Originally published in the newspaper, Hill Rag, September 2008.

On the day of The Boy’s birth, right behind the placenta came a lifelong dues-free membership to the world’s oldest sorority: The Motherhood. This intimidated me, because the only sororities I had ever heard about came with horror stories of seniors lining up pledges in their underwear and circling their fat parts with sharpie pens. Or marching them out on the quad to sing “I Touch Myself” with tightie-whities on their heads.

Pleasantly, I found that the Capitol Hill chapter of The Sorority of Motherhood is a loving, generous and insightful collection of moms who have saved me, my sanity and my family, a little bit every day since I was inducted. They’ve saved me by holding The Boy when The Hound refuses to come to me when it’s time to leave Marion Park. They’ve saved me with loans of vacation gear when we traveled with The Boy for the first time. The Sisters have made us meals-on-wheels, given my rapidly expanding son hand-me-downs sized for babies twice his age, and whenever I have a question they somehow can’t answer, they can put me in touch with a specialist. Some of the Sisters I have only talked to on the phone, or through email. Some I have never met. But they help me anyway because they are mothers and I am a mother and we are in it together.

But just as I was getting comfortable with my motherness and feeling like I really had the choreography down, I began to notice something amiss. After one stolen babysitter (“It’s a competitive marketplace”), a couple instances of known exposure to contagious diseases at birthday parties (“They’re all going to get chicken pox eventually”), and a ton of passive-aggressive evilness (“Don’t you think your husband would like it if you put in some effort?”) I realized not all moms are Sisters. In fact, there seems to be quite a mélange of mean mommies right here in our Hilly midst. I realized that I had stumbled onto a great anthropological revelation. There was a division in The Motherhood! A rogue splinter group had broken away from the peaceful sorority of mothers to form the Momfia.

The Momfia is a large and intoxicating organization. Its members throw good parties. Better than yours. They wear chic clothes. Nicer than yours. They drive a better car, push a better stroller and lead you to believe they shag their husband regularly. They are always smiling. Their kids are taking immersion Spanish and modeling on the side. A Momfia Mom thinks she is better than you, and wants you to agree.

Sisters want you to know that they are exactly like you in so many ways, especially in the ways you can feel buried and overwhelmed and in desperate need of a pedicure. They feel you. They’re there for you. And it’s that sisterly sameness that the pulls us close to one another, that causes us to cook for one another, hold each other’s children and pour the wine of friendship into your glass when your cup is empty and your hands are unsteady.

This kind of community division is not unprecedented. During her studies in Africa in the seventies Jane Goodall noticed a peculiar shift in the community of Gombe chimpanzees she was observing. Hostility began to grow among the chimps, and Jane was astounded when they split into two separate social groups.  A violent war broke out.

“Now, why would a harmonious group of primates, so adept at communal living, turn on one another?” Jane must have wondered. Here on the Hill, the potential explanations are myriad. Furberizers vs. family bed. Northeast vs. Southeast. Ergo vs. Bjorn. Cloth vs. disposable. Sugar-high vs. sugar-buh-bye. I won’t even get into the fact that this is an election year.

Ultimately, I can’t pretend I have the answers, because unlike Jane, I don’t have the luxury of a tiny private tent outside the perimeter from which I can observe the mom melee with a sterile curiosity. Also, unlike Jane, I look horrible in khaki shorts and I don’t have a PhD. I am one of the chimps, a member of the fractured tribe. And I have chosen sides. I am a Sister. At least I hope I’m exhibiting sisterly behavior to other moms on The Hill.

Perhaps that’s a question we should ask ourselves: Am I sharing the sisterly love with the Motherhood, or am I muscling them Momfia-style?  We’ve all got plenty to do on our own turf, there’s no reason to swing the club of insecurity at one another.

Momfia thugs, if you’re reading this, play nice with your Sisters.  As powerful as you get, we are much greater in number and there are more of us every day.

Advertisements