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What I Wish I'd Known Before Joining a Playgroup

Photograph by Getty Images

I’m not the advice-giving type, and I’m not about to start now. But I do offer cautionary tales about how I’ve done things in ways that you definitely should not. And when I think back on my early motherhood, I cringe every single time I think about how I approached my first playgroup experience.

Please don’t do what I did.

First, I made the mistake of jumping on an invitation to join a neighborhood mom-and-tots group when my son was only 3 weeks old. I was still bleeding, for Pete’s sake. But as soon as I got the invitation, I felt that I had to say yes, and I had to start right away. I’m not sure if I thought they would rescind the offer if I didn’t show up. It’s more likely that I wasn’t thinking at all.

Today I know that showing up for an afternoon social gathering with strangers three weeks into motherhood was a bad idea.

So very bad.

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I barely had enough energy to shuffle my way down the block with my son and the bag of gear that weighed three times what he did. Once I arrived at the house where everyone was meeting, I had just enough energy remaining to worry about my image in front of a group of total strangers.

Would they care if I nursed? Am I bleeding out of this pad on the hostess’ couch? What if my son cries the entire time? What if there are no snacks? Can they tell I am totally depressed?

Everyone there was friendly and offered me a warm welcome. We certainly had plenty to talk about, since we all had babies within six months of each other. By the time we covered sleep schedules, feeding routines, and postpartum body changes, it was practically time to go.

I was so fried from pretending to be a put-together, serene version of myself that I could not possibly connect with anyone.

As tired and achy as I was, I wanted them to like me. Before we all left, the hostess asked who wanted to host the next week. As if possessed by a demon, my hand shot up and I volunteered with a smile.

That was my second mistake, and it was a big one.

One week later, I was a lunatic; trying to clean my house, hide the crappy toys and bake brownies. Once everyone arrived, I was so fried from pretending to be a put-together, serene version of myself that I could not possibly connect with anyone. I don’t think I engaged in a single conversation.

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When the door closed behind the last mother that afternoon, I collapsed in pool of my own leaky breast milk. I felt lonelier than ever, because I hadn’t had the guts to show them who I really was. I also didn’t have the guts to slow down, to tell them I’d love to join the playgroup when I was in a more social place.

I wish I would have done that. The playgroup wasn’t going anywhere. They would have waited for me, if I would have just paced myself more gently.

Next time I will.

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