I’m reading a novel right now, The Summer Kitchen by Karen Weinreb. The book, about a wealthy family’s “loss of wealth and prominence,” contains a description that I really identified with: A section about why some of the smart, talented women of the heroine’s town stopped working once they had children. These women, you see, were in love with playdates.
“Each felt that there was no place in the world she would rather be. These gatherings were addictive that way, and once addicted, there was no way a woman of Bedford would contemplate going back to work and missing all this midweek fun.” This passage touched me because, even though I still worked full-time when my first daughter was born, the bulk of that work was done at night so I could partake in the playdate world. Back then, I worked one entire day — Tuesday — doing all my interviews on that day as well as during naptime, and when my late afternoon sitter came. The mornings and early afternoon, however, were all about mommy time.
I met my core group of mommies at Gymboree. Our babies were between two- and six-months-old. I threw the first playdate, and set up the first schedule. Everyone took a turn, and the group continued to grow, our fun drawing more and more people into our circle. I was in heaven. Yes, the playdates were supposed to be for the babies, but in the beginning we didn’t even pretend that they were. For example, we made lunches a part of our habit before the kids could gum teething biscuits. Meanwhile, the spreads usually contained bagels, pizza, salads, and sweets. (There was a reason I gained a little baby weight not before but after I gave birth!) We hit Nordstroms. We went to White Post Farms. We went to parks and libraries and bagel stores.
While everyone loved the playdates, they were especially important and meaningful for me. Awkward and shy in high school, I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin until college. As a mom, I hit my stride. Meeting and greeting quickly became a favorite activity. I “picked up” wherever I went. We had something going on every single day. So much so that I spent many nights burning the midnight (or more likely the 3 a.m.) oil making up for my fun daytime activities. Today, there are 11 of us who still get together once a month for potluck dinners where we chat and eat. Sort of like our early playdates minus the kids, and plus a couple of bottles of wine.
When I had Little Girl, my sweet second child, I assumed that I would get another chance at playdates, and yet we seldom do much with other moms. Things have changed. I’m editing a lot more. I’m working a lot more. Much of the work has to be done during the day. I’m needed. I am not complaining. I love what I do, but I worry that Little Girl is missing out. And I miss what was — those amazing playdates where the babies first crawled and then ran around, and the moms chatted and ate. Facebook makes my transition even more bittersweet because I read about other moms having playdates, and I see the photos. Sometimes I ache inside wondering if I’m making the right decision for me and my daughter. Sure, I still see friends at night, but it’s not the same. Playdates, so innocent, so sweet, bind women together in a way that dance classes or book clubs sometimes don’t. Playdates create a family bond — one that goes on even when the kids are too old to get together anymore.
Today we had Little Gym. (I figure everyone in corporate America takes a lunch break. Mine involves a cute little girl.) After class I overheard two moms discussing the next session. They were talking about signing up together; keeping their girls in the same class. I mustered up my courage and asked which class they were considering. I got even braver, saying I’d like to take the class with them, too. “Our girls are all around the same age,” I explained. After all, it’s always nice to keep your options open.
(Coming tomorrow: Playdate Dos and Don’ts)