Though it's not with balls or bowling pins, moms are truly expert jugglers. Handling all that comes with taking care of their children no matter what age, maintaining the family's home, keeping up with schedules, making sure that everything that needs doing is gets done. And when kids are little in the baby and toddler years in particular, they commandeer the schedule to the max.
No matter how adept you are at handling it all, it's inevitable that from time to time you'll hit a wall just needing a break, and Calgon isn't going to cut it. What's a desperate mom to do?
"Schedule a playdate," says Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., author of How to Build Your Baby's Brain: A Parent's Guide to Using New Gene Science to Raise a Smart, Secure and Successful Child (Skyhorse; 2019). "Yes, playdates are fabulous opportunities for your child to learn social skills and make new friends, but there are also many benefits for Mom as well," she adds.
HOW PLAYDATES BENEFIT YOU
1. Playdates give you a chance to reconnect with the non-mom side of you.
While the kids are playing, take the opportunity to enjoy a conversation with the other mom(s) at the playdate, and leave kid topics out of it. "Whether talking about politics, finance issues, work or the new best-selling novel, you can give your brain a workout by engaging in conversations that don't involve diapers and sleep schedules," says Gross.
2. Think of playdates as Parenting 101 crowdsourcing.
Playdates are a resourceful place to gain guidance from other moms who've been there, done that in the world of parenting challenges. "Got a child with night terrors? Can't get your child to eat anything other than cereal? Chances are, another mom in the group has gone through the same thing and can offer up advice from experience," says Gross.
3. Playdates are a great chance for you to get some exercise.
Lucky is the mom who is able to fit in regular workouts when she's busy raising kids, yet exercise is vital for myriad reasons. Cardio in particular is an amazing stress reducer. So, round up your mom friends and schedule a playdate outdoors that will get your blood pumping. "Planning playdates that involve stroller walks or jogs, family-friendly hikes and fun activities like roller skating or riding bikes can give you a chance to catch up with other moms while also getting some exercise, which can help you feel better and more prepared to take on the rest of the day," says Gross.
4. Playdates can offer much-needed pats on the back.
While you work hard as a mom and there's no gold medal at the end of the day, sometimes a dose of encouragement and reassurance from other moms works wonders, especially during those times on the parenting journey when self-doubt surfaces. "Mothers have no greater cheerleaders than other mothers, and as much as we may selflessly love our children and do whatever it takes to raise them well, it's still nice to have the support and encouragement from fellow moms that we are not the parenting failures we sometimes see ourselves as being," says Gross.
5. Playdates get you out of the house.
In the early weeks with a baby, it can be a challenge to step outside the front door. Likewise for stay-at-home moms with toddlers. Ever have one of those days in which the sun is setting and you're still in your PJs? No matter how tired you may be and how the thought of going out and about seems dreadful, the best thing you can do for yourself is to channel a positive attitude and change your environment for a while. "Scheduling playdates gives you a reason to get dressed and get out of the house, and once you are out, it's much easier to then stay out and run errands or attempt other fun adventures with your little one," says Gross.
6. Playdates can help you de-stress.
In addition to socializing with fellow moms, catching some exercise and giving your brain a boost, playdates can help reduce stress. "Motherhood can be a very stressful time, and bonding with other moms gives you a chance to alleviate some of that stress in a safe, supportive environment," says Gross.