Welcome to Playgroup: AKA Speed Dating for Mums
Is it your first time here? New baby? New to the area? Well sit down, have half a cup of lukewarm tea and meet our mums…
I’ve been to a lot of playgroups in the last few years and I’ve volunteered at one or two. They serve two basic purposes: make some friends asap and wear the little blighters out. Some will try to jazz it up with sales tables, speakers or selling raffle tickets, but the reasons for going are universal. It’s like speed dating for mum-friends. You have a brief few minutes in between breaking up fights over the little tikes car (it’s an unwritten rule that playgroups can only have one of these) and cleaning up spillages of weak own-brand squash, to decide who you might like to meet again or who you will settle to just stalk on Facebook. Much like real dating.
Unlike real dating however, where advice is ten-a-penny in women’s magazines, there’s little guidance on navigating this peculiar and almost exclusively female domain. And as everyone knows, and the Spice Girls personified (spoiler alert, yes this post is sarcastic), us women are nothing if not easily pigeon-holed, so here’s my quick cut-out-and-keep guide to the top 10 stereotypes from the mum-speed-dating world… and remember ladies: No likey? No lighty!
1. The Alpha Mum
Alpha Mum knows everyone. She was probably once the girl-about-town and is totally at ease that it’s where she belongs. She is a stay at home mum, often with a sideline in fashion parties or selling accessories from a branded franchise. She might smile at you on her weekly flight around Playgroup as the resident social butterfly, but she doesn’t need you to speak to her, unless she’s giving out flyers for aforementioned sideline. She is completely satisfied being a full-time mum and playgroups are her natural stomping ground. She makes a crap mum-date because she’s too busy texting her other people and telling you how great a time she has with them. She will however be on every school committee you hear of for the next 18 years, shun her at your peril.
2. The Aloof Mum
Aloof mum focuses on things like tiredness and looks around a lot as though she’s looking out for something that hasn’t arrived yet. It won’t arrive. Aloof mum is often a temporary visitor before going back to work and is quite conscious that she is just there to pass the time. She’s perfectly pleasant and will talk to you about jobs, the general difficulty of having a small child, but ultimately she doesn’t intend to settle into the full-time parenting world so feels she is slightly outside it all. She is however extremely good non-parenting conversationalist once you get to know her. A reasonable, but often temporary mum-date.
3. The Stressy Mum
This mum looks fraught. She may have more than one child with her, and is likely to be free of adult companions. She will befriend easily, and relate everything you say back to her own children and any challenges she may have with them. Stressy mum often shares details of her birth or health since, and has had difficulty adjusting to being a mum. Stressy mum makes a difficult follow on date as she’s always got more on her plate than anyone else, and may text you relentlessly. She does however seem to often have a fantastic sense of humour. Once the stress passes she’s often a different person so can be a good long-term investment.
4. The Smily Mum
Smily mum is an enigma. She always smiles, always has something positive to say and laughs at all your jokes. No-one knows how she’s so happy as she never seems to do anything or have anything to talk about, she’s just nice to be around. But she’s the date that is a roaring success then never calls. It’s not you, it’s her.
5. Lackadaisical Mum
This one rolls up all over the place, disorganised, with a vague understanding at any time of where her kids are or what they are doing. She seems to try less than everyone else yet her kids look like the scruffy happy scamps from the Waltons. She doesn’t seem to get stressed and chats away happily to anyone. She makes a nice mum-date except her laissez-faire approach to parenting means she doesn’t notice when her kid repeatedly attacks yours. She will seem mildly unhinged until you find out she’s actually a barrister or neurosurgeon and you will be utterly confused.
6. The who-ate-my-status mum
This mum is a bit like aloof mum and alpha mum rolled together. She’s successful in her non-mum life and converses easily, but she’s used to getting her own way and being queen bee and struggling now she’s out-of-place. She’ll have all the expensive kid accessories and an evident disdain for the grubby Playgroup floor. She likes to gossip and pass comment on parenting styles, despite being new to it like everyone else. She settles down eventually, give it time.
7. The Fashionable Mum
This species is used to looking good, and two hours sleep aren’t going to get in the way of getting out the GHDs and bag of slap every morning. She’s wearing heels even though you sit on the floor and trudge along a dirty a-road to get there, and still uses the evening wear wardrobe for morning functions. Fashion mum is lovely and never comments on the fact that everyone else is wearing coats from millets and ten-year old trainers. She doesn’t need to: she’s fashion mum! Great mum-date except she makes you look dreadful.
8. The Hippy Mum
Hippy mum still dresses like a mid-90’s indie kid and has children with wild curly hair. She totally does craft and enthuses over everything homemade and handmade. She is friendly and approachable but often has surprisingly conservative, if environmentally friendly opinions. She will always have great cake when you visit, and your kids will love her pets.
9. The Obvious PND mum
PND mum has post natal depression and thinks no-one has noticed. She is often indistinguishable from all aforementioned crass stereotypes, except she gives the air that everything is just fine and talks a lot about how much she loves her kid. THIS IS NOT ORDINARY MUM BEHAVIOUR. We all get tired of being tied to kids sometimes, just as much as we all love the comedy cute stuff. Show this mum some love. She needs it.
10. The Twin Mum (it had to make an appearance right?)
The twin mum is the wallpaper of playgroups (at least to me before I was one!). They are busy. They move a lot, and have slightly manic eyes which dart from one side of the room to the other trying to keep up with their offspring. They are exceptionally poor conversationalists as they can’t stand still for more than half a minute, and will usually leave in a rush of apologies. They do also seem drawn to other twin mums, and congregate together speaking in a foreign, slightly hysterical language. (I love my twin mums, I feel like we’re on a drug which no-one else can see us taking). Undoubtedly we are the crappest mum-dates of all.
Last but not least: The Drunk Mum
Like many dates, alcohol helps immensely. Drunk mum is the best. She may be any or all of the above, but has had one too many at the kid-free social and is now being pervy about the cbeebies presenters and dancing pretending to be the shapes from Mr Maker while cackling at what has become of herself. You get more bonding done in one night than a whole term of playgroup with drunk mum.
So my conclusion so far is that life with other mums is inordinately easier if early on you unshackle yourself from the kids and get merry before 10pm, early in the relationship. (You still have to get up after all).
That is all.