One thing that has always struck me hard since I moved to Paris is the sometimes overwhelming feeling of lonliness. I don't know what it is about this city but I often find myself feeling very alone. Nowadays, there are always people around me. I spend everyday working at the tea house surrounded by my customers and yet I feel very apart from everyone one of them. The only time I really don't feel alone is when I pick my kids up from school. Anytime I spend with my kids I never feel alone... I mean literally I can't go to the bathroom alone but just being around them and doing things for them makes me feel better.
Anyway... today I spent the entire day working to prepare for my up coming tradeshow. I was feeling distracted all day and it was fine until two mothers that I know from my kid's school came into the tea house with their kids. The kids are the same age as Max and Alixe but in different classes. I knew both mothers seperately but didn't realize that they were friends themselves. I greeted them to get in a return a very cold, "bonjour". I wasn't sure if it was me misintpreting them until about 30 minutes after they arrived they asked me where my kids were? There was something in their eyes and the weird way they asked that made me feel, in that moment, very alone. I told them they were at the centre de loisir. The other mother asked with a sort of snotty tone why I would leave them at school if they could come and play at the tea house. I was taken aback and sort of caught speechless. This same mother and I had had this converstion about 6 months ago when she was alone and she had asked me (in a much nicer tone) where my kids were. I explained to her then that I can't work properly with my kids pulling for my attention at all times. Don't get me wrong, I love when Max and Alixe are at the tea house with me. They are there a lot but this week they are not because I have A LOT of work to do. But you know what? This woman doesn't care about that. I felt judged right then... and any explanation was going to be wasted on her judging regard. I snapped out of my silent stupor and looked at the clock and exclaimed with a smile, "Well, it's time to go get the kids now isn't it?". Grabbed my things, said goodbye to my employee who was closing for me and I rushed out the door. Good thing the cold air hit my face because I felt like I was going to burst into tears.
Those two mothers have been equally nice to me on seperate occasions but together tonight they were rude to me. They kept looking at me over their shoulders when I worked and I wondered if they were talking about me. Now I know they were...
What is with French mothers? Why do they do this me? This isn't the first time other parents in my kids classes have snobbed me. I over heard a father of a child in Max's class who never sees me except at the park tell his kid in French that he didn't want her talking to THAT MOTHER and he glanced at me just as I was looking at him. I don't think this man has ever heard me speak French. He only sees me after school with the kids at the park. I usually sit alone and only speak in English with my kids. He probably thought I didn't even speak French or something stupid like that... he was for sure speaking loud enough for me to hear him though. It's just so shitty. I hate this childish behavior coming from adults.
Even taking Alixe to her first friend's birthday party where the parents and I have "known" each other for over two years because these were creche parents who kids now go to school with Alixe. I say "known" because they know who I am but they don't know anything about me. I am La Maman Americaine. I am constantly referred to like that. I , on the other hand, don't know anything about them either because they never take the time to talk to me. If I make an effort to set up a playdate with the other kid it's usually their nanny that drops the kid off and picks them up.
I want to come back to the two mothers who were in the tea house today silently judging me. Those two women were able to make me feel so utterly alone in that moment. I don't know how French mothers do that but they do... One thing that drives me crazy when these two mothers come to the tea house is that their kids make the biggest mess. They play with ALL the toys at the same time and really don't pick them up before they leave. It's appaulling the messes I have cleaned up after them... chocolate cake smeared all over my books in English. Toys stuffed in places in the book shelf where they don't belong. Toys broken... The list goes on and on... Obviously, they know it's me cleaning up after them. Is that why they leave my tea house is such a mess?
I have to say that all my Mama friends here in Paris are anglophone. I tried to think if I had any french women who were mothers that I would consider a friend. Other than a few of Julien's cousins who have kids around Max and Alixe's age but they live so far away that we never have a chance to see each other really... so the answer is no. I really have no French mama friends except for one but she's more American/Korean than French. We speak in English together and rarely speak French to one another. I have to admit that I am surprised that it bothers me so much. I guess I have always had friends when working in past jobs and now that I own my own business I find myself feeling very lonely. I am not friends with my employees. It's hard for someone who runs such a small business to be buddy-buddy with their employees. I am sure there are some people who do it, I just can not...
So, here I am trying to distract myself from what happened today... I have so much work to do and all I can do is feel sorry for myself for feeling so lonely. It makes me wonder if this is how my mother felt living in Kansas. Being a young mother and Korean to boot... I know she didn't do things like everyone else and I do remember one time finding my mother upset because of some stupid thing some mother at school said to her. I was too young to really understand it at the time but thinking back to that memory today, I completely understand her sadness.