From the achives: Phenomena of the Day- Freezing in front of other moms

This a repost from over 10 years ago in a galaxy far far away, when I had a different blog, I was in academic medicine, and my children were little. I thought it was a good time to post it, as my SIL Dr. Jen Tang and I will be recording a podcast on a related topic later today! Shameless plug for our new podcast, No Limits! Follow us on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon Music!


First, definitions: SAHM = Stay at home mom. DD – Dear Daughter.

So, I’m a mom that works outside of the home.  As I have covered elsewhere in this blog, I think that a good mom is a good mom, no matter whether she works in the home or outside of it as well.  A good mom is working her ass off, all the time, period.  Furthermore, a good mom makes her kids feel loved, safe, and empowered. OK. If you don’t know me yet, I just like to put that out there.

So anyway, that all being said, anyone who lives on Planet Earth knows that there is kinda this Working Mom / SAHM Mom kind of thing going on.  There is sometimes an Us vs. Them. I think there is often needless insecurity and anxiety stirred up on both sides of the imaginary fence, when we stare across at each other and think, what is she thinking? What should I talk to her about? What kind of feelings does SHE bring out in ME when I see her?

Which brings me to my Phenomena of the Day: I freeze in front of SAHMs sometimes when they ask me simple questions.

It first happened 5 years ago, when my oldest started kindergarten and I was as a surgical intern working 80 hours a week.  I was post-call, having been awake for about 32 hours, and went to pick my DD up at school.  It was early in the year, like, the first two weeks of school.  I’d eaten 2 graham crackers with peanut butter over the past 12 hours.  My urine output was less than < 0.5 cc/kg/hr.  I had driven home with the windows open, radio blaring, slapping my thigh to stay awake. I then parked my car at the house and walked carefully to the school, not wanting to drive my daughter in such a state of sleep deprivation.

Once at school, one of the SAHM moms asked me, “Who’s her teacher?”

And I froze. I couldn’t remember.  My sleepy mind raced- God I can’t remember! She’s going to think I’m the worst mom ever! Maybe I am the worst mom ever! Where am I? Oh God, she’s still looking at me!

So I blurted out a name that was a teacher’s name, of that I was sure. But I knew it was the wrong one, the wrong one! What was going to happen when she, in her daily trips into the school to help in the library or with the math assessments, realizes that my kid was not in the class I said she was in? The only thing to do, it seemed, was to never talk to this mom again. 

This strategy was rethought after I’d had some sleep and thereby abandoned, of course. But what happened after that was this paralyzing fear of the same thing happening again. The fear itself would put up front and center, whenever a SAHM asked me without warning “So whose class is he/she in?” and I couldn’t answer! I’d panic and couldn’t remember! It’s ludicrous, of course.  It’s happened once or twice a year since then, only with a SAHM, only when I haven’t prepped myself consciously beforehand, and my mind always races Oh goodness it’s happening again! She’s going to think I don’t know what the heck is going on with my kids because I’m a working mom! Quick, say something! It’s almost like having a panic attack- I’m so nervous about forgetting that I can’t remember. After a while, I learned how to laugh and stall, of course. Sometimes I get the right name out, but usually I don’t.  This is usually followed my an insane urge on my part to tell them about how my kids were discussing the theory of relativity the other night or how I saved some guys life up in Interventional Radiology yesterday.  I never say that stuff, of course, because that would be falling deeper into the vortex of competitive thinking that I am trying hard to rise above.

So, the most recent time it happened was this morning. She asked me, I froze, I laughed, I actually choked up the right name after clearly searching for it. I pushed forth with the conversation anyway, asked knowing questions about the swim team and her summer, and took off for the hospital.

I suppose you could read into this a bunch and say I’m a nut or that I’m not happy with my choice to work.  I don’t think so, though.  I’m actually pretty secure with the decisions I’ve made… But I’m also just as much of a mess as everybody else. 🙂

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