a mother holds her baby


I’m a Mother in Rural Alberta and I’m Having the Hardest Time Fitting In

Feb 7, 2020

All I wanted in high school was to fit in, so I watched the other kids like a socially awkward hawk.

I wanted to know what they wore, what they ate and what they talked about.

But even after all the research, my Silver brand jeans never fit right, and I sang Janis Joplin in my head while lip-syncing Sheryl Crow.

"I’m a queer, left-leaning parent living on an acreage in rural Alberta, and kindred spirits sometimes feel few and far between."

Ultimately, trying to fit in made me unhappy — and I’m finding the same thing in motherhood.

While you might not know it to look at me, I've always felt more at home with the misfits than in the mainstream. Once I allowed myself to ignore the rigorous social conventions of high school, I happily bounced around between nonconformist groups of friends.

But becoming a parent has turned some of my quirks into chasms once again.

I’m a queer, left-leaning parent living on an acreage in rural Alberta, and kindred spirits sometimes feel few and far between.

Many of the conversations I have with other moms are about clothing (we’re more boxes of hand-me-downs than Baby Gap), sleep training (we don’t) and essential oils (not my thing). Openers are often along the lines of, “What do you do?” (I write about controversial topics like climate change and LGBTQ2 rights), “What does your husband do?” (before I’ve mentioned I have one) or “Your little boy’s going to break all the girls’ hearts” (nope to the compulsory heterosexuality, thanks!).

I’ve often felt desperate for solidarity in parenthood, particularly in the newborn phase, so I’ve joined in the chats about grocery shopping tips, baby poop colours and “get your body back” postpartum workouts. Sometimes I really have needed to talk about poop, because it’s confusing. But otherwise, I'd rather talk about deconstructing the body shaming narrative that's so pervasive in parenting culture and the climate crisis. 

Meeting New People

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the opportunity to meet nice people, but I’ve often left these conversations feeling more isolated than before. If you’re a parent who loves talking about bento lunches and getting your body back, please know I’m not judging — it’s not you. But it’s also not me (I hope). This is a byproduct of grouping people together in a category just because we’ve procreated. When I hold back my voice, I’m missing out on opportunities to really connect. And I wonder: What if we’re all doing the same thing, watering ourselves down so making “mom friends” is easier? What if “mainstream parenting” is a myth made to huck products and boost hashtag influencers?

Outside the Parenting Culture Bubble 

I’ve stopped joining in on banter if I can’t be myself — sometimes I even disrupt the regularly scheduled parent convos with cultural commentary.

While asking about the latest episode of Dear White People has not exactly made the most popular mom in the sandbox, I’m learning to accept that real friendship means more than having stretchy pants and sippy cups in common. So, I'm trying. 

Is your bisexual identity erased when you become a parent? Read about this mom's experience here.

I’ve found a few like-minded souls in my town, and I’m trying to attend more community (non-parenting) events so I can meet more. Online groups whose titles include words like “feminist,” “gentle parenting” and “queer” have been a balm to my burnt-out soul. Becoming a freelance writer has also helped me meet some writer-parents who also think too deeply for their own good and chase their parenting banter with a good dose of cultural criticism.

Making friends in motherhood has proven just as hard as it was in high school. I still often feel like a round peg in a square parenting world. But by not trying to wedge myself into spaces I don’t fit, I hope I can be even more myself — while maybe encouraging others to do the same.

Article Author Brianna Sharpe
Brianna Sharpe

Brianna Sharpe is an Alberta-based freelance writer who lives on a mini-acreage with a not-so-mini husky and three humans of varying sizes. A queer parent, font snob and ex-high school teacher, her work can be found in publications like Chatelaine, HuffPost Canada, Xtra, and The Toronto Star.

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