Just when you think that you’ve married the guy, made the babies, and are all set to live happily ever after, it is time to start dating again. No I am not suggesting having an affair as a way out of the mommydom malaise, but post having children, dating other mommies (through play-dating their children) somehow becomes imperative. Unless you have a mini hockey team at home, in which case it is entirely optional.
A few days back, I wrote about the whole business of mommy dating and how we need to put ourselves out there and date other mommies (sometimes for our own sanity, and sometimes for the sake of the children). However anti-social we might pride ourselves being, we tend to succumb to it sooner than later. But for those of you who are still intrigued by the politics and the dynamics of mommy-dating, I have put together a few tips and guidelines: what, how, where, when.
So here they are, in no particular order:
1. Be very clear that you are not in it for the larger good of humanity (read your child and what he/she wants to do). There has to be something in it for you. Admit to yourself that you need more stimulation, laughs, some bitching, food, alcohol. And you don’t want to do all the work.
2. Look out for children that your child shows an interest in or the other way round. Harmony and compatibility is key. Although things may not be the same in a different scenario. There might be hitting involved. Or tantrums. Or crying. Or zero-sharing.
3. Neighbourhood is key. No one is going to travel cross-country for a date. However gorgeous you might be. Keep your eyes open. At parks. Supermarkets. At the school, post dropping your child. At bus stops. In your apartment block.
4. Master a skill. Anything. Cupcakes. Finger painting. Gift-wrapping. Paper craft. Homedecor. Clay-modelling. Bartending. Something you do really well. Something that acts as a magnet for the other mommy so she feels like meeting you over and over again, and you can strike off those many hours from “things to do with child”
5. Set a time-frame for the compatibility test between your child and another. If it’s been over an hour and the kids don’t get along, move on. Find another mommy. Or try the same thing at another venue. Switch houses.
6. Your child may not have played with a toy for months, but the minute another child so much as looks at it, he will want it right then. Count on it.
7. Screen time sucks at a playdate, but sometimes, when you are having a really good conversation with a mommy, but the kids look like mascots for whiny.com, by all means, put on the Madagascar 3 DVD. On loop, if it helps.
8. Don’t overdo the hospitality. Taking down a list of what the other child likes and putting out a spread is too needy. Keep it cool. Keep it minimal. Raise the bar slowly.
9. Don’t invest too much in one mommy or one child. If the kids fall out or if she moves cities, or the child moves schools, you will be shattered. Do not set yourself up for depression.
10. Do not come equipped with an entire household and boxes of food and drink for your child at a playdate. It’s not cool. If your child eats pine nuts or quinoa, carry them. Do not expect another mommy to simulate every crumb in your household.
11. Improvise. If the situation at a playdate gets tense, stop breaking into hives. Or trying to resolve the dispute. Change the scene. Flee to the nearest park. Or just go for a drive or take a bus.
12. If you really dig a mommy, and your husbands get along and your kids never fight, well, you’ve hit the jackpot. Do not mess it up. Plan a holiday. Now.
13. If you really like the mother, but your children don’t get along, cheat. Have an affair. Meet her on the sly. Do movies with her. Do coffee when the kids are in school.
14. If a playdate has transitioned into a sleepover, congratulations! There will soon be a time when you can actually watch a late night movie. Like I said before, the idea is to raise the bar. Slowly.
15. Don’t get complacent if things are going too well with one mommy. You never know. Keep working. There is a few more years to go. Post which you can make your own friends irrespective of whether the child likes another child.
16. And remember, you don’t have to marry the mommy, so you can date as many as you like. You will find that sometimes a plan B is not enough. You need a plan K.
Lalita Iyer is a columnist with Indian Express, journalist, foodie, feline worshipper and reluctant blogger. She is mother to two cats, a husband and a three year-old boy and trying to find sanity somewhere in between. Her book “I am pregnant, not terminally ill, you idiot!” is due to be released soon. She blogs on mommygolightly.wordpress.com and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Lalitude.