The Playgroup

Today I took my son to a “mommy and me: play and learn” class at Gymboree. I felt a surge of sentimentality being there because it is the same class I took my daughter at least twice a week when she was a baby through toddler-hood. I felt tears well in my eyes looking at the very same slide she used to climb up and slide down. It was hard to believe that I had come full circle and was now there with my son.

I started bringing my daughter to classes when she was less than three months old because I was desperate to get out of the house and meet some mom friends. None of my friends had kids yet and I was very lonely. It didn’t take long to meet another new mom in the same boat and I became a fixture at this bouncy, colorful establishment.  The mom I first met at our first class became a fast friend and we clung to each other for support.

This place once brought me reprieve from loneliness and my closed in little world at home. It gave me an escape to discuss issues I was having with my child and how much life had changed. Being a new mom, everything was new, scary, amazing and confusing. Over the months we attended classes, other new moms joined and we would discuss sleep issues, teething, solid foods, behavior, and our hopes and dreams for our children. We never spoke much about who we were before children because we were completely consumed with new motherhood.

We were all so grateful to have found each other that we held on tight regardless of inherent differences among us.  Because one day per week of adult interaction was not enough, we decided to form what I like to refer to now as The Playgroup. We would rotate houses and meet weekly. Being a playgroup newbie, I remember wondering if I should bring a hostess gift to the first one and what I should wear. I was utterly confused about what would happen at a playgroup but was giddy with excitement to become a part of one.

At the first playgroup, I was ready to take my relationships with these fellow mothers to a new level. Over a tray of cheese, fruit and crackers, we all began to give inklings of who we were beyond mothers. It soon became noticeable that only a couple of women and I had anything in common at all. Only a couple of the moms and I were like-minded, which in hindsight, does not matter so much but it seemed to at the time. We were all discovering who we were as mothers and how we could hammer out differences. It was a tough but valuable learning experience.

The disintegration of friendships happened shortly after that first playgroup. One woman began to gossip about the others, making up false stories about the small tidbits she had learned in confidence from one mom, calling another mom “weird” because she teared up talking about the love she felt for her baby at birth; she made exaggerations about these women and vilified them. Another of the moms would gossip relentlessly yet act a best friend to the victim of the gossip the very next day.  One mom was foreign, and had a slight language barrier and an extremely negative attitude in general, and would send hateful texts if she discovered she had not been included at a particular play date. The Playgroup unraveled quickly and I realized that I had grasped on to these women for the wrong reasons, I had accepted and loved them from the start only because I was so desperate not to be alone. Shortly after the breakup, I decided that I no longer wished to have “mom friends”, that they were too critical of each other, that it was not worth my energy thinking about or creating negative energy when I needed all of the positive energy I could muster to being a good new mom.

However, in the aftermath of this breakup, one of the quieter moms in the group resurfaced. I had not gotten to know her very well the first time around because she was not so dramatic and stood more on the sidelines. This woman, over time, gained my trust and became one of the most trustworthy friends I have had the luxury of knowing.  We began to get together at parks to talk and discuss the toxic group of mothers we had befriended. We examined why we had joined that group, what happened and how we could prevent it from recurring. We became comrades in the search for good, trustworthy mom friends. And slowly, but surely, we found them.

Reluctantly, we went back to Gymboree and met some new moms. They seemed genuine at first glance and we soon discovered that we weren’t clouded by any need other than seeking honest women to share our experience of motherhood.  Over the course of months, friendships grew nurtured by trust and respect. Differences among us did not seem to matter because we had more in common as mothers than anything else. But over time, we realized that though we may differ in music preference, clothing style, religious affiliations or political views, we respected and enjoyed sharing those differences as well as our similarities. That, to me, is a true friendship grown out of a desire to be supportive to a fellow mother only to find a beautiful bond on the other side. I am thankful to my first experience as a new mom seeking friends. As any person out of a bad relationship, I learned what I really need out of a friend as well as how to be one.

Mothers, especially new mothers, need all the support they can get, and while I did not receive everything I needed in the beginning, the experience led me to everything I have now.  My first playgroup in the early new mother days showed me the ugly ways women and mothers can treat each other but because of them, I now have honest, supportive friendships. Without the women in my life now, I am not sure how I would have gotten through some of the harder moments of parenting. They have offered a listening ear, good advice, shared misery and many a good laugh. For this, I am forever grateful for The Playgroup.

16 thoughts on “The Playgroup

  1. I love when good things are revealed after we have a bad experience! It’s amazing all that works out and allows us to see the pattern, and the fact that we needed to go through what we did to make us who we are – and you are a mom who understands and respects true friendships!

    On another note – I so don’t get the drama that other moms seems to live to create. It just ends up showcasing their doubts and fears… Oh well. Glad you got past them and found new!

    • Me too and what awesome women I have in my life now! I feel very lucky. It’s true that there always seems to be a reason for the rough roads we go through, it’s always nice being on the other side of them to see it.

  2. Things you mentioned were the reasons why I was avoiding socializing with other moms to start with (combination of fear, anxiety and generally feeling out of place despite my new mom status). Then my nanny set a blind date for my husband and I to meet my twins’ friend’s parents because she was getting worried for my well being :) I then started to do families’ playgroups during the week ends rather than moms’ only playgroups and for us it worked out well because the dynamics were very different with our partners in the mix.

    • That sounds like a lot of fun! What a good idea! When my friends and I finally got the husbands to meet, it added a whole new dimension and its great. I just happened to get a bad luck of the draw in those early days, I can’t imagine that is the norm

  3. Glad you found good mom friends. Meeting the first group made you appreciate the new moms. Sometimes the bad things we go through or the not so nice people we meet are all part of life’s learning lessons! I met a group of friends when my son started kindergarten and we are still friends five years later. Sure we have different view points on things but the goodness in their hearts outweights all that stuff. I feel blessed for their friendship and I know you must feel blessed too :-)

  4. Very thought provoking. We recently joined a new playgroup which I loved the first couple times we went but a new mom joined and her kids are MEAN. It’s a group for 0-2 year olds but a couple of us have older kids too and they are welcome to come. I thought this would be great for my 4 year old to have someone her age but instead they girls (4 and 5 year olds) played too fast and too hard. They went outside without asking and didn’t close the door. The stole toys from little ones and climbed on furniture. They pushed and rushed the babies down the slides. And they were loud, very loud. It makes me not want to go back which is pulling on my heart because I did actually like it.

    I tend to be the quiet one. I’m very much an introvert. I was hoping to make some connections but so far nothing too deep.

    Hmmm.

    • That’s hard. It is definitely important to find a fit for you and for your kids…otherwise, you will just end up resenting the moms. You will find your fit eventually. I joined a MOMS club…its a national group. I met a lot of really awesome moms and it has been great. If you are interested in finding something like that, check out the web site…www.momsclub.org

  5. I’ve had the same experiences with playgroups. It’s so hard when other mom’s get so judgmental and catty. Every mother is trying her best and making choices based on what she thinks is right for her family. Gossiping doesn’t do anyone any good. Great post :-)

  6. I have always enjoyed getting together with individual families over a group. When my older kids were young, I would meet up with a few moms and their little ones but never more than two or three. Too much can happen.
    This knowledge all flew out the window when Maggie was five and we were homeschooling and thinking we needed the ever-important “socialization”…so I formed a group of homeschooling families, organized playdates, museum trips, field trips, etc and it was great for a few months…but then things went downhill. I found that in the same way mothers compare parenting styles, homeschoolers compare teaching styles. WAY too much judging and comparing. Yikes. :( I wanted to enjoy teaching, not always think about what others were using/doing. So I got out (of the group *I* created) and left others to keep it going, if they desired. This didn’t go over too well, but there wasn’t a way for me to explain my reasons for getting out. I moved on.
    Over the years, we have found it much more enjoyable to get together and to go places one-on-one with families, both homeschooling and not. :) Great post, Kerry.

    • thanks for sharing your experience Valerie! I agree about the size. in general, I feel lucky to count my close friends on one hand. and try to keep get-togethers to just a couple of families as well.

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