Friday mornings, no matter how inclement the weather, frazzled my nerves, or uncooperative my little darlings, I bundled our weary bones into the car and hit the gas.
Once at my destination, I was embraced with hot coffee, warm banana bread, and soothing friendship. My war stories were heard ("I had just changed her and she threw up all over her new sweater!"), my frustrations acknowledged ("He sat down right on the unfolded laundry and said, 'Whew, am I beat! What's for dinner?'").
Together, we watched our children play and fight and whine and cry, just like they did at home. Yet somehow, alongside each other, it wasn't so tedious. Three hours later, armed with a full tummy, a nurtured soul, and a fresh perspective, I knew I was not alone. I could face another week of parenting.
This priceless, rejuvenating respite was not found at a spa. It was available right in my own backyard. It was my neighborhood playgroup.
The Importance of Other Mommy Friends
When my daughters were tiny, our playgroup gave my now-grade-schoolers an opportunity to meet new friends, explore new surroundings, and hone their budding social skills. But even more importantly, playgroup gave me a safe,
Despite our differences, we shared a common bond: on a daily basis, we juggled the profound joy and lonely isolation of at-home parenting. Although playgroup was wonderful for our children, on occasion, even the dads, grandparents, in-town visitors, and caregivers joined us. But make no mistake about it. Playgroup was a lifesaver for this mom.
Join a Playgroup ...
Before deciding to form my own playgroup, I had enthusiastically—but unsuccessfully—attempted joining lots of other groups. There was the Wednesday drop-in playgroup (too large), a previously established mom's group (too exclusive), even a cooperative playgroup (too much work). Finally, two neighbors with same-aged children, with whom we had occasionally played, agreed to meet once a week. Over the next few months, two more moms joined us, then two more. We made coffee, ate bagels, gave out juice boxes. Then we took turns hosting. Next we created age-appropriate crafts for the kids. Then we designed a list with phone numbers, addresses, birthdates (of kids and moms), emails, and husbands' names. Without even trying, we had formed a neighborhood playgroup.
As weeks turned into months and years, we hosted potlucks and cookouts with our husbands. Our menus evolved from bagels and a carton of juice to spinach quiche and fruit platters. We cooked chickens for each other's sick families. We threw birthday parties and snowballs, made pitchers of iced coffees and Margaritas, baked Valentine's cupcakes and casseroles, soothed bloody lips and crying babies, changed wet diapers and soaked jeans, and made leaf piles and ornaments. We exchanged recipes and child-rearing philosophies. We discussed spirituality, politics, and marriage. We established a rich, nurturing community.
A few years ago, our playgroup adjusted to kindergarten schedules and new babies. We started meeting less frequently. Still, our bond remains. Each Friday morning, wherever my station wagon takes me, I raise my lukewarm coffee and gratefully acknowledge my playgroup pals. Without them, my parenting journey would be a much lonelier road.
... Or Start Your Own
If forming a neighborhood playgroup sounds like something you would enjoy, then read on. You will be giving yourself, your family, and your community an indispensable support system.