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How I quit my mommy group twice

April 26, 2010

There is a place where all Beckies go to congregate, converse and feed.  This place is called the MOPS meeting.  MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers, and I’m pretty sure it was invented by James Dobson.  Now MOPS seems like a really good idea: get mothers of young children together so they don’t succumb to the isolation that is nearly inevitable in their vocation.  Help them connect to a community of like-minded women who can help sustain them through the physical, mental, and spiritual challenges of motherhood while capable, loving staff give them a couple hours to be with adults by caring for their children in a separate wing of the church.  Sign me up!

I first joined a local MOPS group last year thinking I need some local friends who are awesome and who have kids and together our kids will go on “playdates.” (I hate that term, by the way, but I’ll save that for another post I may do on my disdain for the phrase “sippy cup.”)  Our group met at a Baptist church and while I was for a time affiliated with that order, I’d decided it was worth it to condescend and become an expatriate non-denominational evangelical twice a month to meet chicks.

At MOPS, we sit at tables and have “table leaders.”  Table leaders are supposed to make everyone feel welcome and encourage their table to get to know one another through planned outings or even just conversation at the meetings.  My table leader seemed very sweet (as we say down South), but she also seemed very popular, as in, “so glad you’re joining us, excuse me, I have so many bffs here that I must now float across the room to talk to seven different women you don’t know and won’t be introduced to because I’m super-social.”  So I sat at the table, completely out of place, just like in high school, while everyone who has known each other since kindgergarten caught up on what had happened since their last phone conversation yesterday. (Okay, it wasn’t exactly that exclusive, but it was pretty close.  Either way, I left that day thinking, alright, despite that I meet the prerequisite of being a Mother of Preschoolers, here’s another club of folks that won’t take me.)

I concluded that I needed to be more outgoing, introduce myself to other women who didn’t introduce themselves even though I obviously still had that new-MOPS-mom smell.  The next meeting I did just that.  We had ample opportunity to talk because we were doing a craft (yay!  I get to try to win friends while failing miserably at some pink-dotted art project).  We had conversation questions this time about marriage, too, because a guest speaker had briefly lectured on communication in marriage.  Our leader went around the table asking each of us the questions.  No one had any problems with communication in their marriages (even though all of them had small children and one of the women looked markedly like a “family bed” girl).  One woman said she was advised to follow the Biblical principle of not letting the sun go down on your anger, so she and her husband would deal with conflict by the bedtime deadline or if sleep called, just let it go and not bring it up again the next day.

After several rounds of this, and several opportunities for me to talk too much as I am prone to do, one of the women told some story about how her husband tries to goose her in the shower and she hates that, but he thinks it’s funny and now her kids will open the shower curtain and try to poke her tummy while she has shampoo in her eyes.  The second she finished the story, she added, “I probably shouldn’t have said that.  My husband would be so embarrassed.”  I resolved that I would stalk this woman at meetings until we were good friends and having cookouts where our embarrassed husbands could chat over a grill about their loud-mouthed wives and our kids entertained one another while we told stories about the cult of MOPS in my kitchen.

My stalking was ineffective and we kept missing each other at meetings because of sick kids, etc.  At MOPS, at the end of the year, your table is disbanded and the next year you’re given a new table.  My loquacious friend and I have exchanged one series of emails and I saw her at the gym once this year, but we’ve never had a cookout, and we haven’t really had the opportunity (because we’re crazy-busy mommies) to ever develop a friendship inside or outside of MOPS.

As last year wound down, our final meeting was a “testimony” meeting where we could talk about how great MOPS is and how it’s changed our lives.  Several women I didn’t know got up and choked out some stories about how they came to MOPS and their table rallied around them in their time of need and now everyone was the best friends and wow!-sob-sob.  I sat in my chair thinking this was NOT the place for me.  I had gone through health problems and barely got added to the prayer request list.  My table leader, the social butterfly, was rarely even sitting with us that day because she busy was hugging everyone like it was senior year.  I kept waiting on the slideshow of pictures from all the big parties I wasn’t invited to with the sound system playing the longest possible version of “I hope you dance.”

Then another mom stepped up to the mike.  She told the group, “The first year I came to MOPS, I came in January.” Just like me.  She continued, “I didn’t really connect with anybody and it was hard to get my kids up and out of the house to be here, so I decided I wasn’t going to come back the next year.” Just like me.  She concluded, “But something nagged at me and it seemed like God was saying to give it another shot, and I did, and I met some of my best friends at my table that next year.  So if you’re thinking of giving up on MOPS because you haven’t had the experiences that the women up here have had, I just want to say give it another chance and come back next year.  Thanks.”

So I signed up again.  That fall I got a new table leader, and in talking to her on the phone I had hope for the new session.  She seemed awkward and a little shy and when she told me, “I look forward to meeting you next week,” I didn’t really believe her.  And I liked that.  She wasn’t selling me on anything and I could trust that about her.  Meeting her in person, she seemed pretty new to MOPS, too.  It was her first year as a leader and while she didn’t supply the table with little goodie bags from week to week like my leader last year had, she friended all of us on Facebook.  We had different political and ACC basketball allegiances, but she was funny and she watched way too much reality TV.  I thought I finally found a pal.

It only took a few meetings to realize she already had some close friends at MOPS, and she, like me, was the kind of woman who could only maintain a few close friendships at a time.  While my table leader seemed “taken,” I was optimistic about the rest of our group.  I was especially excited about one prospect: an Orthodox woman who was greeted at the table with puzzled faces as she described her women’s group’s stay at an abbey for a couple weeks over the summer.  She had four kids which to me made her a war-tested decorated General.  We had several good conversations but upon discovering she was pregnant with her 5th, soon dropped out of MOPS to handle complications with the pregnancy.

As I looked around at my other prospects at our table, it seemed like the other women had already paired off.  Two of the women were military wives and they had loads to talk about.  Two more knew each other from years past and had the same rapport and manner as the Car Talk Guys (for anyone whose kids won’t let you listen to NPR, they are the Rust-eeze brothers from Cars).

It was during one particular meeting that I decided to quit MOPS for the second time.  We were working on another craft (just once it would be nice if the lady in charge of bringing the glue sticks would accidentally leave that ginormous Ziploc bag and all its contents at home!).  The women at the table were having what I thought was a fruitful conversation about cheap or free places you could take your kids to play, learn, etc.  Our discussion then turned from, “Yeah, the National Zoo is great” to this:

Car Talk Woman: Hey, you know a good place…The NRA Museum

Me: HUH??!? (looking up from polka-dotted post-it note cover project)

Car Talk Woman: Yeah, my boys loved it.  There’s all these old guns and weapons and they even give you coloring books on how to handle and clean a gun.  It’s great.

This had to be a joke.  Somewhere my husband was hiding in a corner with a psych professor or a hidden camera operator waiting to see what I would do in this experimental situation.  I know I just didn’t hear a woman tell me to take my preschooler and my toddler to the gun lobby’s headquarters to learn about how to handle a gun and hear some docent say, “Now this here Luger, we actually got from someone who lifted it off a dead Nazi officer.”

At this point, in my mind I had two options.  I could out myself as a member of the Million Mom March, rattle off some facts about the dangers of mixing guns and children, and then chastise Click and Clack for assuming that every evangelical Christian mother was politically on board with a broad interpretation of the second amendment, or I could let it go and quit MOPS again to get away from these boring/psycho Beckies once and for all.

I decided to quit.  Again.  I went to a couple more meetings because I’d paid through the semester, and as spring approached, more health problems came along that prevented me from attending enough meetings to make the spring dues worthwhile.  I bagged the whole thing and let my table leader know I wouldn’t be able to return this year, and I didn’t think next year would happen either.  I was free.

Or so I thought.  Last week, I was reading a fantastic book by Kathleen Norris called Acedia and Me.  In it, she talks a great deal about the demon monastics refer to as “acedia” that would distract, depress, and convince you that whatever you were dedicated to was not where you should be.  Acedia creates restlessness and makes your present boredom seem so heavy that you do everything you can to avoid community or commitment to a certain course.

I’ve done that with MOPS.  Did I have good reasons for leaving both times?  Yes.  I was not getting what I wanted from those women.  I couldn’t find a single one who thought about motherhood, culture, politics or anything I care about really, like me.  But was that the point in God sending me there?  To find more of me?

Norris writes:

The monastic perspective can assist us specifically with regard to understanding the value of community.  Imagine for a moment that the people you encounter at home, work or school [or MOPS!] are the very people God has given you to pray with, eat with, and play with for the rest of your life.  And you are supposed to thank God for this, every day, several times a day.  This is what monastic people take on…How radical to think that we can best know ourselves by embracing commitment, not rejecting it; by relating to others, not callously relegating them to the devilishly convenient category of ‘other.’

For all the judgments I’ve made about the Beckies at MOPS, what I’ve really done is dehumanized my fellow moms.  I don’t have a monastic commitment to hold me to these women (thank God).  I have to constantly choose to be with them.  And twice I’ve chosen to leave.  Maybe it’s not about how willing they are to reach out to me.  Maybe it’s not about me finding a new best friend (I have several good ones already).  Maybe it’s about God changing me through this experience.

I’m a total snob when it comes to Beckydom.  I have a lot of contempt for my fellow stay/work-at-home mothers.  Perhaps it is this pride and judgment that God wants to dig out of me through relationships in this community.  Will I become close with these ladies?  Who knows?  Will I become more gracious and tolerant of them and them of me?  If I stick it out, we’ll all have to.

It’s like that episode of Friends with the metaphorical commitment tunnel.  Commitment-phobic Chandler is given advice in his relationship with his girlfriend: “If you’re scared of heights, you go to the tallest building you can find.  If you’re scared of bugs, you…get a bug.”  This morning I emailed my table leader and told her to send me the forms to sign up for next year.  I’m still not entirely sure it’s where God wants me, but if this is my Nineveh, I don’t want to be caught heading for a boat instead.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2015 3:56 am

    Ugh! My heart hurts so bad that you’ve had such a rough time with MOPS. I wish I could just hug you!! And…introduce you to like, a million moms that would LOVE to be your friend!

    5 years later,

  2. Vee permalink
    October 21, 2015 1:53 am

    This is amazing. I googled “feeling rejected at my MOPS group” and came across this. Currently deciding if I should just drop out. There are some nice moms there but the leader hates me for some reason and is always picking favorites. It is bizarre and makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel like I am in eighth grade again.

  3. March 17, 2016 7:38 pm

    My goodness, thank you for writing this! My sentiments exactly – until the end. I never thought of MOPS as the opportunity God is using to help open me up to others, even when I think it’s an awkward match. I’ve done MOPS for 3 years now and at the end of every year, I swear I’m going to quit. I guess not!

  4. Heather permalink
    June 13, 2016 9:17 pm

    Hi there! I enjoyed reading this! I have attended MOPs groups for the past 5 years, at 3 different churches. I’ve struggled with the same issues you have for sure- we seem to have similar personalities. I’m a crunchy weirdo in the eyes of most church moms, and so even if I try my best smile-and-nod approach, I always feel like I cannot really be myself. I stopped attending this last group 4 weeks early and can happily say I’ll never attend another MOPs meeting again! 🙂

  5. Krystal Dahl permalink
    August 1, 2016 9:18 pm

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I’ve been part of tables that made me question my fit-ness for motherhood, my fitness in body, my acceptability as a woman since everyone was so chipper and talked about designer shoes and their next home make over. But there were a couple years where it all clicked, like 2 in NINE! I’ve been in leadership even, as that notorious craft planner (I promise no ridiculous pink polka dotted things here). I loved hearing the perspective from a mom who comes looking for something. It makes me a better leader to see where gaps are being missed and challenges me to do better to connect. We leaders can all do better. But I also loved the ending perspective that God has something for you, rather than just the leaders having to serve it up. It truly is a team effort by everyone to make connections, regardless of their depth and future. I am a very cautious person for friendships; I had a rough lesson given by God, that I need to accept people in my life for the time and depth HE has placed them there. Your story of accepting what lesson God wants for you where your are in a group reminds me of this and to be more open and pour outward and grow inward…even when it hurts to say good-bye to friends who are dear and move far away. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Becky permalink
    September 8, 2016 6:33 pm

    Hi Becky, I’m Becky. And I’m pretty sure I/you/we wrote this blog. I’m crying (I don’t cry) because I’m certain God wanted me to read this. I’m a stay-at-home mom, I quit my job (that I loved) 2 years ago and was sure I’d join the mops group in my area and then I’d have a million other stay-at-home moms and friends. Fellow moms would envelope me in their mom-love and life would be fine. But I’m going into my third year of the mops group and have been trying to decide whether to quit (again) or not. So all of this is to say, thank you. Thank you for writing this, for challenging me to stop being a snob about Beckydom (which is exactly what it is.) And think outside of me. I can trust that God sees me and my needs, but that He also has already placed a path for those needs – I may just be reluctant to walk down it because it isn’t groomed the way I like. I hope I/you/we can pursue these groups with the Love and Grace God gives us. I’ll be praying for me/you/us.

  7. Joy permalink
    March 24, 2017 6:43 pm

    Good conclusion! I used to be a very withdrawn and shy person. About ten years ago I let that part of myself go and really opened myself up to others. It was a great decision! Having been where you are, I agree that women who find themselves always in the fringes can be very negative about women who are friendly or more connected (which a part of them wants). It softens the pain of feeling excluded. While we can’t be friends with everyone, we can be nice, respect our differences, and reach out. Child sicknesses and busy schedules are not unique to MOPS, either. I had a wonderful non-MOPS mothers group in my home city but could only find a MOPS group here. While it’s not quite the same, I have perservered and met some great ladies! I do think a myth of church life is that all your
    Bffs can be found there. It’s ok to have hobbies and meet people with similar passions beyond faith

  8. Carla Neubauer permalink
    April 8, 2017 3:41 am

    So how did it go?

  9. Christina Minard permalink
    April 27, 2017 9:43 pm

    Your Mops experience is so similar to mine and I love your post. I’m a liberal in a very very heavy red area and many moms in my Mops “carry” which I now know what this means, but I have also met a number of people who are not so dissimilar to me there.

    • Christina Minard permalink
      April 27, 2017 9:48 pm

      I should say I’ve learned to love people very different from myself, that’s for sure.

  10. May 30, 2017 1:26 am

    I so wish I knew which MOPS group you went to so I could go too and we could be friends. I always get invited to moms groups but I end up not even giving them a try because I’m afraid they’ll be filled with moms who live only for their children and have no dreams of a life that reaches past motherhood. Not that motherhood isn’t noble or honorable. I love it! But my kids are not my whole life and I get a little frustrated with moms who find their identity only in their children. If/when I go to a moms group, I want to make a friend. Not just leave my kids only to talk about my kids the whole time. That’s what I’m most afraid of. That and, like you mentioned, high school-eque clickiness.


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