Where would we be without our mum mates? They’re our lifeline and sounding-pad for all things parenting. Isn't it great to hang-out with likeminded souls who don’t judge us for shoving a bag of Pom Bears in the buggy for ten minutes peace? Having kids who will happily play together (or at least beside one another with intermittent launches for whatever the other has in hand) is an added bonus. But sometimes, just sometimes, says Lyndsey Gilmour, it's not as simple as both being at a loose end at the same time; other variables must be considered when organising play dates. That's when military style tactics are to be deployed...
Like, when you can't trust your kid not to wreck the joint. You really, really, really want to accept that coffee invite, but you know she's got cream carpets throughout the house and she's definitely a neat freak. Bad news when your kid could give the Tasmanian Devil a run for his money. What do you do?
Solution? Suck it up. If you keep politely declining, she’s going to stop asking, and where would you be without her then? Give your kid a high protein breakfast so they aren't wanting snacks every five minutes and all you'll need to do is concentrate on where you put down your mug. Keep it short and sweet: everyone’s happy.
Like, when, well, she's a bit dry. She's a sweet mummy, and her child is extremely tolerant of your child's rough and ready style. But she's not a font of scintillating conversation and you are SO sleep deprived you can't be expected to fill the silence all the time…
Solution? Plan a do-ey date. Lots of arts, crafts and messy play, if not around yours then find a pottery cafe. Or perhaps a cinema. No, not for the messy play, but to enjoy one another's company without worrying about running out of chat. Find out if your local does special morning screenings you can take babies to if they are teeny-tiny.
Like, when it’s your turn have the whole NCT/antenatal gang over but your husband neglects to tell you he’s invited his mother for dinner that very same day. There’s no way your entire house will not end up resembling Andy’s bedroom in Toy Story thanks to eight toddlers who’ve recently become on the move. Not a clean mug will be found by the end of it — not one drop of milk. So what do you do to ensure a smooth transition?
Solution? Start early. No fancy ‘brunches’, we’re talking brekkie. Your mum mates will have been up since five anyway — they’ll be off by lunch. This gives you just enough time to throw all the toys back behind the sofa, sweep the trail of biscuit crumbs that Mother-in-Law will invariably look for and nip to the Newsagents for more milk. Sorted.
Like, when she doesn't know when to leave. Yikes. God love her, she's the salt of the earth. She's helped you through some pretty tough tantrums and teething trials. She even loads the dishwasher without being asked when you have her over. But does she know when the party's over? No she does not. What exactly are you meant to do when Mum Pal is missing the chip telling her when to go home, and you're to polite to show her the door?
Solution? If she still doesn't get the hint with an invitation that says 'We'd love to have you over between 10am-1pm', make sure you stick a very clear 'Because we have a doctor's/M.O.T/estate agent appointment,’ on the end of it.
Like when you still love your playdates but you’ve gone back to work. It’s tough being a working mum, having a foot in both camps. The need for chatter and a play does not leave you, but where do you find the time?
Solution: This isn't for everyone but I have a mum mate so time-efficient that she deserves a mention. It helps having an open plan kitchen, granted, but she schedules her playdates so that others come to her, after work (say, 4.30pm) so she can chat, slurp tea and prepare the family dinner while a huge box of Duplo empties nearby. She is the epitome of multi-tasking and I have no shame in admitting that ‘if’ I get the promised but ever elusive new kitchen, the design will be 100 percent modelled on hers.
Like, when her kid has a tendency to de-blume every flower in the garden, decapitate every doll in the toy-box and even the cat’s tail is a target. Just because you love your mum mate doesn't mean to say you have to love her mini-destructor. So how do you hang out with her and keep your sanity?
Solution? Go fruit-picking, or find some other neutral ground like a forest to play in. Everyone’s a winner. And the cat gets to live another day.