Working Moms — and Playdates

Working Moms -- and Playdates | CorporetteMoms2018 Update: We still stand by this discussion on working moms, playdates, and introverts — but you may also want to check out some of our other discussions on mom friends.

As proud mama to a 4.5-year-old, I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m in playdate hell.

To be clear: I like the other moms I meet. I want my kid to be friends with their kids. But I’m tired of arranging playdates — and feeling guilty if I don’t arrange them — and if I’m expected to be at the playdate, I’m tired of worrying if I’m social and happy and likeable enough. (Caveat: I may have general social anxiety issues in addition to being an introvert, but that’s another story for another time.) There’s the added stress of symmetry when trying to arrange these things — for example, in my experience most SAHMs would rather meet for a playdate with the mother, not the nanny. As a working mother, furthermore, setting up a playdate where I show up and supervise necessarily means it’s during my two least favorite times to be obligated: the post-work/pre-sleep period that we still rightfully call “the witching hour” — or the weekend, when it feels like we have a million errands, classes, family fun, and grown-up social obligations as well to juggle around.

I don’t even think it’s a working mom problem — I think all parents feel like this! — but I do think working mothers get the brunt of it because it’s yet another thing on our plates. (Speaking of plates — another source of stress! If you’re hosting you’re supposed to have kid-appropriate food and a vaguely tidy house! To be honest I haven’t brought food to any playdates we’ve been to, but perhaps I should be? See, more stress.)

Ladies, what are your thoughts? Do you feel stress regarding playdates — and do you think your status as a working mother increases your stress?

Pictured: I’ve actually read this book, though long ago — it was funny! Clearly I need to give it a reread. 

Comments

  1. Rachel says:

    Am I missing something? Why exactly do you feel you have to set up play dates? My kids have been to maybe one or two and it was purely for my own reasons (wanting to get together with friends). If you want your kids to get socialization, then have the nanny take them to story time at the library, or the children’s museum, or even the playground.

  2. NewMomAnon says:

    I am the worst at playdates. I have a friend who invites us over for dinner once a month or so, and it’s so stressful for all of us (her family and mine). I’ve been trying to get her to join me for lunch or happy hour other times when I don’t have kiddo responsibility. Otherwise, I don’t do evening playdates ever. Which means it’s always weekend playdates, and even those are limited by eating/sleeping schedule, which means we can either do a playdate from 9-11 or 3-5, and only on the weekends I have kiddo. In case you didn’t guess where this was going – we haven’t done a playdate in months.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the only reason I do playdates is so I can hang out with the other mom, and we would probably all prefer to hang out with a glass of wine and a nice cheese plate (not juice boxes at the park), so why not just do that instead?

  3. Yeah, not feeling this. My au pair has a regular playdate with another au pair in the neighborhood who watches a girl the same age as our boys. And on weekends, we make plans with our friends. About half of them have small kids so we do brunch at our house and let the kids run wild in the living room while we drink coffee in the kitchen. Or we meet up at a fenced playground and let the kids go while the adults chit chat. My house is never tidy because I have twin toddlers. I don’t spend more than 30 min cleaning up for company and don’t expect you to do more than that, either. We all have jobs and small children and no one can afford enough help to keep things actually looking acceptable. It’s all fine. I”m just happy to see my friends.

  4. Why can’t you do a play date where you drop the kid off and pick them up at the end? Then you return the favor to the other parents another time. That’s how it worked when we were kids.

    • MomAnon4This says:

      That’s not how it works today, esp. with younger kids — my 7yearold’s first drop-off was when he was ~4.

    • We do this, too. I don’t plan play dates for my kids. The only play dates we’ve had were when other moms offered to have our kids (3 and 5) go to the other kids’ house for a playdate for a few hours. The only time I’m around when my kids are playing with other kids is if it’s with our friends — friends we knew before either of us had kids. I don’t feel the need for playdates and don’t really feel pressured to make them. I try to reciprocate with the mom who takes my kids for a few hours every few months but that’s it.

    • Samantha says:

      For a 4.5 year old? Dropoff playdates for sure! I definitely do that with my kid and at that age they are usually happy running around with the friend and fine being without a parent. (Mine usually is upset when I come to pick him up again!).

  5. Aguacatechica says:

    I think a shift in mindset can be helpful here. My husband and I see playdates as a bit of a break for us. Like above poster, we let the kids all go play in the bedroom or playground while the adults hang out and talk. This works wonderfully if you have preschoolers (we have two, but also a toddler, so that makes playdates challenging because someone has to constantly tail him).

    The harder part for me about playdates is finding parents whom you actually want to spend that time with, and whose kids will get along with your own. We used to do playdates with one family, but the parents had different standards for cleanliness and supervision (i.e. constantly wet-wiping the kids’ hands in the playground) and the kids were so rule-conscious that they wouldn’t run into the grass to retrieve a ball or would constantly tattle on our kids for the most minor infraction. So to maybe solve some of your anxiety about playdates: lower the expectations and/or find parents who share your parenting/cleanliness/socializing level.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree SO MUCH with your second paragraph. Pre-kids, we were good friends with another childless couple and one of us would host dinner almost every week. You’d think that now that we each have kids who are close in age and get along great, it would just be that much better to hang out together, but we are miles apart on parenting. Miles. H and I are very laissez-faire, but the other mom is a helicopter and her kids are clingy tattlers. The guys and I would be happy to sit and chat while the kids shriek in another room, but the other mom has to be in there with them making sure they do everything just so, which makes me feel weird. Plus, their house is spotless thanks to OCD tendencies and a housekeeper/nanny, while ours fully reflects the fact that a preschoolers live there. I just cannot. At this point, another couple who both my husband and I like, and whose parenting is close to ours, is my holy grail.

      • Mine is only 7 months old and I have this problem already. I’m very…let them play on the carpet / quilt / grass / whatever and make a mess, and my BFF / her husband are all over their 15 month old. Could be the age difference, could be parenting style. Also both of them telecommute and grandma watches toddler during the day, so they pretty much have plenty of time / help and both my husband and I work away from home with commutes and use a daycare.

        Too bad we don’t all live close to each other. We’d probably have the “just right” mom community right here!

  6. Meg Murry says:

    We don’t do playdates with my 4.5 year old, because he is in daycare all week playing with his friends – he doesn’t need more time with them. The closest thing we do is coordinate story time at the library or playtime at the playground – I’ll text or email another parent or put on Facebook “barring meltdown or other disaster, we’ll be at [event/place] around X:00 on Saturday if your kid wants to play with mine.” That is 99% for my own convenience though, because I’d much rather watch the 4 year old play with another kid on the slide than have to chase them around the playground for hours myself.

    The problem, however, is that his older brother is 9 and does have some play dates and recently had a sleepover. So the 4.5 year old really wants his friends to come to our house and sleep over too.

    • +1. Daycare/school is my playdate. I do want to know some of the parents better though, so I’ll text them something similar to Meg Murray above about our plans and leave it up to them whether to show up. No pressure and no stress. Getting the number was the hardest part for me, but honestly it’s not weird to say “Hey our kids seem to get along. Do you want to exchange numbers/emails in case one of us ever hears of something the other kid might like too?” I’ve found out about all kinds of local events just from other working parents who are frantically searching for some activity to do with their family that weekend.

      • Anonymous says:

        At what age do you start doing this? My oldest is 3.5 years old and doesn’t seem to have much interest (or conception of) playing with friends outside of school. He doesn’t really seem to have any favorites among all his “best friends” at daycare either. Not concerned, just curious about when this becomes a thing for other people.

        • I do it for myself, not the kids, so I started in the crawling ages. I just said “Hey I’m taking my kid to the library for 10 am baby story time on Sat, since it’s supposed to rain and I want to get out of the house.” or “Have you heard about the Fruit Fest in town on Sun? Gonna take Kiddo to check it out around 3.” Once kids start moving, I’ve found it’s pretty universal that parents try to find non-house ways to let off steam.
          Again, I don’t care about the kids playing together, per se. I care about getting to know local parents with kids the same age.

      • Anonymous says:

        Along these lines — I know this has been discussed here or on the main board before, but “mommy cards” yay or nay? I don’t know whether it’s a thing in my area, but it just seems like the easiest way to exchange numbers during daycare drop-off/pick-up. I don’t want to come off as weird or uptight; would you think that of someone who had a card? I know I’m vastly overthinking this. :)

        • MomAnon4This says:

          I have especially thought about cards because my kids and I have different last names. So I would say Sally Smith, Mom of John Jones and Eddie Jones, email and mobile and maybe address
          I would do it and probably judge you very positively – i.e. you have your Mom Act together!

        • Meg Murry says:

          I stole an idea from my aunt. I made a sheet of mailing labels (standard Avery 5160) with my name and my personal email address and our personal cell phone numbers, plus our address and I keep a few in my wallet along with my business cards. When I want to exchange info with another parent and we don’t have our phones on us I’ll pull out my work business card and stick one of my personal labels on the back – and possibly add a note with the relevant kid’s name.

    • Spirograph says:

      Yup. I don’t get the “playdate” culture. I want to get to know the other parents in my neighborhood for selfish reasons — I’d like superlocal friends, back-up babysitters, and a sense of community with my neighbors. I assume they want to get to know me for the same reason. The fact that our kids can play together while we talk is totally incidental, not the driving force. The closest I get to a “playdate” is a text of “we’re heading to neighborhood park for a bit if you’d like to join us!” I’ve also invited neighbor families over when we’re grilling burgers or something, but always casual/last minute where we eat outside and have a beer while the kids run around in the yard. It’s never an event.

    • Katala says:

      Any tips for making similar connections (well, I guess it wouldn’t be that similar…) for kiddo not in daycare? Husband works from home and we have nannies come 2-3x/week but it hasn’t been regular enough (or nice enough out) for them to do a regular time at the park or anything. We really need to make some parent-friends!

      • Anonymous says:

        Does your neighborhood have a listserv or any kind of community association? Aside from just hanging out at the playground and trying to strike up conversations with other parents, I’ve had decent luck with my neighborhood community association. I try to go to all the neighborhood events, even though I’m totally an introvert, in hopes of meeting people. It sounds so desperate when I say it like that…

        Just last week, I posted about something totally unrelated on my neighborhood listserv but mentioned my kids’ ages. I’ve had a few people e-mail to say “I can’t help you with xyz, but I have a 4 year old too, maybe we can meet up at the park sometime?” And we exchange numbers. Who knows if I’ll actually like these people, but making the connection is a good start! I see it kind of like dating … you might as well give everyone a chance and odds are you’ll find a winner eventually.

      • Samantha says:

        Try the nextdoor site also, pretty popular where I live (california).

  7. CPA Lady says:

    Y’all. The most precious thing happened this morning. My daughter has never been on a playdate but she’s only 18 months old and I didn’t really know if she has baby friends at daycare. But today when I was dropping her off, another little girl in her class got there at the same time, and they hugged each other and then ran down the hall screaming in excitement. It was so SO CUTE. My baby is turning into a person! A person who has a buddy!

    I do like to occasionally have a party on a weekend afternoon and have other parents bring their kids and they all run around my house like unsupervised hooligans. I mean that un-sarcastically. Pre-baby I was the queen of cocktail parties though, so I have to get my party fix in somehow.

    • Another BigLaw Parent says:

      That’s adorable! My daughter is 21 months old, and definitely started showing a preference for some friends at daycare around that age. We get her all excited about Mondays. “It’s Monday! Who are we going to see?” She chants “[Best Friend’s Name!]” Lately, she’s been adding other classmates’ names to the list too.

      Agree with above commenters that I have found this the easiest way to meet other parents – noting that our kids get along and maybe we should hang out on weekends. First hang out / play date is usually at a park to avoid awkwardness over who hosts.

    • Katala says:

      Awww, I’m out of town for a couple days and missing the bebe and this almost made me cry. Happy cry because it sounds just so darn sweet. Mine’s 11 mos and interested in watching but not interacting with other kids. Looking forward to buddies! *sniff*

  8. MomAnon4This says:

    A lot of SAHM I knew when I was working PT or flextime FT would COMPLAIN so much about their kids and their life during playdates. Whereas I felt like I appreciated and/or had more of a sense of gratitude about my kid, possibly because my life felt more balanced, and they needed/craved the adult time. (I know I’m making a lot of assumptions here…) My kid had fun, I had fun with the other parent, but please spare me the “oy, my child, pass the wine!” Let’s ENJOY this time!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am shy but fortunately I had a super social kid who literally would plan his own play dates, starting at like age 3. Like, he’d go up to the other mom and say, can we have a play date? And then we would just figure out the next time we could do it. Also, I think the simplest is just to meet up at the local park for like an hour or two. No pressure to clean house, either party can leave in case of a meltdown, bring snacks (and wine too if you’re feeling it). There’s no best way to do it, just figure out what works for you and the families you want to have play dates with.

  10. hoola hoopa says:

    Playdates are very low priority for me, and I have zero guilt about that. I can’t really relate to the emotion in this post, but I do have ideas on the topic:

    Since my husband and I work full time, regular office hours, we simply don’t do weekday playdates. Yes, that does mean that we have mis-match with families with a stay-at-home parent who is looking for a daytime activity – particularly during summer vacation – but I feel like we all acknowledge the practicalities and move on without hard feelings.

    It is hard when (especially the very little kiddos) start to want to have playdates with kids from school, and we have NO IDEA who their parents are or how to get in touch with them. “Mommy calling cards” have been useful, as we can send one with the child or clip it to the friend’s folder/signin/etc.

    I completely agree with Aguacatechica that our ultimate goal is really a time for us to be with adults and have our kids play by themselves. The biggest difficulty is finding another family that matches up perfectly, especially when there are multiple siblings to coordinate. We’ve had more luck getting 2-3 families together, with overlapping kids age/genders.

    Regarding nannies: The complication for us, when dealing with a nanny-supervised playdate, is feeling awkward about using someone’s paid childcare without contributing. For an occasional playdate, that’s water under the bridge, but we had the situation with a family who lived next door. Our children very often went back and forth between houses – nearly every day in the summer when everyone was outside – and when the parents weren’t home we felt uncomfortable about essentially sending our kids over there so often to be watched by a nanny who was being paid to watch only one child. It didn’t seem fair. I could tell that she felt equally odd about sending over her charge, too, since then she’d be getting paid for not watching anyone.

  11. Meg Murry says:

    All said and done, I do want to acknowledge that Kat is in a unique situation being a WAHM that is probably is why she has some playdate anxiety. Those of us that are fully time WOHM who send our kids to daycare are saying “eh, whatever, daycare is enough, no playdates” and people with nannies are saying “eh, I let my nanny coordinate with other nannies”. However, I suspect Kat’s son is in a part-day preschool with lots of SAHP or parents who work true part time (in the sense of 5-30 hours a week. not lawyer part-time which is often still 40+ hours a week).

    It’s hard being the parent who isn’t doing things the same the as the rest or your kids crowd, and I could definitely see my 4 year old saying “Billy and Bobby are having a playdate after preschool today! Why can’t I have a playdate with Billy or Bobby?” but when you try to coordinate with Billy or Bobby’s parents they are SAHP who are just not on the same page as you, schedule-wise. Or you do manage to coordinate, and then the parent gives you some kind of passive-agressive “Must be nice to send your nanny to do the playdates” snark or judges you for giving her precious Billy regular goldfish crackers rather than all-organic homemade kale chips – and there goes any desire to have further playdates with that family.

    The good news is once the kids are in elementary school and they start to buddy up with just a couple of kids it gets easier to get to know those parents and figure out how to coordinate with them – or you can do what we did, sign our kid up for the same after school program as his best friend – then we can say “you play with Lee every Monday and Wednesday after school, we don’t need a playdate”.

  12. LoveThisBlog says:

    Good topic and I’ve enjoyed reading all posts. My family falls into the WOHP category mentioned earlier- we work fairly standard hours -8-5 ish, sometimes weekends. When I’ve expressed any sort of mom-guilt for not coordinating more play dates for my 5 year old with friends with similarly aged kids or kids from my son’s daycare/preschool, my husband (thank god) tells me I’m crazy and that daycare is one long play date so I shouldn’t worry about it, much like prior posts have said. I’m happier not thinking about the SAHM type things I miss out on while at the office, and just focusing on the good experiences I can help my kids have. For someone who works from home or is surrounded by the SAHP who coordinate these things all the time, it might be harder to keep from getting sucked in to playdate planning, but you have the same limited time as I do, even if there is no commute. I try to remember that the time I have with my kids is so limited already, why limit it further by arranging playdates where I am either not there or I am distracted from my kid by other parent. But I don’t think I am any example to follow since I’ve basically become a hermit who works and has two kids.

    And there is the “oxygen mask” Kat has mentioned before – take care of your social needs b/f worrying about your kids. if you think you could use some adult conversation with another parent you’ve wanted to get to know better, I think you can give your kid some additional social interaction that could be really positive at the same time without that being the goal and without creating the stress of mandating it in your life.

    As pointed out in the previous posts, it is finding parents who gel with your family that is SO HARD. Here’s where I may have to vent a little: friend has daughter 4 months younger than my first, and when I have her over and offer her food or snacks for her kid, she always has to comment how they don’t eat that kind of food (we just happened to have saltines laying around from when my inlaws were here), or that it will spoil her kids appetite, and then she tells me how to cook, what my house/life needs, etc. So the comment above about the kale chips is deeply appreciated. So what seems to happen to me is the obvious choice for a play date is someone I sort of dread being around.

    Also, as long as I’m venting frustrations, a group of SAHP families, some of whom I’ve known prior to us all starting families, get together in the park directly across from where I live a certain night of the week, on a weekly basis, until it gets too miserably cold. I bet your thinking “wow- convenient play date” but not really-they all have their dinner picnics already made when I am just getting home from work, my husband and I just want to eat a hot meal at our dinner table with our kids and if they want to play outside, we can watch them in our backyard (fenced – park is not) while we cook. One of them used to repeatedly invite us and she has stopped. I used to feel guilt about not going over b/c my son could get to know some kids in our neighborhood better, but again, with help from my husband, realized that it was not for us. The “witching hour” is really not my best time to be socializing with other adults who I barely know (my job leaves me moody oftentimes) . And I remind myself that if one of those parents wanted to get to know me or my kids through a play date, they could invite us to a smaller one on the weekend or sometime that worked for my husband and I. Good luck!

  13. BalanceSeekingMom says:

    I’m a widowed mom and so a working one by necessity. All the other moms I know are stay-at-home. There used to be weekly playdates when my husband was alive (I worked, so he watched the kids). They dried up after my husband died and I starting having the nanny watch the kids at home instead of me (although I work from home, so I’m still in the house). One parent confided that she wasn’t comfortable with the nanny watching her kid. I was stunned at this, because the nanny had a background check, has an early childhood education degree, and has become a loved member of the family. As far as I’ve observed, the other moms playdates involve drinking copius amounts of white wine while the kids run wild.

    In exasperation I confided with another mom who also has a career. She thinks it has nothing to do with quality of care but that it’s because I’m “outsourcing my half of the bargain”. She suggested that I offer to personally host some playdates on weekends and balance will be restored. I haven’t done that yet.

  14. NCLawyerMom says:

    Thank you for this post. I was losing sleep tonight because I feel bad for not working harder to socialize my almost 19 month old who is currently way behind on speech. She stays home with her dad and I work full time. He takes her to story time, Gymboree class, park etc. But life as a SAHD is isolating (especially when it is by default of unemployment, not a lifestyle choice) and most SAHM are stand offish. In fact I recently left a social media play date group after the leader asked the members if it was “okay” to add a father and one person replied “sure so long as it’s not stranger danger.” I mean seriously what decade do some SAHM think they live in? We have no friends or family for 100s of miles as we moved here for my promotion around the time of my baby’s birth. So we don’t do much socially and don’t know other families. Yet after work and on weekends I just want to rest and spend time with MY family, not make small talk with other parents trying to make friends while chasing my curious baby all over the park. I appreciate reading posts by other working moms who are similarly over it when it comes to the pressure of play dates! One day our littles will pick their own friends to invite over and eventually they will be out all the time with friends. Best to just stay in and enjoy each other now I think.