Although this article isn’t just about the issues stay at home dads have with arranging play dates I feel there are more difficulties for men in this regard. I was recently contacted by another stay at home dad asking if I had managed to arrange playdates for my daughters. I have managed to arrange some, but they’re mostly piggybacking on my wife’s friends from when she was on maternity leave.
The importance of playdates for toddlers
Playdates can be a very important developmental aid for toddlers. Especially those who do not go to nursery or attend toddler classes as it teaches important social skills such as sharing. It is also nice for the children to make friends they see on a regular basis. Even though it’s especially important for children who do not attend nursery and/or toddler classes I feel, it is also a good aid for children who do go to nursery and classes. This is because it teaches important social skills on a smaller scale than withing a big group setting.
The two main issues for stay at home dads
- The male – female dynamic: Most of the potential playdate options will be a child with their mother. It can be difficult for both the mum and the dad in this scenario to arrange a playdate. There is the potential for a request to be taken the wrong way and sometimes it just seems easier not to ask for the playdate. The mum will have plenty of other mums to ask, but the same can’t be said for the dad.
- The delay in looking after the child: What I mean by this is that usually a stay at home dad takes over the child caring duties after his partner has finished their maternity leave. In a lot of cases this will be after a year. By this time most mums will already have made a circle of friends, so there is not really any need or incentive for them to add another person into the mix.
How to overcome these issues
- The male – female dynamic: To avoid any confusion and embarrassment it’s a good idea to invite a group of mums at the same time. Maybe casually mention about meeting up sometime and just seeing what the reaction is. You will probably find it easier to at least arrange the first few dates in a group setting until you become more comfortable around each other. Another suggestion is to have the playdates in a public place rather than at someones house as they might feel uncomfortable with that. Soft plays are a great option for this.
- The delay in looking after the child: This is a more difficult situation to overcome if you’ve already taken on the role. However if you’re in the planning stage I would recommend that you start piggybacking on your partners playdates. What I mean by this is arrange to go along to some playdates she has with her friends. Maybe specially arrange some playdates for the weekend if you are working. In that case partners can come along as well. That way the mums get to know you and will accept you into their group. It also helps if their partners get to know you a little so they don’t see you as a potential threat. If you have already taken over the reins from your partner then it might be an idea to get her to arrange a weekend catch-up with some of her mummy friends so that you can meet them.
Whilst it is definitely more difficult for men to arrange playdates I feel it is worth making the effort to arrange them. I think the first time is the awkward, difficult time, but after that it should get better as the other parents realise it’s mainly about the children and not about them. Having said that whilst it is about the children it’s also important that the parents get on as well.
I’m going to try and follow my own advice and arrange a few more playdates, this is especially important once my wife goes back to work from maternity leave and I’ll be looking after two young children. It will be important for my sanity to get out of the house and have some adult conversation.
I would be appreciative of any feedback and or comments about how you feel about playdates and how best to arrange them.