I am the worst at play dates. So naturally I hosted one.
So yesterday I had my moms group over, wherein about a dozen little people crawled around on my living floor while us mothers chatted about breastfeeding, pregnancy and preschool waiting lists. (Apparently that’s a thing.)
I have been nominally involved in this moms group since June, and I thought hosting a play date at my house would be a good way to jump in and make some connections.
The play date’s plentiful turnout was actually just a little bit much for me. I’m not really a group play date kind of girl to start with, and the pressure of having everyone at my house added to my social anxiety. Having everyone in my living room meant outsiders get a glimpse into how I “do” motherhood. I am comfortable with my way of mothering, and I know Baby G and I have a good thing going – but when I have guests, I all of a sudden see our lives through somebody else’s eyes.
I wonder if they could tell that a third of Baby G’s toy collection were yard sale finds. I wonder if they thought it was gross that I put a handful of peas on our vintage trunk we use as a side table – no plate involved – and let Baby G pick at the pieces throughout the afternoon. I bet that is something that other moms don’t do. I wonder if they judged me for having battery operated toys. I’m sure they did, as a few of them told their babies to “not get any ideas” as they gleefully played with Baby G’s Fisher Price musical car, because the mother would “certainly not buy that for them.”
After everyone left, I went to Baby G’s room to give her a quick diaper change before putting her down for a nap, and noticed there were pieces of shredded cheddar cheese stuck to her changing table, probably little chunks that fell into her clothing after breakfast that morning. I wonder what the other moms thought when they saw that.
I’m not even sure why I admitted that to you.
As an introverted “non-joiner”, I struggle with play dates because they feel forced and unnatural. I want friendships with other moms to form organically, out of a shared purpose or mutual understanding. But logistically, where else is a stay-at-home mom with few local friends supposed to find these organic friendships? So I rather half-heartedly stay involved in these moms groups, always hoping that from it I’ll find just two or three pillars of friendship in my life.
And that’s how a dozen little monsters ended up on my floor yesterday.
Conversation flows when you are in a group of moms because somehow the act of birthing a human gives you mounds of stuff to talk about, even if you have virtually nothing in common with that person. Several moms showed up who I had never met before, and I’d like to see them again. A few women showed up who I have brushed paths with a few times at other play dates or at the library, and I was glad for the chance to see them again too.
But I find these gatherings absolutely exhausting.
See, when I’m in a group, I have to fight this feeling that I’m an oddball, out of synch with the rest, and strange. One-on-one, I can connect with someone’s heart, and our surface differences don’t seem to matter as much – in fact they can be celebrated. But in a group, where the conversations never get too deep, I struggle with feeling different. I feel alone.
That’s how I felt yesterday, when the conversation of preschool came up. Apparently it’s routine for parents of 12-month-old babies to starting hunting for the perfect preschool that will give them the academic edge they need to succeed in Kindergarten and life. I’m just not there, and it makes me feel partly inferior, but mostly just different. I know I’m not depriving my daughter of intellectual and life opportunities by not sending her to a $20,000 tuition preschool. I know that in my heart. But when in a group of moms who love their children and earnestly want to provide the best for them – and to them that means finding the best preschool possible – I feel a little out of step with everyone else.
I don’t want to be “that mom” who is always sticking out on the principle of fighting against convention, but I wonder at what point can I stop nodding along just to not look different.
I also wonder how many other moms nod along in fear of not looking different.
When the last guest left, I plopped on the couch, totally wiped out. Overall, it was as successful as baby play dates come, and I’ll host one again. And if by chance there were a couple of moms who were grossed out by the cheddar cheese flakes on the changing table and they never want to see me again, oh well.
You win some, you lose some.