Carolyn Hax: Advice

Battle lines are drawn — working mom vs. homemakers

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Two years ago, hubby and I bought our dream home in an upper-middle-class suburb. We both work, both make six figures. Life is good.

BUT, our new neighbors … at a recent party, I asked one woman what she did. She said, “Oh I don’t work; my husband wants me to, but I told him I can’t work and give him clean laundry and hot meals and a clean house too.” I was a little shocked and said, “I work and my family gets all of those things.”

Turns out NONE of the neighborhood women work and now I’m not invited to things. (I see them going to one another’s homes, so I know they all socialize.) This is a new division and we all moved in within a few months of each other, so it’s not a matter of them knowing each other longer. I feel surrounded by Stepford Wives. What can I do?

Non-Stepford Wife

Unless you want to make the effort to rebuild the bridge you burned, you get used to the idea of living there but not socializing there.

Granted, the implication that people can’t work and run a household is ridiculous, but maybe she wasn’t saying it can’t be done, but instead that she couldn’t do it. And isn’t she entitled to decide that, without getting a defensive response from someone with different priorities and limits?

Certainly it’s possible you’re surrounded by Mommy Warriors. However, the idea that every neighbor-mom but you shares a single hive mind is highly suspect.

Make the effort. Expect them to have different histories, priorities, opinions and receptiveness to you. And different futures: Remember, their lives will take them all kinds of different places even from this similar starting point.

Specifically seek out the one you spoke to and apologize for getting off on the wrong foot. If nothing sticks, then, oh well, right?

Re: Stepford Wives: Your “oh well” doesn’t cut it. Being the “outcast (working) mom” amongst a neighborhood of SAHMs can be crushing — not only to the mom but to her kids as well. You can’t believe the ostracism that parents can — by proxy — enforce through their kids ignoring neighbor kids.

Just Sayin’

True, with two buts. First, you can be just like everyone else and still be cast out. This isn’t limited to employed vs. at-home.

Second, kids can be “out” with “in” parents, “in” with “out” parents, and one sib can be “in” while another is “out.”

My points being that social groupings are complicated, fierce and often unpredictable, and that children aren’t spared.

That actually makes the inadequacy of my “oh well” even more acute. I just wish there were something better to advise besides making the effort to be civil and working hard not to take it personally.

And, if your kids are excluded, to give them rewarding activities outside the neighborhood. It hurts less if you’re rarely there.

To: Non-Stepford: I’m surprised you even want to be friends with the neighbors, given how little respect you grant them, from devaluing their roles as homemakers to assuming they are all interchangeable. I’d encourage a little more soul-searching about your own part in this new neighborhood dynamic.

Anonymous

No argument here, thanks.

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