The one thing I didn’t expect when I FINALLY became a mom was the sudden onset of other mothers. The hardest part of parenting is having witnesses.
Growing up in the 1970s, also known as the Middle Ages for Children, us kids were instructed after breakfast to ‘Just go play outside’ with whatever kids were wandering our neighborhood until the street lights came on. It didn’t matter if we didn’t like or get along with the neighborhood kids, but friendships of convenience were better than nothing. Play-dates were something gross we might find in Uncle’s Butch’s Playboy magazine, tucked behind the toilet in his bathroom.
Cut to now. Since Canada and I became parents late in life, we were content figuring out this whole ‘raising a baby’ thing by ourselves until Grace started daycare. Suddenly there were other families who also had children and they wanted to get together.
ME: (to Canada) Who are these people and what do they want? We don’t have time to see the people we already like! We can’t possibly find room and time for more people!”
It got worse. Imagine my shock and horror when another mom said her toddler wanted to play with my toddler. This woman wanted to hang out with my child and me. At our house! Without professionals in the room!? What the what?!?
In a panic, I conference-called my sisters, both of whom had several children when they were age-appropriate for becoming mothers.
ME: Someone asked me for a play-date. What do I do now?
SISTER: Um, you say yes, and then you schedule it
ME: But. Why? Why would any woman invite another human into their home?! She’ll see my messy house, the dog hair pile that used to be my sofa, and that Grace wears my black bra on her face because she thinks it’s a Batman mask! I refuse to be judged in my own disgusting home!
OLDER SISTER (mom of 2 boys): Ummm. I guarantee you the other mom’s house is just as messy.
YOUNGER SISTER (mom of 4 girls): Have you SEEN my house?
OLDER SISTER: Real moms don’t judge each other. On play-dates you get a little break from entertaining your kids and maybe gain a friend.
YOUNGER SISTER: Just try it. Go on one play-date. Just one.
This sounded way too suspiciously simple, so I rejected their advice until the other mother, let’s call her Brooke, (because that’s her name) invited us over first.
Grace and I showed up with intensely shy, well, at least I was. The girls SQUEALED, utterly thrilled to see each other. While they quickly got down to the serious business of playing, Brooke and I chatted. We traded bedtime tips, teething solutions, family-friendly restaurants, low-sugar snacks and we… got along fabulously. Five years later, the girls have grown up together. And Brooke is my acupuncturist. That’s a massive win-win.
Truth is, my closest mom friends in the world were found in day care or preschool, but formed and bonded on play-dates. Now that our kids sadly attend different schools, we regularly schedule play-dates where a mom, let’s say her name is Annie, (cuz it is) drops off her twins at my house so our kids can play and she can spend 2 hours Christmas shopping mercifully alone.
Conversely, Annie’s scooped up Grace when Canada and I have had to work late. Since most clichés are true, raising a child, does in fact, take a village. And it can sometimes be hard to find your village, if you live in a city or a neighborhood that isn’t chockfull of children.
The biggest upside is I don’t have to clean my house! Our favorite play-dates have included trips to museums, waterfall hikes, beach trips, puppet shows and movies. Sometimes I just don’t make the time to plan a complicated excursion, but if we bring a friend for Grace’s, it makes the day (and the drive) that much more fun and memorable.
The hardest part of play-dates is SCHEDULING. The upside is, I now text like a tween on a Unicorn Latte buzz.
But make time for play-dates!! The mind you save could be your OWN!
This post was generously underwritten by Kiddoyo.com, a fantastic mobile app for parents who find scheduling play-dates as traumatizing as on-line dating.