Monday, May 09, 2005

Down With the Mami Crew

Since I was accused of being an Amy Sohn wannabe, so what better time to refer to a recent Amy Sohn article on Mommy Cliques.

Ms. Sohn's columns appear weekly in New York Magazine, which is written for the rich and affluent of my beloved city. I admit to the magazine being one of my guilty pleasures since I was a small child.

For the last year I have found myself arriving later and later to pick up my daughter from school. Never so late that I actually miss her dismissal, but instead I have timed the walk from my apartment to the public school she attends so that I am there exactly as she walks out of the building. All this to avoid the pre-dismissal banter that goes on between parents. Caretakers other than parents, like babysitters (we don't call them nannies in my hood) and even grandparents are left out of the loop.
It's all about who is going to the playground. Who is going to the Parents' Association Meeting later, who volunteered for the book fair or the mom and pop sale or who can help keep time at the jog-a-thon. They are mostly white mothers. Married women who have husbands who work.

I fell in with this crowd when I decided to stop working outside the home and decided to dedicate my life to writing. Somewhere along the way I got sidetracked though. Somewhere along the way I ran for a position within the Parents' Association, and won. I became the unofficial English to Spanish translator at school meetings. I translated school notices into Spanish. I worked the book fair and the mom and pop sale. I became the editor of the parents' association newsletter. I was outspoken. I was the youngest mom in the crew and the fact that I has a thing for dying my hair pink and wearing fishnets to P.A. meetings added with the fact that I was a Latina single mom gave the crew some third world street cred. This is where it got interesting.

"You are so articulate" the assistant principal said to me one day at an event.
"Don't be like your mother, " the principal told my daughter, in front of me, another day that I arrived at an event with red red hair.

Suddenly there was a problem with the second graders, the grade my daughter was in. Children who were lovely first graders suddenly had turned into disruptive students who wouldn't do their homework. According the school administration they had tried talking to the parents. They had sent letters but the parents weren't listening. But it wasn't us. We were the good parents. We were the ones who didn't work and went to P.A. Meetings. It was the working parents and then someone said it,
"it's the immigrant parents"
"they don't value homework"

I probably should have stayed and fought them on their stupidity and I think I did for one more meeting but then I gave up.
That's when the dirty looks began at dismissal. Some people actually stopped talking to me, like literally they see me and turn away. I decided to focus on my work, my writing. I decided to make a life for myself outside the walls of the school and the other stay at homes and work at home looked at me like I was cheating on them.

I've found my own balance now. I still edit the Parents' Association's newsletter. I occasionally attend workshops and other events at the school. I help other parents who are marginalized from the system when asked. The holes? Well there are no holes. I write more. I do more things with my child. The mami crew is always recruiting more members and other mammas have taken my place.


Blogger nehanda said...

i dont know whether i can fit being a mami in babylon. my mindset is still rooted in how i was raised in africa & stuff. i suppose deep down i am nervous of my incapability to fully blend in. & now that motherhood tempts me with such consistancy, having a child and raising a child with my partner here, i feel id stick out like a sore thumb.

5/11/2005 03:39:00 AM  

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