POSTED ON Aug 30th 2013 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Housewifery, Motherhood, Reverse Culture Shock
It is day 5 of school, and the start of the mothers’ coffee circuit. Two years ago, when the reverse culture shock bombs rocked my world with some regularity, I had this to say about the coffee circuit: [British vocabulary the result of only being home a few months when I wrote this.]
I knew I had underestimated the transition right from the start. In London I was above average for mother involvement. Actually, I was slightly above average for the nursery school, whereas for Hill House, I annoyed some mothers because they thought I was a busybody, that American with the clipboard. Since the move home, I have not changed my level of kid involvement, but here, within 6 weeks I realized that I am just a notch above complete slacker. By the end of last term, I started receiving personal emails from teachers and homeroom mothers reminding me of things I could volunteer to do. (More on that below.) Two mothers were shocked to learn that I didn’t work. They just assumed that I was a working mom. One even mentioned how I dress! (The idea that I am well dressed is shocking to me. I strive not to be a slummy mummy, but the London merely-not-slummy apparently equals Houston yummy mummy. In truth it is probably that I didn’t wear my gym kit to dropoff, which is standard uniform for stay at home moms.)So what exactly was I expected to do?I have 4 children in two different schools and was, therefore, invited to the before-school-starts coffee for each school, the school start coffee, the grade level coffees for the older children, and class coffee for the Things. That was seven coffees in half as many weeks.Another example, I started this post last Fall, in the parlor of the Things school. I dropped them at 9, but that day was the Fall Festival, to which parents have to accompany their children. My Things slot was 10:30 to 11:30, so I had a little over an hour, which any experienced mom will tell you, is not enough time to be getting on with anything. The festival is in the soccer field across the small–in American scale–school’s parking lot. The Things’ class has eight children and two teachers. That is, the 4:1 ratio class has to walk perhaps 25 yards across a dormant parking lot to an enclosed football pitch, yet the mothers must attend. Someone might get hurt, lost, need to go to the loo, I guess. A mere six weeks into school, and that was the second mother participation event. The girls missed a trip to a farm two weeks prior that mothers didn’t have to attend, but had to drive their own children. The farm was a little over an hour out of town. I didn’t think I could make it back in time for the school bus for the older children. Plus, even if I didn’t need to go into the farm, productive activity for a housewife is limited in the country from 9:30-1:30.But American mothers are far more likely to have a sense of wanting to experience the joy of such events with their child. In fact, I would bet that most American mothers reading this wonder what I am going on about. On the other hand, I fully expect any British mother reading to have to stop to shake her head and sputter. And here lies the heart of the problem: it hasn’t occurred to American mothers to mind any of this. British mothers would have protested by the third coffee.
With perspective from time, that post could use some tweaking, toning down in some places and toning up in others. I’ll get to that probably do that in book form. I’ve had two womanhood books trying to get out of my head for a while. This blog is starting to look like a bunch of rough drafts to me. This week I’ve just enjoyed my new wide open days, and spent time catching up on the news. Unfortunately, more on that later too. For now, though, coffee.