Ah, playgroup – you either love them or loathe them. I’ve been to my fair share. Some are fab, some are excruciating. I recently went to a new one in my local area and it got me thinking about how there’s always some striking similarities.
Here’s my anatomy of a playgroup.
The Hoverer – You can tell she is a hoverer because her children’s clothes are really, really clean. She is always one step behind them, often holding a wipe, and always grimacing. It’s unnatural for children to look that put together and you just want to tell her it’s ok not to strive for perfection. Cut yourself some slack.
The Over Sharer – Really? You’re boobs leaked last night and your child ate three peas and four carrot sticks for lunch yesterday. I’m sorry, but I only just met you and frankly, I don’t need to know all that this early in our friendship.
The Stickler – She’s the one who knows the inner workings of the playgroup. She has designated herself the rule enforcer and she’s not afraid to tell you if you’re breaking one. Does she even have children in the playgroup? Oh yes, there’s one… ramming his truck into another child’s leg.
The Free Spirit – This Mum is so free and easy she doesn’t even need to watch her child, who coincidently is with The Stickler’s child tormenting two other kids over by the swing set. She comes to playgroup to relax (and let the other parents look after her child). She never lifts a finger, unless of course it’s to bring a biscuit someone else has contributed to morning tea.
The Welcomer – If she could, she’d wait in the car park and run alongside the car to ensure she’s the first to say hello. She is so nice, almost too nice. You master the wave and dodge, to steal some time so you can get a coffee fix and find your inner “happy mummy” before facing the barrage of saccharine.
The Pushy Nanna – Fuck you lady, wait your turn. I know your grand child is everything, but so are all the other kids at playgroup. Back off and let everyone have a turn.
The Silent One – You try and get eye contact. You smile. You make small talk. You can’t tell if she is shy or she really has no interest in talking to you. Each week you try again. It becomes a challenge. Then you give up as you risk becoming a stalker, but you wonder what’s wrong with you.
The Snake – To your face she’s really lovely, but once you turn your back she’s ramming a pair of craft scissors into your back. You know the kind, she’s the one who organises extracurricular playgroup activities with the other mums and somehow always forgets to ask you along. Power trips are her past time and you’re her latest pawn. Never to worry, she’s quite a bore anyway.
The Loud Talker – She has a lot to say and wants everyone to hear it, so to make extra sure everyone does, she talks very loudly. Even attempts to drown her out, by turning up the nursery rhymes on the portable DVD recorder, fail. She doesn’t notice anyway, because she really loves the sound of her own voice, which is lucky because it’s all anyone can hear.
The Top Dog – You know her, she’s the coolest looking chick in the room. She always has a couple of other Mums hanging around with her, avoiding eye contact with everyone else. She was the popular one at school and has decided to carry that theme of schoolyard hierarchy into her adult life. You smile at her, she turns her head. And if you do talk, she never remembers your name. You secretly hope one of her kids vomits on her Pandora charm bracelet.
The Beacon – There’s always one and if you’re lucky there’s more than one. The person who you click with straight away, like a shining light in the fog. You’re kids play well together. They are kind, fun, inclusive, interesting and easy to be with. You trust each other, you forge friendships. They make playgroup a place you want to keep coming back to.
Playgroup helps break the monotony of the day and provides a place for parents to bond and for kids to socialise. But you need to find your beacons or it can be a very lonely place. Next time you’re at playgroup, or your local playground, look out for the new Mums as you never know, you could make a new friend for life. Be a beacon, not a bitch.
(For the record, I think I may be a mixture of an Over Sharer and a Loud Talker!)
Have you had a good or bad playgroup experience?
You nailed it!! Yes, different playgroups, different cities and countries, but the same people! I don’t (get to) go to any playgroups now that I’m working again, but I only ever hoped to meet (or be) a Beacon…and kind of let the rest of the personalities wash on past. Somewhere between Uni and the 1st birthday of my oldest son I realised something profound…I stopped caring about the fact that I didn’t click with everyone. No more over-analysing every comment I made or squint I perceived was directed toward me. If we got on great, if I sensed we didn’t I didn’t waste another moment sweating it. Thoroughly freeing!!
And, between you and me, how could anyone not love YOU int heir ?! Oh, and I’m sure some others probably saw me alternatively as the Over Sharer (but not about my kids! LOL) or the Loud Talker (it’s called voice projection…you can’t turn off years of theatre group at school, sister! LOL), but I am who I am, you can love me or leave me alone, I totally don’t mind! 🙂
For fear of being an over-sharer, I didn’t get into the Playgroup thing when my boys were babies as my breastfeeding boobs used to leak everywhere, Playgroup included. Now they’re older (two and four) I have just immersed myself in a new group where the kids do actually play in a group. The group has its Welcomer Mum and a few Silent Ones and I’m too new to pick up on any Snakes, but it’s nice to chat and get to know other mums and have a cup of tea in peace while my boys have fun and wear themselves out with a whole new world of toys. I think the older the kids, the more easy-going are the mums?
Oh boy is this brilliant! We have all been there! Now which one am I ?
One good experience and one not so good. I think im the oversharing free spirit! I do wish i could enjoy playgroup but i find them a bit intimidating at times.
Oh you nailed it alright!! I have only been to a few playgroups, once. Mothers hated me as i had those well put together clean & healthy children, i’d had 12 hours unbroken sleep & was always up & happy. My twin group in particular hated me, as i’d manage to be early, with home baked goodies, perfect children & happy. Kind of helped i was possibly 10-15 years younger than the other mothers, i felt the daggers, i left. Don’t get me started on Army play groups, you are your husband’s rank, you can’t get out of it, it’s one of the first questions. I would never answer & with my 4 darlings, it was assumed my husband was a colonel, not a corporal (that is a huge difference in rank from commanding officer to lowly crew commander) but i never understood the point. These women truly had no lives, fed off others, i just could not do playgroups. Now my youngest is almost 8, i think it’s behind me, non?? Aha, P&C, good luck, love Posie
We were taught to “project our voices” at school. To breathe, “using our diaphragms girls” so naturally I am the loud talker 🙂 but like anjwrites says it is voice projection lol. I avoided playgroup when the children were small as my Mum was the local family day carer and she took my children (yay) As I was the token greenie in our small town, the one that NO ONE would talk to for fear of catching environmental germs.
Other than Top Dog, I think I have been a tiny bit of all of these at some stage. But always in search of the Beacon.
I have attended a number of playgroups all around the country and I am not sure which I am?!? Maybe I come off as a bit of a silent type in a new group but it is more likely fatigue than anything else! And I must say, starting off in a group when Immy was a bub was a whole lot easier than breaking into a new group of already established friendships 🙂
Ok I’m a hoverer….but I’m not cleaning their hands, one of them bites. It’s a headache following one of these kids around and it makes you realise there is another “type”. The over-protective, judgmental parent that thinks you’re either teaching your child how to bite at home, (no place your incisors here), or just doesn’t understand loud little boys. I gave up a long time ago.
B – this is GOLD. And dare I tell you, I have never ever been to playgroup. But I nodded and identified with ALL of them as you are also accurately describing the school mum scene with 100% accuracy.
You are my beacon babe…xx
I tried a playgroup when I only had two kids. It didn’t go well, I joined late in the year and cliques were already so close you couldn’t prise your way in with a crowbar. These women had been together since the kids were born I think, they were *that* close! I gave up. I would have been the silent one.
My playgroup days are long behind me but your post brought back memories. I tried a few different groups and made some good friends along the way, but I can honestly say I never really enjoyed play group. It was something I did for my children, rather than myself. I’m glad we did it, but I’m also glad it’s over.
I think you missed one personality type – The Organiser: Are you on the morning tea roster? Hasn’t it been a while since you took a turn reading during story time? Maybe you’d like to put together a craft activity for next week – nothing too difficult – just something fun and colourful and easy and interesting suitable for 18 months – 4 year olds. Oh, there’s a warehouse shopping trip fundraiser happening in November, will you be coming by yourself or will you bring a friend? (Your list has given me flashbacks to our first playgroup and The Organiser at that group. Off to make myself a cup of tea to recover).
ha! Love this….
I always seemed to be the weird one when we went to play groups. First I was the one with the teeny tiny twins, total freaks. Then I was the one who admitted to still breastfeeding her two year old twins the very moment when the whole room was suddenly quiet. And now I am the crazy lady who has four kids…. and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Having actually run a successful playgroup back in the dark ages (before twitter and blogging) and built it up from 5 of us to having 55 families on our books by the time I left, I have seen all of these types and many many many more. I could write a book. I SHOULD write a book…
playgroup was my only social outing for a while when my son was little, (he is 10 now). I went every weak till he started kinder…It WAS madness. The bulk of the women smoked and every five minutes would stand out the front entrance and SMOKE, while their children where inside happily whacking other kids with their rolling pins. I tried to be the taker overer, i tried to be the welcomer, I tried to be the free spirit, I tried to be the silent one, anything to get through…. finally … another beacon came and saved me.
You also forgot the NUTTER one, you know the one that is screaming at their child every minute with threats of destroying their world and then in the next breath…oh…I love you..I love you … sorry baby..!
I have a 4 year old now and we have lived in a new town since she was born and fortunately the playgroup i have been taking her too is full of beacons. Yay!
I’ve never been part of a playgroup before (too lazy) but I might be the silent one which will morph into the over sharer. Not a good combo.