Back in 1998, my mother called early one morning. My 3-month-old daughter had colic and my mom could hear the frustration in my voice.
“Staying home with a baby can be so isolating,” she said. “Why don’t you find other moms who would like to get together? It will break up your
day and give you time with other adults.”
Attend to my own needs?
When my baby required so much care? It was one of the best ideas my mom ever shared. I soon found my “tribe” among those who joined a local hospital’s support group to get advice from a lactation consultant. I chatted with several tired moms and soon discovered we were all in our early 30s and at home full-time.
Amanda suggested we start a playgroup and meet weekly in one another’s homes. I took out my day planner and highlighted 10 a.m. Thursdays into the spring.
For the next four years we shared problems, struggles, and worries. “Is she eating enough?” “Shouldn’t she be talking by now?” As part of a community, you figure things out together. We shared names of good pediatricians and quality preschool programs.
Making fun a priority
Three boys plus a girl named Emily became my daughter’s first friends. We graduated from indoor sessions to playdates at the Children’s Museum and the zoo. Lindsey hosted an annual Easter egg hunt, where my daughter learned a lesson in sportsmanship. Scooping up most of the eggs, I urged her to put some back so her pals could enjoy the hunt, too.
Another year, I supplied an ornament-crafting project. When the kids got bored, we moms finished gluing fabric and tying ribbon. Today, that ornament still adorns our Christmas tree.
As time went on, we celebrated the births of new siblings and eventually introduced spouses, going out to dinner as couples. Like the kids, we put the ‘play’ in playdates.
Reining in our anxiety
Observing our kids, it was tempting to make comparions. You couldn't gloat when your kid seemed to have a knack for manipulating Legos, but you certainly worried if she was slow to develop in other areas. We tried to rein in our competitive instincts. One child was late to crawl, another required more time before he spoke. But eventually, everyone came into their own.
Each girlfriend contributed unique aptitudes, too. Amanda, who studied chemistry, emerged as the group’s problem-solver. She listened and helped me develop an action plan that reduced my stress. An educator, Lindsey provided insight on developmental stages. Helen spoke Spanish and introduced exotic words. Alyson gave us the skinny on delivering a baby with a doula at your side.
After four years of regular playdates, it grew harder to coordinate our schedules, particularly when second babies arrived. When the older kids graduated from preschool, we finally phased out our weekly meetings. Today our firstborn attend high school and most of us have eased back into careers. One friend even moved home to Texas. But we stay connected through social media and share photos of our teenagers dressed up for homecomings and proms.
My daughter, Kara, was recently invited to join a friend’s family on a beach trip. Guess who was there? Our friend Helen, along with her two teenagers. Kara had a fun reunion with Harrison and Abby. When she returned home, I showed her a photograph of five smiling kids snapped back in 2001. Those mothers helped me grow — as an individual and as a parent. Our playdates brought connection and support to everyone, the children as well as the adults.
See you at 10 a.m. next Thursday.