Playdates Aren't About Kids at All

Our daughters didn't care that they're
both rear-facing in the car, but we did.
Who are we kidding when a group of moms gets together with a bunch of newborns, claiming it's a playdate? The kids don't even know what that poopy, moving blob next to them is, much less are they playing together.

Social interaction between kids is great. It's needed. Sure. As Sharon-anne Oseneko puts it, "If you put a three-year-old in a room with an eight-year-old, they will both change their play to adapt to each other and be able to play together. Or they will completely ignore each other and do their own thing."

Kids can adapt to any old play partner, but this isn't necessarily true for their moms. That's why we need to remember playdates are totally for moms, not babies.


Especially if you're a stay-at-home mom, getting adult interaction becomes really important. After all, if your husband is working outside the home, he is often surrounded by people all day and wants to come home and relax and NOT have to chat for a bit. Can't say I blame them either.

But when you find local playdate groups, often it can be really, really awkward. You all sit around with nothing to talk about but poop, and even discussing your similarly aged kids' development can end up turning into a competition, or a worried mom can get defensive, or an excited mom ends up coming off as insulting.

"Is Susie crawling?"

"No, not yet."

"... Oh."

"Is Joey crawling?"

"Yeah, he's been crawling for four months now!"

"Um, that's nice."

See? Awkward. Making new friends in a playgroup is like school all over again ... fear of rejection is major, and you invest way more emotion into it than is probably necessary or maybe even healthy, and you psychoanalyze every single sentence to figure out what the mom's motives were. Was that a knock on my parenting or was she kidding?

Like it or not, motherhood alone isn't usually enough to bond over. Just like when you're dating, if you're not into the bar scene, going to a bar to pick up guys is rather stupid because you're not going to pick up the right kind of guy for you. For me, going to a metaphysical fair or a bookstore or coffee house is likely to land me the right kind of date (well, if I weren't married, you get what I mean). The same holds true for finding mom friends.

I skip the places I don't really love, and instead aim for places where people already have similar common interests. I'm much more likely to meet mom friends of my type at a La Leche League or Attachment Parenting International meeting, for example, than at a MOPS International meeting, which is Christian-based (I'm not). There's no worry in my head that at LLL, someone would look at me weird if my daughter needs to nurse.

Likewise, a formula-feeding mommy who never babywears and uses disposable diapers isn't likely to feel very comfortable amongst my friends, so going to a more mainstream type group is likely to yield her better results as well.

Of course, there is expectation and judgment within any group ... for instance, when it was raining and I forgot my Moby wrap and ran into an LLL meeting with my daughter in her infant car seat (which I quickly took her out of), I did feel embarrassed and felt the need to quickly defend that I hate carrying that thing and rarely actually take it out of the car ... not that LLL specifically cares one iota about car seats, but the "type" in general is much more approving of keeping the baby close to you, in a wrap, which is an opinion I share. But then I could sit down and nurse and feel comfortable knowing no one cared, and it was totally accepted. I also knew that if I needed advice on washing cloth diapers, this is more likely to be the type of group to have answers I'm looking for, rather than thinking I'm gross for washing poo.

And our kids? They're just kids. They all play together just fine, whether they're newborns (hah) or preschoolers, they really don't care. So let's not fool ourselves ... playdates are totally all about making mom friends, and like-minded mom friends at that. While we all need to work to respect each other doesn't mean we all have to be friends, and that's a lesson ours kids have to learn too, when we tell them, "Get used to playing with Susie because I like her mom."

Where do you find mom friends that are most like you?


Image via Christie Haskell

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