey, I’m getting more comfortable with being that mom. Weird moms, don’t worry about your tattoos or your pink hair, your chickens or pet sugar gliders, or your chair-less sitting room. Keep your CDs of “super cool songs” from 2001 or the jeans you’ve had since you were 16. Build forts and have your own personal cake smashes. Don’t trade your dance moves, or all your nights in or out with your friends. Watch the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on your date night and eat pizza in bed. The weird moms are all around you, wondering if they didn’t get the gene either.