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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.

Baby socializing, though this picture is not from yesterday. I wasn't sure how moms I barely know would feel about their babies' pictures surfacing on the Internet.

Baby socializing, though this picture is not from yesterday. I wasn’t sure how moms I barely know would feel about their babies’ pictures surfacing on the Internet.

 

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. 

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24 Comments

  1. Lauren on January 10, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Can I just say that your tags for this post are hilarious? My favorite is “play date phobia.”

    Maybe this is my desperate attempt at trying to feel normal, but vocal-no-batteries-for-my-baby mom aside, I bet most of the moms in that room felt like oddballs. I’m not sure why–maybe it’s the Millennial generation part of us?–but there’s this sense of pressure to perform. Did our mothers feel like this during playdates? Were playdates as popular?

    My hats off to you for hosting! I can’t motivate myself to even sign up for a moms’ group event.

    • creatingmom on January 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      This is exactly what my mom would say to me. “Everyone feels like an oddball, not just you!” And I think you’re totally right. I struggle with being too intrinsically focused, on how I’m feeling left out, different, whatever, instead of reaching out to others in love to make THEM feel welcome and comfortable. Hmmm, maybe the topic of a future post.
      Part of me knows that everyone feels like an oddball, which is why I write so openly about my neurotic insecurities. I’m just crossing my fingers that others feel the same way.

      • Lauren on January 10, 2014 at 5:01 pm

        I’m no expert by any means, but I would say hosting a get together and being sensitive to how others are feeling, not to mention writing about your insecurities IS making other moms feel welcome and comfortable. Those are all beautiful things to do!

        PS Let’s pretend I had something really glamorous to do and wasn’t sitting in front of my laptop eating hummus out of the carton and responding to blog comments way too quickly.

        • creatingmom on January 11, 2014 at 2:27 pm

          Your secret is safe with me. I bought a family sized tub of hummus at Grocery Outlet (do you have those in Washington?) for 97 cents. I’ve been eating hummus sandwiches all week!

  2. Julia Anderson on January 11, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    I can absolutely relate to everything in this post! I think we are the same mom 🙂

    • creatingmom on January 11, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      Yay, a kindred spirit! Thanks for saying so, makes my day.

  3. Jenna @ A Mama Collective on January 14, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    LOVELY. wonderfully said AGAIN. It somehow becomes innate in you, the nodding along while thinking to yourself, “I will never do that…” but remembering that that person is in your life for a reason. There is SOMETHING positive about this relationship (just have to find it), and I can learn something from it.

    And, if that literally never happens with someone, then you just don’t click. And that’s okay. Like you said, if you find one or two great friendships from this brave experience, then it will have meant everything.

    You’re doing a great job with your baby, and you’re right where you should be – finding friendships with like-minded people and giving your baby love. I’ve never searched for a preschool for my 4 year old (we just went to the church down the street), and I’m not afraid of her being “behind” when real school starts. I hope you won’t worry one more ounce about that one.

    Just keep that in the “nodding and smiling” section of the conversation.

    And just do you 🙂 ~Jenna

    • creatingmom on January 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks again, Jenna.
      It’s hard to make Mama friends, because I think sometimes we think that having children gives us enough in common in which to build a friendship. While it does give us plenty to chat about, it doesn’t automatically mean we connect one bit!
      I live nearby Silicon Valley, California, where the emphasis is on material success and getting ahead in life. While I do want Baby G to be successful in what she puts her mind to, I just can’t get caught up in the MORE and EARLIER and EXPENSIVE game when it comes to preschool. I love the idea of a church preschool down the street. We live near many churches so that shouldn’t be too hard. Thanks!

  4. Jenna @ A Mama Collective on January 14, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    LOVELY. wonderfully said AGAIN. It somehow becomes innate in you, the nodding along while thinking to yourself, “I will never do that…” but remembering that that person is in your life for a reason. There is SOMETHING positive about this relationship (just have to find it), and I can learn something from it.

    And, if that literally never happens with someone, then you just don’t click. And that’s okay. Like you said, if you find one or two great friendships from this brave experience, then it will have meant everything.

    You’re doing a great job with your baby, and you’re right where you should be – finding friendships with like-minded people and giving your baby love. I’ve never searched for a preschool for my 4 year old (we just went to the church down the street), and I’m not afraid of her being “behind” when real school starts. I hope you won’t worry one more ounce about that one.

    Just keep that in the “nodding and smiling” section of the conversation.

    And just do you 🙂 ~Jenna

    • creatingmom on January 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks again, Jenna.
      It’s hard to make Mama friends, because I think sometimes we think that having children gives us enough in common in which to build a friendship. While it does give us plenty to chat about, it doesn’t automatically mean we connect one bit!
      I live nearby Silicon Valley, California, where the emphasis is on material success and getting ahead in life. While I do want Baby G to be successful in what she puts her mind to, I just can’t get caught up in the MORE and EARLIER and EXPENSIVE game when it comes to preschool. I love the idea of a church preschool down the street. We live near many churches so that shouldn’t be too hard. Thanks!

  5. Sarah on January 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    This was hilarious! You may have just inspired me to join a moms group!

    • creatingmom on January 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks Sarah! Have you ever used Meetup.com? You can use it to search for active groups in your area based on interests or hobbies. Good luck finding one, and if you ever find yourself feeling like an oddball at a meeting, just talk to me. 🙂

  6. Sarah on January 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    This was hilarious! You may have just inspired me to join a moms group!

    • creatingmom on January 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks Sarah! Have you ever used Meetup.com? You can use it to search for active groups in your area based on interests or hobbies. Good luck finding one, and if you ever find yourself feeling like an oddball at a meeting, just talk to me. 🙂

  7. Andrea on January 15, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Can I just say that you are amazing, and we need to be real life friends? I suck at play groups for all the reasons you described. You sound completely normal to me! Seriously, who talks about preschool when their kid is a baby? Yikes! I’ve struggled with the same issues of needed a few close friends, but having trouble making them. I’ve settled with my online mama friends I’ve connected with, and maintaining the few good friendships I had in place. I wrote about this a while back too…you might enjoy it! http://www.handandtheheart.com/2013/08/i-suck-at-mom-groups_19.html

    • creatingmom on January 15, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Thank you for linking to that post! I loved reading.

      “If we’re friends, or becoming so, I will invite you over to my house. We can sit in the grass and watch our babies chew on toys. We can stuff diapers, discuss parenting philosophies, and eat lunch together. I will probably be wearing yoga pants or jeans and my hair will be pulled back into a bun. If the balance of life is such that you need more give from me, then I will drive to you. I will sacrifice for you, and you will sacrifice for me. None of this fake stuff.”

      Yes please.

  8. Amanda Boyarshinov on January 20, 2014 at 11:02 am

    I love playdates, but have realized that having 4 parent kiddo combos in my house is my comfortable max, anything over that gets overwhelming. Even if they saw the cheese, I’m sure that they were thankful you are human like the rest of us. (stopping by as your new SITS tribe member)

    • creatingmom on January 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      Hi Amanda, Welcome! Yeah I think next time I might try to limit it to 4-5 moms and their babies. I like a group small enough where people don’t get lost in it.

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