Playdates…what’s not to love about them? With littler kids, you get a second pair of eyes to keep the smalls from eating poison or falling off tall objects. The kids learn important social skills. Everyone wins, right?
Yep, playdates are great…right until they aren’t, and you’re left cleaning a double portion of craft supplies while explaining that, no, the President doesn’t really kill babies. That, my friends, is when you know you’ve hit the wall. So, why does it happen?
- Compatible parents don’t necessarily make for compatible children (and vice versa): Can I be honest? Some of the most frustrating emotional drama I’ve had to deal with as a mom has been related to cases when either I get along with another mom and their kid and my kids can’t stand each other, or when the kids get along great, but the other parent and I don’t see eye to eye. And I have to say, I’m tired of having to work out four-way social dynamics and factor in nap schedules just to get a 5 minute conversation in with a friend.
- The social dynamic can be forced and artificial: Particularly when you don’t know the other parents well, the duration of the playdate may significantly outlast the available small talk topics. This is a particularly troubling problem for me because in the absence of other topics, I just blurt out awkward stuff until it’s time to go home.
- It never evens out: There’s always one mom who has better snacks, funnier jokes, and more engaging toys and activities in any playdate dyad. It’s easy to end up feeling guilty or resentful depending upon where you land in any particular friendship.
- The word “playdate” creates weird expectations: Here’s the problem – what “playdate” means to you might not match well with my definition of playdate, and because it’s such a commonly used term, you probably won’t bother to flesh out the details. Drop off or moms and kids together? Structured activities or kid play free-for-all? Will we stop being friends if I turn on the t.v.? Is there a set end time? Who is responsible for providing snacks?
- It’s all about the kids: Look, I love my kids and all, but I am with them all the time. That’s great and a source of envy for those of my friends who work outside of the home and all. I get that, I know I am lucky to have a job that lets me stay home and be present for their milestones and firsts. But, dude, I am seriously deprived of adult conversation, and particularly adult conversation that is not about kids and/or parenting. And let’s not even talk about how long it has been since I last had a conversation that wasn’t actively interrupted by children.
- It’s hard to improve a mom friendship during a playdate: When it gets down to it, this is the real reason why I am so over playdates. I miss having friends. You know, really friends, who I know things about? Who feel comfortable telling me their awkward stories, and who notice when I go the bad version of silent that means I am only barely managing to keep my head above water. I miss having friends who I know well enough and see often enough to be able to read their body language well enough to know from the set of their shoulders that they really could use a joke that includes a swear word in the punchline. And, as much as I would like to, it’s really hard to achieve that level of closeness when you are cleaning up after a crafting session, slicing healthy fruits and vegetables for a snack, and trying to keep toddlers from poisoning themselves with common household items. It’s hard to become a best friend when you can barely string together two sentences without interruption.
So here’s my plan, my soon-to-be New Year’s Resolution – I’m declaring 2015 to be the year of Mom’s Night Out, the year when I get social with the grownups and leave the kids home with their dad. So, I’m making a promise – once a month, starting in January, you’ll find me out and about after bedtime, hanging out with my friends. And, to make it easier on myself (and if any of you in the greater Seattle area want to join me), I’ll be tracking my movements using our new Socials feature. So log in and check for updates – I’m counting on you all to keep me honest and help me keep my promise!