I Hereby Defend The Playgroup….
OK before I start I understand this subject matter causes some people to break out in rashes & lose sleep. So, people, please, oh please hear me out.
Throughout my life for one reason or another I never found myself surrounded by big groups of woman. I am not sure was it my coeducation from start to finish, my choice of third level course or my career path. Looking back on my life I think perhaps I’ve always been too busy studying & working to maintain the kind of nurturing that’s required to keep a big group of friends going. I have a handful of really close friends but nobody knows each other and I’ve always met them individually. The biggest “group” of friends I had before I had kids, were/are my two friends from college.
Now that you have my back-ground story, you won’t be surprised to hear that I wasn’t surrounded by too many people that could relate to where I was at, when I became pregnant and then a mother. So, I was thrilled to discover there were all these tailored activities where I could go & be surrounded by other women who were also either pregnant or mothers. That is to say I was thrilled until I went to some of them. I loved certain elements of these classes mainly the yoga in pregnancy yoga, & the exercise in Mum 2 Be Fitness.
However, the let’s sit & rub our bumps together parts, just didn’t float my boat.
Personally, I find rubbing bumps & sharing ‘shit’ with strangers’ way to superficial for me. As for reading time in the library for babies, all that comes to mind is tumbleweeds, I’ve been to more exciting and family friendly funerals.
After my pregnancy yoga class I seriously avoided at all costs any group where you sat & looked at each other & talked bumps & babies.
I kept that ethos to my pregnancy and parenting life until I had baby number two. You see with one child I could still go to a lot of places I went to before I had a baby. My first child was socially skilled & rarely went nuclear as long as she could people watch. However, getting two babies/toddlers to have an alignment of temperament suitable for public at the same time, is near impossible. So, I was stuck. I could not go very many places at all any more without having to make a quick red faced get away. With my two only having 15 months between them I often felt when it all went wrong out in public I looked like a poster girl for those ‘Johnny’s got you covered’ ads. I usually left places with a sling hanging off me, toddler one on a hip & toddler two been carried under my other arm like a little piggy.
I’ll be honest I missed work, I missed adult company.
I live 100 meters up a lane that leads to a secondary road off another secondary road, the postman doesn’t even come up to my house to deliver letters. My husband works crazy hours, so I can go 48 hours without speaking to anyone over the age of 2. Try that for a month & see how your mental health would be. I did try go out & about but really there’s not too many places to go with two smallies in the middle of winter. So, I gave in & started going to a mommy & toddler group….
A friend of mine had begged me for ages to go to our local play group. I was really reluctant to go, but I went. I was not sold on the experience at first, or second or third. However slowly but surely, I started to look forward to going. It did take me awhile to just relax into it & stop expecting it to be more than it could be at the time. It couldn’t replace the fulfillment I used to get from work. It couldn’t replace the close friendships I had for years with other people. It couldn’t forge a friendship with somebody new I didn’t like just because they had a child.
What exactly did going to a Playgroup do for me? It got me out of the house.
It gave me a place to go, that was warm, clean & full of toys, instead of doing house work all day or spinning in the car looking just to see other people. It gave my kids the opportunity to develop social skills with other kids their age, even if they did pull the heads off each other occasionally. It helped me verify something was wrong with my little boy when I could see other babies the same age as him thrive. It ended up been one of the mothers at the Playgroup that spotted what 6 health professionals had missed.
The best and most surprising benefit I have received from going, is that it has over time brought me three new wonderful friendships. Two breast fed, one bottle fed, one had a C Section & one gave birth at home in front of the fire. In fairness, none of those details matter to us because although we’re mothers we’re also now friends.
I’m just shy of two years going to our Playgroup & I now help run it. I fill out funding forms for grants, I buy new equipment, I’ve spent hours assembling wooden doll houses, I renew our memberships & insurance, I bought & wrapped all the presents for the Christmas party. I post weekly advertisements, I organise the odd night out for us. I contact Public Health Nurses even though they make me break out in a rash, just in case there may be other new mums looking for somewhere to go.
Myself and my friend that are running the group always ask each other at the end of the group, did it go ok today? We discuss what else we could do to improve things. We hope that the new mum that came wasn’t over whelmed with everyone, we hope that the mother with the one year old will come back next week because of how the scuffle with another toddler turned out. We do care about the women and children that come, we care about the community around us. We want to ensure there is a service for other mothers that find themselves alone or fed up or in need of somebody else to talk to, even if it is to talk about the colour of $h1t or the endless wet weather.
In closing my argument in defense of Playgroups, if you haven’t found your tribe/playgroup, don’t give up looking. There is a group out there for you, just go with an open mind, give it a try at least a few times and if it’s not for you move on and try another one. You will find one that’s just right for you & your little one(s) . If nothing else you’ll have something to talk to the wall about when you get home.