I’ve been with my husband for more than a decade. I thought my dating days were behind me – and I hadn’t missed them at all. However, when I emerged from the safe cocoon of my house for the first time with my baby, I realised that I was embarking on a whole new era of dating. The mummy dating game.
I was never that great at dating. If I wasn’t slightly interested, the date would be ready to whisk me off my feet. But, if I actually remotely liked them, they’d run a mile. My problem is that I didn’t like games. If I was keen, I showed it. Seems like there’s something in that treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen mantra.
I wasn’t ready to start ‘dating’ again, but I did need some baby friends. Or at least needed to be sociable at the various mum and baby groups held in the area. So…baby as my wingman, I entered the
bar playgroup. It was full of mummies all chattering away and laughing as I, the intruder, quietly assessed where was best to take my seat. But who to sit next to?
The leader: she welcomes you with open arms and a huge smile. You feel immediate relief and are smug at how speedy you’ve attracted a friend. But within two minutes, they’ve dashed off to greet the next mum. Warning, they are liable to usher you to the nearest spare seat, potentially miles away from the mummy bounty you had your eye on. And, as I quickly learned, you have to sit strategically otherwise you’ll be trapped next to your polar opposite and there’s no escape.
The know it all: want to actually speak today? You won’t with her. She’s too busy telling you about her brood of perfect children. You may be tempted to be in awe of her apparent awesomeness in raising multiple babies. But it’s just a front. She was a mess in the early days just like you are but she won’t admit it.
The cliche: akin to the popular gang at school, these guys act like they’ve known each other for years. They’ve done they hair AND makeup (bitches, when did they have time for that!?) and you can’t help but long to be their friends. Don’t bother, they may feign interest for a moment but this is their charitable act of the day. Once playgroup is over, they’ll be off for coffee and you won’t be invited.
The advice giver: From the moment you have a baby, actually, from the moment you announced your pregnancy, the advice giver has been everywhere. Sat across from you in the office, in the queue for your groceries, on the bus…EVERYwhere. Mummyhood is hard work and everyone wants to help with a bit of advice. What they don’t remember is how grit-your-teeth-and-smile-and-nod annoying it is as what worked for their baby will not work for any other baby in the world. Fact. Listening to the advice giver will just leave you feeling you’re doing everything wrong and must be a bad mum if you don’t do things their ‘right’ way. Keep your distance.
The mum who’s on a break: You’re a new mum so no doubt you’ve still got baby clutched in your arms or, at the most, laying a millimetre away from you. This mum, however, is a seasoned playgroup goer. She sits and chats, enjoying her free coffee and seems to let their tot run wild. Spotting your vulnerability, this tot will hone in on you, steal the one toy your baby has actually held in their hand for the first time ever (genius baby) and then kick a block flying to hit baby on the head.
What do you do? Can you tell them off? Can you touch their arm to move them off your baby without looking like you’re manhandling them? Can you reclaim the toy which will send them into despair and leaving you as the evil toy thief who makes children cry? This will be the moment that the mum looks over furiously.
This is unchartered ground. There are no rules here. At first, I tried to ignore it, avoiding confrontation and just tend to my baby. But the more times this has happened, I’ve grown a bit tougher. Nobody messes with my baby. So…take a quick look around, make sure the mum isn’t watching and make eye contact with another sympathetic mum (immediately implicating them as a witness) and get that toy back! Tell them firmly but fairly that kicking bricks at baby is NOT nice!Victory can be yours!
So, now you know the main characters at playgroup but where do you fit in? Keep an eye out for mums who look equally uncomfortable and quiet as you are. Dish out the stash of new baby questions – age, name, weight, any siblings, how they sleep, how they eat, probably your birth story, can either of you reach the cake tray etc. Now pay attention. You have approximately 10 minutes before one of your babies will cry. In that time, you have to make a snap decision of whether you want to see that mum again. You’ve both made it out of the house by 10am today. The chance of this happening again next week are limited. Do you like them enough to see them again? If so, it’s time for the dreaded question about a second date – maybe even on your own somewhere. Then it’s the awkward suggestion of swapping numbers. Panic over rejection sets in….But relax, most likely they’ll say yes and be relieved. It took me a while but I discovered that most other new mums were actually keen to meet up with other mums.
I mean, it is the opportunity to talk to another adult who’s going through the same experiences as you. And yes, I won’t deny that it does feel pretty awesome walking out of that
bar playgroup with a phone number and a date lined up for tomorrow.