Every spring for the last 3 years I leave Mike at home with the kids and go on a much-anticipated girl's trip. The "girls" are made up of the very first playgroup I ever joined, way back when Elena was less than a year old. It's one of the highlights of my year, and in preparing for this year's trip I started thinking about how much of an impact that playgroup and those women have had on who I am as a mother and a friend.
When Eli was born here in Indy, I found myself craving that same companionship with other mothers that I had been so lucky to find in Nashville. I became a part of a similar playgroup here, and it's been one of the great experiences of mothering my second child.
Why are playgroups such a big deal to me? Here are 5 ways in which being a part of a playgroup have made me a better mother:
- Adult Conversation – Staying at home with children all day can be very lonely, especially when your children are very young. If you're not careful, a whole day can pass and the only other adult you've talked to is your spouse and Matt Lauer. And that conversation with Matt was pretty one-sided. Joining a playgroup forces you to spend a part of your day in real conversation with other adults. While you may never feel comfortable discussing anything really deep or personal with the women in your playgroup, just sitting around and talking about that thing your kid does that drives you bonkers can be enough to keep you sane.
- Perspective – If you are only around your own children day in and day out, it can be easy to parent in a vacuum. All of a sudden that head-banging tantrum or the fact that your kid isn't pulling up when the book said he should be! consumes you. You can convince yourself that either something is wrong with your kid, your mothering, or both. Being a part of a playgroup with your children's peers can help you see that no two kids are exactly alike. They all do things on their own schedule and everyone's kid has something going on that's totally dumbfounded their mother. Just that knowledge alone makes you feel better. If you're really lucky you may find someone else that's been through it and has some advice or tips to help you get through it, too.
- Gets Me Out Of The House – Especially with my first baby, outings were a bit scary. What if she cries? What if I have to feed her in public? What if she has a blowout? Playgroup outings can be a great way to get comfortable being out and about with your kid. Crying? Chances are someone else's kids is crying, too. Feeding? They all have babies to feed, too. You can work the kinks out of nursing in public or making sure you have everything you need to bottle feed in a friendly environment. Blowouts? Someone else has extra diapers and wipes. As your children get bigger, just an hour or two in a different environment can be enough to salvage a day gone horribly wrong.
- Helps Kids Learn Social Skills – Being around other kids their age is good for your kids. Playgroups can be a great way to build some of those social skills that will help your kids transition into school or Mother's Day Out. Sharing, respect for others, and problem-solving are just a few of the skills they'll develop while playing with other kids. Also, I think it's really important for kids to watch their parents develop relationships with other adults. When you're busy interacting with other adults, they see that they aren't the center of your universe, and that's a very good thing.
- Friendship – I've met the most amazing women through my playgroups. We vacation together, socialize together without the kids, e-mail, babysit for each other, help each other when someone is sick or bring a meal when someone has a baby. These women have become more than just acquaintances to me – they are some of my best friends! I can't guarantee that you'll find the same kind of friendships in your playgroup. It may just be a group of women that you enjoy seeing for a few hours every week or month and nothing more. It doesn't matter – it's still good for you as a mother. But who knows? They could end up being friends for a lifetime.
If I've done a decent job of convincing you, here are a 5 ways to get your own fabulous playgroup:
- Mom's Groups: Many national organizations with local chapters organize their own playgroups. Check the websites for groups like Mothers & More, MOPS or MOMS Club for more information.
- Online: Check local websites and/or discussion boards to hook up with a playgroup. Here in Indy, the MomsLikeMe website has discussion boards with tons of moms looking for playgroups. You can also checkout Online Playgroup to find info on finding a playgroup or starting your own, wherever you live.
- Neighborhood: I ended up in my first playgroup just by meeting some moms in my neighborhood while I was out for a walk with Elena. And how did they get together? One of the moms put out flyers in the neighborhood after her first was born! You never know.
- Hang Out Where Moms Hang Out: Keep your ears open and be willing to strike up conversations with moms you meet while out and about. The park, library, YMCA, pool or preschool can be a great place to meet other moms and plan a playdate. Let them know you're interested in a playgroup and see where it goes. I met the moms in my current playgroup at a breastfeeding support group. It started out as meeting for lunch after the meeting, and has evolved into a once-a-week gathering.
- Start Your Own: If you can't find a playgroup to join, start your own! Use any of the above suggestions to look for moms you would want to hang out with.
On a last note, don't worry if the playgroup you've joined or started doesn't gel or feel like a good fit. While I've been lucky enough to find two amazing playgroups for my kids, I've also been a part of a few that just weren't right for me.
Have you been a part of a great playgroup? How did you find them? What's been the best part for you?