Mothers seem to have a love/hate relationship with playgroups. It’s also possible to both love and hate them at the same time. You love it because it may be the only two hours of the week you don’t spend in your house, strapped to the couch during nursing-and-Netflix marathons.
You hate playgroups because you actually have to leave the house, or it’s your turn to host and that begets a whole host of issues that will have you bitching from sunrise until the last Cheerio is vacuumed up. But you also kind of love them too. Because what you may not realize while you’re smack dab in the season of playgroups, concentrating on preventing your toddler from biting someone or ruining your neighbor’s carpet, is all that the other playgroup moms are giving you.
They’re giving you compassion, empathy, understanding, and something to laugh about. They’re giving you their blunt honesty, grace for the moment, and a welcome respite from what I used to call the soul sucking dailies (feed, change, rock, nap, repeat). Playgroups wear out your little ones, guaranteeing a long afternoon nap, and at the same time can have a recharging effect on your mom battery. They’re women sitting in the same boat as you, paddling furiously through the infant, toddler, and preschool years, and easily opening up about the struggles they’re facing. Playgroup dates force you to sit and actually commiserate with (and support) your peers. And with that, deep and everlasting mom friendships naturally develop.
And then one day, just like that, somewhere between that last package of diapers and the first Kindergarten backpack you have to buy, playgroups and playdates no longer become a necessity. There is just no need to get together anymore. Kids have long since outgrown planned and supervised playtimes, and this is a huge wave of relief to you.
Until one day it isn’t.
Those early years — and the mom-to-mom relationships and deep friendships that were cultivated over Lego-strewn living room floors and marinated with cold coffee — have slowly and sadly vanished.
Gone is the need to get out of the house, because you’re always out of the house now, at work or shuttling kids to school and activities. Gone is the need (and time) to sit around and have a good chat about your child’s developmental milestones (or lack thereof), and how to get your husband to share the household chores. There are no more two or three hour chunks of time when you simply get to sit and let the kids do whatever they want, while you open yourself up so freely to other women, and in return receive unconditional support and just the right feedback.
Nothing can or will replace those playgroup days and the friendships you made. And sadly, the biggest crux of irony is that when your kids have no need for a playgroup anymore, is exactly the point in your life when you need it more than ever. You need it now, because this new season of life and motherhood that you’re in, is currently kicking your ass harder than your two-year-old having a tantrum in the toy aisle at Target ever did.
I miss my playgroups moms from 17 years ago. I need them back.
I need us all to sit around and admit that our teenagers are assholes, and that we have no idea what the fuck we’re doing anymore in the parenting department.
I need us all to sit around and talk about how our marriages have evolved strangely into something that doesn’t even remotely look like it did when we were newlyweds (or had a house full of babies), and that it’s gonna be OK.
I need us all to sit around and commiserate about how hard it is to truly find yourself again after years of rearing little people, and how we have these unfulfilled passions, career paths, and desires to undertake, and just how the hell do we start them now at our age.
I need us all to sit around and humbly ask each other for support because midlife has greeted us with big old cranky bitch slap of odd hormones, achy backs, chin acne, and the constant worry about driving teenagers and college-aged kids who never call us.
I need my playgroup moms again, and I need them fiercely. But our ever-evolving lives have made it damn near impossible to ever have times like that again, because those kinds of conversations are just different.
Those kinds of intimate conversations can’t be done at coffee shops or in the bleachers of a high school basketball game. They can’t be done over margaritas at mom’s happy hour out, or via text while in the carpool lane. They need to be face-to-face, wrapped in the warmth of a friend’s living room, stripped away of all our insecurities and hesitations, and succumbing to a type of personal vulnerability that can only be reached after six months of no sleep and sore nipples.
Though I know that playgroup moms don’t stay friends forever, I find sadness in the fact they ever had to end in the first place, because I fear the chance of having those types of heart-to-heart mom moments again are few and far between.
I may just have to wait until it’s a grandparents playgroup out. At least we all will have slept the night before.