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*BEST of mamazine.com* Misplaced Mommy: Beggars Can Still Be Choosers

Feeling misplaced brings with it a certain level of loneliness. Admittedly, I've brought much of my current situation on by my own actions. While continuing to live here is not my choice, I did choose to marry a military man, leave my job, and stay home. Perhaps I'm being too harsh on myself; I mean I also support equal rights for all humans, mixed ethnicity proms, and a woman's right to choose. Quite certainly those traits, particularly in my neck of the woods, play a part in my current emotional state. I am not so naïve to think that like-minded individuals, particularly mama-types, do not exist in my part of the world. However, in my various attempts to seek them out, I have come up empty handed. Trying to find the right combination of witty, liberal, intelligent female with kid(s) is like searching for the Lochness monster; rumor has it that such a legend exists, however such proof has yet to be adequately recorded.

I am slowly coming to grips with my own reclusivity, and in fact, I've come to embrace it with open arms. Skipping the spouse socials equals more time on the computer. No morning play dates allows me to get more housework done. And while my blogging habit has become somewhat of a social life source for me, it does not substitute for something that is clearly lacking in my life—a playmate for my daughter. With a plethora of reproducing females corralled in one small air force base, you'd think there would be no lack of ample toddler playmates for my daughter. However, we happen to live off base, and while a trip downtown to our neck of the woods is only 15-20 minutes from base housing, asking someone to come over for a play date is like trying to entice a bear out of his cave with a can of tuna. It's undeniably hot these days, and packing up a sweaty toddler, even with the offer of lunch and dessert, is not enough for even the most desperate of moms.

But the real truth is that I don't know anyone because I don't engage in any activities that involve other people. I always find an excuse to miss the socials, and because, for some reason, folks on base associate me with the "working, non-military" group, I don't get included in a lot of "during the day" activities—once a working mom, always a working mom. Sure, I'm on the email list and in the newsletter group. But really, I don't know any moms, and they don't know me either.

I've spoken to moms at our Music Together class and at the Base pool, and I've even given my number out to a mom or two who seemed interesting. But, I'm never surprised when the phone doesn't rings. And so I figured that maybe we were better off without the playgroup drama.

That was until the birthday party issue came up.

Last year, we threw a big bash at my in-laws beach place in New Jersey. And while there were no little kids running around, all my family and a few friends were there to celebrate. But due to finances on both ends, as well as poor planning, it seems as though we will be celebrating her second birthday here in Mississippi. With no one but us.

And so, part of me can't help but think that it's my fault. I couldn't put aside my own gripes with every potential friend (and her child) so that my daughter could have even just one friend at her party. It's not like sacrifices for the sake of my daughter are new to me. I endured a meds-free birth and one year of an elimination diet that involved me eating approximately eight foods in various combinations so I could breastfeed; one might think I'd be capable of sacrificing my own personal preferences in order to find a fun playmate for my daughter.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that maybe I just can't sacrifice anymore for now. The sleep, the food, the pain relief—those were all give-ins. But faking a friendship—though small and painless in comparison to 15 hours of long, hard contractions—is just something I'm not willing to do right now. Even if it means my daughter will have just us to share cake with on her special day.

I've been beating myself up about it almost everyday. I tell myself I'm being selfish and petty. And maybe I am. But it's my choice. I need something about motherhood to be my choice when it seems like everything about my existence is chosen for me. Even if it's selfishness and loneliness, I'm choosing it. And damn it, it's all mine.

However, it's not an easy choice, especially on nights when you'd like to be out with a friend at a coffee shop or a bar, and you're stuck home staring at your computer screen. Sure, I chose it. But it isn't as great as I thought it would be—the whole "owning my selfishness and loneliness" thing.

Perhaps I'm hiding my own desires for a "playmate" in the needs of my daughter and maybe my guilt really isn't just about her not having one, but about me not having one either.

And so I don't worry that she'll remember her pathetic second non-birthday party and guilt me to high heavens later in life. We'll do up the house in balloons and streamers, and find her the pink baby bike she asks us about everyday. And chances are, she won't know the difference.

But I realize that I'll miss out on celebrating it with someone else—a friend, even an acquaintance who can share in my joy of making it through two years of motherhood.

And maybe it's not her happiness that's being sacrificed by my basking in my own differences from those around me, and by deciding that friendships are something that I just can't fake. Because while she doesn't mind being somewhat of a "misplaced kid," I'm thinking being misplaced mommy is not all that it's cracked up to be.

column added on 2006-07-09 :: ::

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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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