Special Social Needs.
I have a friend who used to be an attorney. On Friday nights, the firm went out for drinks. She attended because her husband was available to take the kids so she could participate in this important office bonding activity. These evenings frequently lasted quite late. As she checked her watch, knowing she should get back to her kids, her colleagues laughed off the responsibility. One man kept looking at his vibrating cell phone as he rolled his eyes. His wife had brand-new twins at home.
My friend hated that because she missed the “golf outings” she wasn’t in as good a promotion position as those men who spent time networking with the bosses. Although she did the Friday Drinks, she was still an outcast because her social time was minimal compared to other attorneys. She complained to me that many times she’d be in the office diligently finishing her caseload while “the boys” were out having fun, and getting ahead based on social skills. She was productive in the office; they were productive on the links. She eventually quit.
Networking is vital in the working world. But working mothers know it isn’t so easy when we have responsibility at home. Similarly, social outings are important from a psychological perspective as well – a time to relax and not think about work.
Right after my son was born, my friends wanted to “take me out” and otherwise distract me from my new responsibility. My husband and my parents were game to babysit for a few times, but realistically mothers’ social lives take a hit when they have kids. As my son got older, friends issued invitations that included childcare. (“Hey, my nanny will be around, so you can just bring your kids!”) My husband and I were invited to parties, some of which would have a babysitter present. “No excuse!” they chirped.
But inevitably, my son would dart away. The babysitter wouldn’t know how to handle him. She’d have lots of questions or wouldn’t understand his needs. I didn’t get the luxury of relaxing at the party because I had to be on the lookout for him suddenly appearing in the midst of the grown-ups legs, snatching food from the buffet table, or pulling down an expensive Christmas ornament off the tree. Or, if it was a book club with fellow ladies, I’d be on edge because the nanny would eventually come forward in desperation, “He’s not participating” or “He won’t stop crying.”
Several times my husband and I went to events where we pooled money with other couples to pay for a sitter (someone trusted by a particular family, not a complete stranger.) But this didn’t work out either. We may have paid, but we didn’t get childcare because the sitter would give up. (And no, we didn't get our money back.)
In these cases, not only did we not get a night out to enjoy ourselves, but we’d come home even more stressed out because of the embarrassment over our son’s behavior.