Ah, playgroups. Lots of fun for little ones. Not always so much fun for mums.
Some of them are GREAT.
The ones that have a generous offering of biscuits and cakes, and include a good sing-a-long, featuring all 13 verses of The Wheels on the Bus – those ones are right up my street.
And the ones we’ve been going to a while – where we know most of the other kids and parents there, and it gives me a chance to have a mum gossip while keeping one eye on Ted to make sure he’s not falling out of a Cozy Coupe car – they get the seal of approval too.
Yet still, sometimes, we go to new groups where we don’t know anyone, and while Ted’s had a whale of a time, I’ve spent the session wondering if I’m the most socially inept person on the planet.
I mean, I think I do OK when it comes to social skills. I managed to travel solo in Australia and Thailand.
And I coped pretty well with starting a new life for myself on the other side of the world, away from my family and friends.
I’ve done alright in running my own business.
And yet….attending a new playgroup and making kid-related small talk with strangers can sometimes still feel like TORTURE.
Tell me I’m not alone?
After we went to a new playgroup the other day, and I didn’t speak to anyone, and left feeling like a bit of a twit, I realised I should probably give myself a bit of a talking-to.
So here are my top tips for playgroup survival, particularly if you have to attend them solo and are generally a Small-talk-avoiding Sally like me:
1.Find groups that have some structure to them – i.e. ones that involve singing, or are focused on dance / music / games
Just in case it wasn’t clear above, sometimes I’m not always inclined to make small talk. Did I mention that? Ho ho.
I am particularly small-talk-averse if it’s early in the morning and I’ve had a crap night’s sleep or it’s a full moon or I woke up hungry or the day ends in ‘Y’.
Me n Ted tried out a new group the other day when I was feeling the effects of all of the conditions mentioned above. And the group turned out to be one with no singing and no games and was mums sat around the edge of a room while the kids played in the middle.
Let’s just say it wasn’t my favourite.
And I KNOW it’s not about me, it’s about Ted, and he seemed to enjoy himself.
Yet a bit of structure, in the form of 13 verses of The Wheels on the Bus, would have been wonderful. Or that parachute game involving a fusty-smelling plastic sheet – again, excellent.
Alas, there was no such intervention to break up the 90 minutes. And there were no biscuits.
I realised I like groups that have something a bit extra to 90 minutes of free play, because I too need entertaining and guidance, just like my toddler does. And to not sit around the edge of a room with strangers wondering if I should strike up a conversation.
However, should you find yourself at a group with no Wheels on The Bus and no biscuits, I strongly advise you (me) to…
2. Consider: what’s the worst that can happen?
In my beloved Get The Guy book (which I’m mentioning a lot recently; I promise I’m not on commission), there’s lots of solid advice to help the reader put themselves out there and chat to strangers (gulp) in order to meet new people and succeed in the ‘numbers game’ of dating.
The theory is that the more people you chat to, the higher your chance of meeting someone who might just be The One.
And also, the more people you meet and speak to, the less likely you are to put all of your hopes on someone being The One before they’ve actually proved themselves worthy = you want to cultivate an abundance mindset, not a scarcity mindset.
It struck me the other day that I really ought to revisit GTG’s advice to re-flex my ‘meeting new people’ muscle, and how the book’s advice can be applied to meeting potential new friends as much as potential new partners.
(Partners, plural? How many do I want?!)
So say if you strike up a conversation with the mum next to you, and she’s a bit off and the chat doesn’t flow = no big deal.
Move on to the next. (You floozie, you.)
It becomes easier, the more you flex your ‘meeting new people’ muscle, and who knows? You might just meet the next love of your life (in friend terms, hopefully, unless you’re in the market for romance; and in that case YOU GO, LADY).
But also, if you go to a group and leave without speaking to anyone: THAT’S FINE TOO. No-one died. Move on.
3.Remember that we’re all in the same boat
See above re: striking up conversation that doesn’t flow.
We all have off days – the full moon and the crap sleep and yada yada.
And we’re all very similar. If you’re feeling awkward, it’s likely that other mums are too.
It’s not just you.
And if you feel like you’re in Mean Girls because it’s one of those groups where all the other mums already know each other and you’ve decided you’ll pretend you need to make a VERY URGENT PHONE CALL so you don’t look like a sad-sack, remember that they’ve all been there too.
If the group’s not for you, it’s not for you. No-one died. Move on.
4.Try and find a friend to go with
If you’re really not into the ‘flying solo’ playgroup game, can you rope in a friend or a family member to attend with you, at least for the first session?
If so, try NOT to then spend the session nattering only to your friend. Make yourself comfortable within the group so you feel more at ease about rocking up solo next time.
5.Ditch the mum guilt
If playgroups really aren’t your thing, and they make you feel so anxious that it’s affecting your enjoyment of your day / your life, DO NOT GO TO A PLAYGROUP!
Happy mum, happy kid and all that malarkey.
You do you.
Bye for now x
p.s. if you end up finding a group that you really like, and you make mum pals and everything’s rosy, don’t unwittingly be a Mean Girl to other newbies. Spread the love. Amen.