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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Death of a playgroup

My playgroup is dying.

I've been through this before: moms get busy with a new baby, kids start school, moms return to work, people move, schedules change, priorities shift. The weekly meeting time that used to work for a group of people no longer works for the group; eventually it works for no one. The playgroup dies. Sometimes new recruits will keep the playgroup afloat with their shared priorities and schedules; the playgroup will live on as an entity separate from that which the original members created. A playgroup can be greater than the sum of its parts.

I've been in three different playgroups during my tenure as a mommy. I joined the first one a month after quitting my job to stay home with Emily. I met a woman in my strollerobics class who was nice and seemed "like me." Our daughters were roughly the same age, about six months old. She invited me to come hang out with her and some other moms in a playgroup she had started. I agreed.

My first playgroup experience was wonderful. There were a large group of us moms--sometimes as many as a dozen--and we would take turns hosting playgroup in our homes. A living room would become a sea of babies on blankets, some squirming, some sleeping, some crying. There was usually tea and baked goods for the moms and plenty of adult companionship and conversation. Playgroup was a lot of fun and the friendship of those moms was crucial to my happiness at that point in time. While it can be argued that playgroups are designed for the purpose of child socialization, I've always appreciated them for my own socialization and the opportunity they bring for adult interaction.

Alas, time rarely stands still, even for the good, and as time went on the group changed and got smaller. Some moms went back to work, some moved, some found that our meeting time no longer worked for them. I dropped out because I was pregnant with Thomas and we had just purchased a new home. When I wasn't napping, I was spending my time shopping for furniture, painting, and decorating. Plus, Emily was walking when some of her younger friends weren't even crawling. Going to playgroup was exhausting for me, especially because of my pregnancy. Making sure Emily wasn't touching things in homes that hadn't yet been baby-proofed was difficult.

I remained playgroup free for several months. I still got together with other moms and kids, but not in any organized fashion and mostly in parks. Having a bigger home meant we had many more house guests and I was also busy during that time playing hostess to various family members. I didn't miss playgroup, and as my pregnancy progressed all I ever really wanted to do was eat cereal and nap.

Shortly after Thomas's birth, I felt again driven by the desire to be in a playgroup, to interact with other adults. I re-joined my original playgroup, which now had several new members and met regularly on Fridays. It was good to be back among friends. I also joined a new playgroup, my second playgroup, which was comprised mainly of moms with two kids. For several months my two weekly playgroup meetings were the highlights of my life.

But priorities once again shifted and when we retained Rosa the nanny on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I had no problem giving up one of my playgroups; what I needed most at that time was solitude. But when my Friday playgroup stopped meeting because of schedule incompatibilities (It's difficult to find a time to meet when you start factoring in preschool schedules), I joined another playgroup.

I've been in this playgroup, my third, for about a year, and I've watched its membership change several times. I came into this playgroup as a new member to an existing group, but as time has gone by, I am now one of the old guard. Unfortunately, I'm not inclined to find new members to fill the spaces of those who have gone; unless something drastic happens this playgroup I am in will soon be a thing of the past.

The death of my current playgroup doesn't sadden me. I realize that its dying is also indicative of the birth of new lives for most of its members. One mom is moving her family to an area with better schools and where she can get a bigger home for her money. Several moms are busy with the priorities of their older children, who now spend more time in karate and dance class than at the park. Another mom is returning to the workforce and no longer has the time to meet in the middle of the day.

I'm still making the time to go to playgroup, although many weeks find me sitting on the park bench alone. I suspect that as the weather gets colder, the remaining members will agree that getting together is too difficult. There might be talk of reviving the group come springtime, but that's likely not to happen. A more likely scenario is a monthly get-together of just the moms, a regular "moms night out" event when we can talk uninterrupted by crying or whining, use swear words for effect, and eat food that hadn't just been rejected by a child. Paradise outside of the playground!

This playgroup I am in will be my last, whether it lives on without me or not, whether I have another child or not. Farewell, sweet playgroup! And farewell to this time of my life, to the time of having only one baby, to the time of having two babies, to the time of having toddlers. Now that my children are preschoolers, they can make their own playdates. My interaction in their socialization is no longer needed, and my own socialization can occur without the common bond of children.

And in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss: “Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”

Me and Emily - March 25, 2004