I thought my days of nervous anticipation and fretting over what to say/do/wear were over.
I’ve been married for six years and with my husband for 12 years in total. Dating is part of my history. I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with Tinder, isn’t that how you set a fire?
But there’s a new kind of dating to worry about now I’m a parent. And unlike the kind of dating I was used to before, this one is pretty much mandatory now that I have children.
I’m talking about the play date, or mum date.
I’m lucky to have some amazing friends who I knew before having my two children. They have had kids at roughly the same time so we meet up as often as our hectic schedules will allow.
But there are also friendships that have fallen by the wayside. Either because we live too far apart or our lives have gone in completely the opposite direction.
It’s sad to see a change in friendship with someone you were once close with. These things don’t necessarily happen overnight and they’re not always caused by a screaming row.
Most friendships end because you take that little bit longer to reply to a message, then you forget to reply at all. You have to cancel on that big night out because your toddler has a vomiting bug and just wants mummy to hold her hand.
Whatever the reason people move on, they just do. Even the strongest of friendships end sometimes.
But as I witness some of my friendships fade, I have also watched as my eldest daughter begins to make friends herself. Now she’s hurtling towards age three at a, quite frankly, terrifying rate she’s now playing properly with other kids. They hunt for ants at nursery, chase each other around the park and laugh about a sheep being noisy at the farm.
So now I am seeing her form attachments with other kids I want to help her grow these friendships. In order to do that I need to step up to the plate and buddy up with those kids’ mums.
It’s a win-win for us both. She gets to see her friends more and I, hopefully, make a friend myself.
But these early play dates are nerve-wracking. Much like when I was heading off for a first date. You worry if the conversation will flow, will you have enough to talk about, are you wearing the right thing?
Now obviously there are some differences. Before I met my husband first dates mostly involved that slow and unsettling realisation that you’re sitting in front of a complete twat.
I also have limited time to stress about what I’m going to wear, but let’s face it, whatever I wear will be covered in puke and snot within minutes anyway.
Then when you’re finally on the mum date there’s all the awkward situations that can arise:
The attempt at conversation
It’s early in the game and the only thing you know you have in common is the children. So you discuss their age, how they slept last night, how cute their outfit is, etc. It becomes tough when the little troops become restless and pushy with each other. From there every thread of chat is lost and you struggle to keep track of what ‘getting to know you’ question you’ve already asked.
When your kid snatches a toy from the other child
Now you need to step in and, in a kind way that shows what a calm and caring parent you are, explain about sharing.
When your kid drastically over reacts to a toy being snatched from them
Now it’s a double awkward moment. The other mum feels bad and is apologising for her kid’s behaviour while you’re feeling embarrassed that your child is crying hysterically over the brief loss of a Lego brick.
When you realise you have differing views on parenting
Everyone does things their own way, as you bloody should. But I’m always left feeling like I need to explain myself when it transpires I don’t use pull-ups, or I let my toddler watch about two hours of cartoons in the morning at the moment because I’m too bloody tired from the sleepless s**t-fest with my baby the night before.
The back to work chat
All mum conversations come to this eventually. As above, everyone is different but you’re left feeling like you have to explain why you’ve made the choice you have about work. I’m going back full-time. When I tell people this I launch into an explanation about getting a mortgage to buy a bigger house next year as I worry people may think I’m abandoning my very young kids. Other people feel not going back to work at all sparks judgement in another way. We’re all making up our own rules to suit us.
Now is when you find out if the play date has been a success or failure, as you see whether you pencil something else in the diary immediately or leave with a vague “I’ll be in touch”. If you hear nothing you’ll always stress about what you did wrong. Did I not control the little s**ts enough? Were they too loud?
Like in any situation in life you either click with someone or you don’t. I hope to see my daughter making more friends in the future. When she does I’ll be there swiping left to schedule a play date. Or is it swipe right? Thank f**k I never had to use Tinder.