It’s All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an I

Play dates are for moms.  Contrary to popular belief, they are not for kids.

It is moms who drive this runaway train off the tracks.  While children like to play together, they would not give a crap if they did not organically meet Suzie at the playground.  They would not cry if Sven didn’t come to their house for a tea party.  They would not be scarred for life if abstract murals were not painted at the museum with the ‘it’ kids in kindergarten.

The moms would lose out.

On the opportunity to:

I'm not looking for a mate - just a partner in crime

I’m not looking for a mate – just a partner in crime

  • have adult conversation
  • to coax their ego into believing they’re doing a good job parenting
  • to drink wine
  • to make friends themselves
  • to keep their sanity intact
  • to keep the little monsters off their back for ten minutes or more
  • to make sure their kids are as popular as they want[ed] to be

And while all this is already over thinking, there’s even more to the psychology of play dates.

Remember, mothers are just grown-up kids.

We worry about making friends just as much as we did in our younger incarnations.  What will we talk about with these new moms?  Will we get along as swimmingly as our children?  What if we hit it off with a mom at drop-off or pick-up and she has a child in another grade or – gasp – of the other sex!?  Sometimes a compatible mom friend just doesn’t have the right kid to hide the real intent: that moms want to make friends, too.  [Perhaps more than their kids because they need an ally in this crazy road trip called parenting.]

New situations make us nervous, too.  What is the play date etiquette?  Do I invite myself in?  Do I drop-off and ditch?  How much do I discipline my kids in front of this other parent?  Will they follow the kids-will-be-kids approach or think I’m lax if I don’t?  Will they think I’m horrible if I don’t make my kids clean up before they go?  Or will they be appalled if I walk up the stairs into their child’s bedroom looking for the toy tub?

Peer pressure, though less crippling than in junior high, still exists.  Do we share our deepest, darkest bad mom moments?  Will she understand and share her own?  Or will she judge?  Will we commiserate over this shared, easier-said-than-done existence?  Will we build each other up or tear each other down?  Will we be able to have a real conversation as two people who happen to be mothers or as two women trying to fit the textbook model?

“Play” dates are really just a lot of work.  Our kids would get along just fine if we sent them to school; if we took them to the playground and let them chat up little Sophia on their own.  What intrinsic need does it fulfill in us?  The need for human [read: adult] companionship?  To keep them busy before their idle hands find the devil’s work?  To make it easier for ourselves?

When I was a teacher, we used to tell particularly snarky students that we didn’t need them to like us because we had enough friends.  As moms, do we?  Are we using our kids as an excuse to make connections for ourselves?  What is it that we are lacking?

And for what else do we use them as an excuse?

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10 Comments

  1. Beautifully put truth.

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  2. haelanra

     /  February 27, 2013

    wow, that’s a really interesting perspective from the not oft expressed “mothers side”! :0 I think it’s kind of similar in South Korea, where I live, when moms get together to energetically discuss about their kids’ education and say, “My kid got a better score on the test than yours!” 😛

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  February 27, 2013

      I don’t know where the competition comes from – and why we continue to perpetuate it when it obviously takes so much effort and causes so much damage. Same all the over the world, too, apparently! Thanks for reading!

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  3. Nikki

     /  February 28, 2013

    The first time James was invited to a play date, I changed my outfit three times and I was so nervous my hands were sweating. I ended up in a nice polo and khakis and all the other moms were in yoga pants and hoodies (my usual Mom uniform). I ended up laughing about it with the other Mom’s and we are still friends 7 years later. On the other side of this lovely group of Mom’s was the time I was invited by a former work friend to her play group, but she told me that before I came, I would, “have to buy a better stroller…” They all had high-end strollers and I guess my Chicco was too low-class. Needless to say, that was the last time I spoke with her and I didn’t regret missing out on THAT group.

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  February 28, 2013

      True story? I didn’t realize there was stroller stigma, too! It’s hard to suss out the “authentic” moms vs. those that subscribe to the competitive school of motherhood. Unless they come right out and tell you your stroller isn’t good enough! My goodness.

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  4. Renee

     /  February 28, 2013

    So true, my husband likes to joke that it’s a good thing my oldest daughter has friends because now I have more.

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  5. littlebangtheory

     /  March 7, 2013

    Equally true for fathers, if one substitutes “beer” for “wine” in your third bullet-point.
    Thanks for the clarity of mind on this important subject! 😉

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  March 8, 2013

      Thank you for another perspective. And I’d take a beer!

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