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What's With All the Play Date Hate?

Photograph by Twenty20

It's popular in the blogosphere these days to hate on play dates – you know, those double dates between moms and kids, which, depending on your personality, are either super awkward or total lifesavers. I fall into the second camp. Here's why.

When my four-year-old comes home from school and announces, "Mommy, let's play!" I'm good for about 20 minutes. That's how long I can pretend to be an evil queen, rebuild the same puzzle we made yesterday or play Candy Land with made up rules that she changes on the fly. Then I get itchy and start tidying up or trying to make dinner, never mind that it's only 3:15pm. But my kid wants to play! And play she should. With another kid. Since she doesn't have a sibling (yet), our best option is a play date.

RELATED: Questions I Never Thought I'd Ask Before a Play Date

What I love about the play date dynamic is that I'm not solely responsible for entertaining my daughter, but I can still watch her in action. I'm charmed by her adventures in dress-up and make believe—I just prefer to observe from the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in hand. If she needs me, I'm there. Otherwise, she's blissed out on child's play while I get to relax. To me, that's the best of both worlds.

What I love about the play date dynamic is that I'm not solely responsible for entertaining my daughter, but I can still watch her in action.

I also very much enjoy the bonus of adult socializing. As a WAHM, play dates are the only grown-up interactions I'm going to have all day. Since little kids will get along with just about anyone, I tend to choose play date partners based more on the parent than the child. Who do I like hanging out with? Who would I like to get to know better? Who doesn't mind setting up a super messy baking project in her home (NOT MINE)? That's who I call for a play date.

Okay, occasionally these interactions are awkward, like the time a mommy friend had to run out on our plans at the last minute, leaving her husband in charge (he's nice enough, but the gossip was sorely lacking). Or the time I walked into a play date to find the other kid dripping green snot and hacking up a lung. ("Um, I know it's only 50 degrees out, but let's move this play date outside, m'kay?")

But for the most part, play dates are key to my parenting survival. If I'm exhausted (which I've been for 7 months straight, since I'm pregnant,) I rely on play dates to ensure that my daughter has fun, active, social experiences instead of just watching TV on the couch with me. And if both moms are exhausted, well, at least we can take turns being the perky one.

RELATED: My Daughter Hates Play Dates. Is it My Fault?

Play dates—they're a win-win! Don't knock them till you've really tried them. A few tips:

- Plan away games when your house is a mess

- Offer to host when you're waiting for the cable guy

- If both kids freak out over sharing, choose neutral territory, like the park

- Have a pediatrician-approved explanation for that lingering cough or be prepared to reschedule

- Offer the kids' snacks to the grownups too—everybody likes Pirate's Booty

- Wine is not a terrible idea

Image via Twenty20/angmarieaz

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