Everything’s Coming Up Razor Blades: Tribal Mommies

by doodaddy on August 1, 2007

Boobaby and I were digging up millipedes up in the jungle section of our playground the other day. Bug Search is a favorite pastime, especially now that Boobaby doesn’t crush every bug she finds.

An unfamiliar three-year old tottered up, interested. She started climbing up the wall that leads to the overgrown section when her mom hurried over and said,

“Don’t go up there, honey. It’s dirty, and you’ll get sick!

As I was already sitting up there with Boo, I found the phrasing a tad harsh. (Then again, she might have heard from all the other parents how I like to get my daughter sick. Darn that grapevine!)

Despite the rough start, the mom and I got to chatting. It turned out she was there only to meet a friend. She wasn’t a big fan of our playground, you see, since she’d read on a mothers’ Web site that it was FILLED WITH SYRINGES AND RAZOR BLADES.

Now, I’ve dug through the dirt at this playground for over a year, and I’ve found nothing more disturbing than a cigarette butt. So I told the new mom that I was pretty sure the whole thing was a rumor. She countered me with a pronouncement that convinced me that it was a rumor:

“But I had a friend who was there!

The ultimate urban legend line, no?

Determined to right the wrong, or at least register my opinion, I went over to the Golden Gate Mother’s Group site and discovered to my chagrin that the group’s name isn’t just quaintly historical, like the NAACP or something: they really don’t let in dads. Not stay-at-home dads, gay dads, single dads — no dads allowed.

I recognized, in that moment, an entire class of mommies that I’ve been dancing around all year: The Tribal Mommies. Many of these moms are nice enough to chat with, but they really don’t want to interact with the daddies in any real way, and they certainly don’t want to discuss parenting with us. A lot of people are tribal apart from mommies: there are lawyers who only want to hang with lawyers and wine drinkers who prefer other wine drinkers.

The sad truth is, though, that these mommies — and lawyers and wine drinkers and anyone else who feels an overarching affinity to their “tribe” — cut themselves off from people who might be pretty interesting, or even enrich their lives. Even worse, I think, is that mommies who exclude everyone but other mommies from their inner circle are teaching their kids that parenting is the exclusive domain of the woman, and no one is served by that.

The implication is pretty clear: dads don’t play a real role in “providing balance in the lives of our growing families” (from their mission statement). To be clear: this isn’t a feminist group about empowerment: it’s mostly a source of practical parenting information, like babysitters and stuff. So — why no dads?

Mommy and Me and The Mother of Invention are also “no dads allowed.” I’m completely behind cute, catchy names, but there comes a point at which empowerment of a group leads to ostracizing of everyone not in that group.

I know: mom’s role is really special in a child’s life, and it’s different from dad’s, and it’s amazing and worthy of every honor. I’m sure that there are certain things that women or moms can and should discuss with other women or moms only. BlogHer comes to mind — that sounds magnificent and empowering. But to cut us dads off from diaper discussions, from playgroups, from any reasonable role we can play in our children’s lives — that’s just shallow and ignorant.

And — as you can probably tell — a little bit hurtful, too.

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in oddparents,playground,surrounded by mommies ·

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

PJ August 1, 2007 at 8:32 am

Can you imagine the furor those same groups would raise if there were Dad-only groups that they couldn’t get a peek into?


Taste Like Crazy August 1, 2007 at 11:53 am

I used to be very active in two “mothering” websites.

But, as I’ve gotten a bit older and Cara is no longer a “baby”, my interest in those sites has really wained. To be totally honest, the drama that was associated with the sites had finally started to overtake any joys that I received.

I think that that you’re right to be slighted. You’re also correct to say that they are closing themselves off from some potential cool people.

Trust me, let them enjoy their drama and you keep digging in the dirt.


aimee/greeblemonkey August 1, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Hmmm. I totally see your point. However, in their defense, it *is* called the Golden Gate *Mother’s* Group… and while I like to mix it up with the dudes about parenting and all sorts of topics, I kind of feel like it’s their right to soak in the estrogen if they want to. And while there may not be many Dads-only groups around, there certainly have been men-only groups for centuries. kwim?

However. Having said that… To ignore to essential role dads play and not embrace a dad such as yourself who is immersed in it, and has great advice… well. That’s just silly. Their loss.


doodaddy August 1, 2007 at 3:04 pm

@PJ~ Yeah, I’m thinking of joining the most fraternal order of the moose! Um, meese. Mooses.

@Crazy~ I never made that connection — they’re slinging dirt and I’m digging in it! I think they’re more likely to get sick with their kind of dirt, too…

@aimee~ I suppose… to each his (ahem) own. And I’m all for estrogen-soaking, it’s just that this group is supposedly more practical parenting advice-oriented… Plus, I don’t really like the idea of men’s groups, either. Blech. Like the Elks or something?


Blog Antagonist August 2, 2007 at 4:37 pm

Ummm, that’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. Does she know the meaning of the word “gullible”?

Sorry about the playgroup thing. I’ve never really gotten the appeal of exclusivity. It’s boring.


doodaddy August 2, 2007 at 4:47 pm

“Gullible?” What’s that word mean? I just looked it up, it’s not even in the dictionary!




Dondi Tiples August 7, 2007 at 2:56 am

I am so with you on that. My husband holds a stressful full-time job, yet has been very hands-on with our two sons from day one. I am so proud that he can expertly discuss everything from diapies and poo to formula and soothing booboos on a tantruming toddler – all from solid experience. The only thing he might need now are full-fledged “boobies” to breastfeed the kids himself.
There shouldn’t be any discrimation in parenting. After all, it takes both the mom and dad to raise the kids. Its a contributory effort, not an exclusive one.
Boobaby is going to grow up one great kid.


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