I have a group of mom friends that always coordinates playdates with our daughters, and usually everyone takes turns and does a great job of including everyone. But I am starting to feel like we are getting left out and not asked for as many playdates all of a sudden. We always ask and invite people over, but no one seems to be returning any. What should I do? How do I bring this up? Or should I just ignore it and find some new friends and playdates?
Dear Left Out,
Feeling left out is one of the most uncomfortable conditions that can come upon the modern social woman, especially now that there are things like Facebook and Instagram, where we can see the pictures of our friends frolicking together without us. Look at how much fun they are having! They don't seem to miss us at all! Were we even invited to that party? Wait a second ... no, we weren't! Why on Earth not?
And so on.
I label "left out" as a terrible feeling because it is one of the most hand-wringingly complicated to remedy. Do you pipe up and risk sounding whiny? Or do you blow it off, chiding yourself that you are not 16 years old anymore, and this shouldn't even matter? After all, you’ve got plenty to do in your busy life. Who needs them!?
Alas, Left Out. You need them. Unless, of course, they turn out to be thoughtless and hurtful. Here's how to figure out which is true.
Don't ignore the situation. Pick your most trusted mom friend among this playgroup's members and mention it to her. You may find that you haven't been invited recently because of something quite reasonable—maybe they haven't been having many larger group playdates because so many children and families have been sick lately. Or maybe it is about you—you always decline the invitation, perhaps, so they've given up on you. Either way, if this mom dishes, you'll at least have more information.
Since children are involved, there might be other things at play here. That's a lot of girl energy in one place, and sometimes it can be trouble. Maybe a few of the girls don't get along, and the moms simply stopped getting together to avoid the conflicts that happen among their daughters. Not to mention the interpersonal cattiness that can arise among the adults. Every woman knows all too well how that can be, unfortunately.
A consistent, reliable group of friends is important for you and your daughter, because it is true that it takes a village.
I've been part of a similar loosely organized play group that eventually petered out into nothing because nobody was really in charge. I'm now part of a very loosely organized book club made up of mostly single, child-free women, and even we can't get our act together, sometimes. What might help is a little take-charge effort, and you might be just the right person to start an email list, suggesting people sign up for dates to host the group so that everyone gets a turn sharing that duty. The other moms will probably be so happy that someone else is guiding the way, and you'll all have a nice gathering to look forward to on a regular basis.
A consistent, reliable group of friends is important for you and your daughter, because it is true that it takes a village. You need support while you raise a family. The easiest way to keep that support in your life is to make one last-ditch effort to preserve what you already have.
But the solution may indeed come down to breaking up with your play group. You can't go on waxing nostalgic about past fun playdates, continuously hoping to recreate those moments, if you're the one doing all the reaching out. While it's emotionally difficult to distance yourself from friends, and doubly hard to do that to your daughter, you must not waste time keeping the wrong people in your life.
You might have to admit that these friendships are just not working out, and that will have to be OK. You will make other friends. And then you can share your playgroup photos on Facebook and Instagram. Just be sensitive that nobody gets left out.
Do you have a dilemma that's too big for your friends, but too small for a therapist?
Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I've got your back.