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Misplaced Mommy:
Still Misplaced, Now With Soft Pretzels and Cheesesteaks

I had feared that due to my recent move back to civilization that I might have to relinquish my title and so named column Misplaced Mommy. I mean, I'm back up North—where the streets are paved in Starbucks and cheesesteaks, and moms don't think twice when seeing me prance around in laceless chucks and tight prego shirts that reveal the roundness of my growing belly. It's my long awaited homecoming finally coming to fruition.

However, I moved in with my in-laws, alone with a two-year old and one on the way while my husband finishes up work in Mississippi until late November.

I imagine there are worse fates than being an uncomfortably pregnant, practically single parent living with her in-laws; wrestling alligators in a pit full of shit or getting my whole entire body waxed daily by a small toddler comes to mind. Basically, I couldn't think of an equally worse fate to living in Mississippi. Granted I can spend every meal sampling the extensive menu at Panera Bread in the company of my best friend, shop to my heart's content, and enjoy a plethora of child-centered activities that my daughter could only dream about, but I'm living in someone else's home, using someone else's toilet, and eating off someone else's ridiculously clean plates that must be washed immediately after usage or all hell will break loose.

It doesn't help that my in-laws aren't the most helpful of people. And thanks to their lack of tact, penchant for bizarre obsessions, and fairly unemotional interactions, I've spent every holiday visit counting down the days until I leave, laughing heartily about my mother-in-law's two-day Christmas tree stringing extravaganza and my father-in-law's drinking habit. But now I live with them, and laughing is not exactly what I'm doing. It sounds more like stress-induced sobs mixed with long whining rants—on the phone and on my blog.

My in-laws are a rare breed. I've been informed on more than one occasion that they don't change diapers because they "already did that," and their obsessive tendencies, including rinsing out disposable poopy diapers that they've pulled out of the trash and transferring food from plastic container to plastic container on an hourly basis, could easily warrant medication. And the fact that they have charged us for groceries and half of my daughter's christening cake just has me worried about the bill I'm bound to receive at the end of our extended stay.

To complicate matters, I need to ask for everything. With my own mother, I'd walk in the door and I wouldn't see my child for the rest of the day. However, with my in-laws, any free moments that I desire, either to get some work done or just take a shower, must be requested in advance. And even then I feel like I'm asking my dad for permission to use the car. "Um, I was wondering… Do you think you could watch her really fast so that I could go to the bathroom alone?" I say, speaking at a rapid pace while looking at the ceiling. "I'll make sure to scrub the toilet when I'm done," I think about adding, just for effect and extra bonus points. And while my requests are most often met with an affirmative answer said with a "Duh, of course, we'll watch her. Why are you asking us?" type tone, it's tiring. No, it's exhausting—so much for sleeping in and resting up while my daughter gets fed breakfast and dressed for the day by her super helpful grandparents.

And so after almost three weeks of incessant chatter, awkward moments, and my underwear being folded by my father-in-law, I realize how much I liked my crappy old rental house with a leaky roof and no central heat or air, and how much I miss my pathetic excuse for a dishwasher and hopelessly empty fridge. It seems that after tiptoeing around their kitchen, using their dishes, and having them buy me groceries that I would never consider buying (like sugar-free Jell-O and multicolored cheerios), I recognize the comfort of being the mistress of my own domain—the comfort that has now turned into anxiety and stress.

I figured that ridding myself of the Misplaced Mommy moniker wouldn't be as simple as moving a thousand miles north. But I never imagined that I'd still feel misplaced. Sure, my friends are here and I'm never lacking for company. But I've visited the local playground and moms still haven't talked to me and I've met a few people at my daughter's music class, but have yet to make a playdate. And for the most part, no one knows who I am; I'm starting over—new town, new people, and new life. And part of me liked knowing my way around, even if there was only one road, one mall, and one Target (two hours away).

While I certainly feel more at home here, where people "speak my language" and don't look at me with crossed eyes, I'm definitely still a fish out of water. The difference is that I know there are other fish like me out there and I just need to find them. So maybe being the Misplaced Mommy is just temporary. But until I find the rest of my "school," I'm still misplaced, just with way higher caloric intake and Philly accents now.

column added on 2006-10-14 :: ::

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Kristen M. Chase
COLUMNIST PHOTO

Kristen took the plunge into motherhood via a surprise pregnancy, now a blossoming 19-month old toddler, and provides the diversity on her block as an Asian American Yankee in the Deep South. As a former college professor, published textbook author, musician, and diversity advocate, Kristen's a proverbial "fish out of water," trying to find her way in a place that time has clearly forgotten and desperately trying to balance her roles as mother and military wife while not losing her sense of self (including a hankering for heels and a good martini).

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