Hi there, fellow playground mom,
I saw you right away as you entered the little kids’ section of the park, scanning the crowd, making note of who made eye contact with you and maybe even smiled back, who seemed enviously deep in conversation with a close friend and who seemed stand-offish, scrolling through their phones.
I know what you’re up to. You want to chat with another adult after being trapped in the house, a slave to your kid’s nap schedule, and you’re absolutely open to the possibly of making a new mom friend in the neighborhood. One day, you hope to be like those three women over there by the swings, sipping their lattes, half-paying attention to their kids, leaning in close to share something personal.
You’re doing your best to send out the “I’m available!” vibes and you gave yourself a pep talk on the walk here, telling yourself you’d initiate a conversation this time, no matter how silly or awkward you felt. And then, you had the poor misfortune of setting your sights on me, so I have to tell you. It’s not you. It’s me.
I’ve been in your shoes, new to the neighborhood, eager to make connections with women sharing my daily experience and a little desperate for companionship. Keep at it because I did pick up a few really great friends by being a regular on the playground scene, but I’m not there anymore. Now that my kids are more or less self-sufficient on the playground equipment, this is my chance to relax, not mingle.
You see, I’m past the lonely phase of motherhood where I only have myself and a drooling, giggling baby to talk to. I am constantly interacting with my kids — answering their questions, listening to their hard-to-follow stories, explaining why they can’t do things like stick forks in the electrical outlets, and tiptoeing through tricky topics like “Where do babies come from?” So, coming to the playground where they will run off on their own and let me have five minutes of peace in the fresh air is a treat.
I don’t have a set playground schedule like I used to, either. Preschool and a couple of extracurriculars a week make it unlikely that we’ll run into each other on a consistent basis, let alone find time to set up a playdate that works with both our schedules, so going through the courting dance with you and making the requisite small talk — “Do you live in the neighborhood? How old is your daughter? Do you like that brand of stroller?” — is now low on my list of priorities.
I will do it. I will do it for you, today, right here and now, but I’m probably not interested in taking this relationship to the next level.
And you know what? It’s totally my loss. Every time I chat with a mom, I learn something new and am refreshed by the interaction. Yet, I don’t feel like doing it today. I’ll go back to scrolling Facebook more quickly than you probably hoped because I really just want a minute to myself. When this happens, you have to remember that this is not a reflection on anything you said or did.
This is on me, and I’ll be back in your shoes before I know it. It probably won’t be at the playground, but it’ll be at my first Back to School night or soccer game or other setting where I feel like the odd mom out and am anxious to find my place. When that happens, I’ll have to remember my own advice — to not take it personally if other moms don’t welcome me with open arms and to not let it stop me from working to build a network of support around me. Your perfect mom friend is out there, but it’s not me, not today, and it’s not your fault.