Once you enter the world of playdates, suddenly it’s your toddler calling the shots. Instead of hanging out with your (real) friends, you’ll have to navigate the minefield of other mothers
The Dump And Run Mum
You might see a playdate as a leisurely chance for your kids to have fun while you get to know another mum over a coffee, but she has other plans. Namely, that you’re free childcare. As soon as this mum arrives, she’ll be slinging her toddler out of the car before you can say ‘Fancy a cuppa?’ Her child is unfazed (he’s used to this), happily waving and shouting, ‘Bye Mummy, have a nice day.’ Hang on, nice day? He was only supposed to be with you for an hour…
Most likely to Collect her child late.
Least likely to Reciprocate the playdate any time soon.
What’s really going on? She’s not off to spend the day in a spa. Her childcare falls short and she has an unsympathetic boss counting off the seconds until she’s at her desk.
Is this you? If you regularly need to offload your child onto other mums, you’re doing too much. ‘Find a more workable solution to meet the demands of your job, or you’ll just run yourself ragged,’ says psychologist Mia Scotland.
The polar opposite of Dump and Run Mum, getting The Overstayer off your premises before dark is a serious challenge. She lures you into a false sense of ease when you first meet, as she’s warm and chatty, but then a relaxed coffee somehow turns into lunch. You pretend not to mind sharing the lasagne you’d lovingly cooked for supper but, as teatime rolls around, you realise your home has become a free drop-in centre.
Most likely to Bring all three of her children. And the family dog.
Least likely to Help you tidy up.
What’s really going on? She isn’t aware that you have other things to do, and the idea of yet another wet afternoon in the park makes her feel so depressed, she’d rather settle in your kitchen. Take it as a compliment that she’s chosen you and your biscuit tin.
Is this you? ‘Arrange something each day that involves being with adults,’ says Mia. ‘In time, you’ll meet other mums who feel the same. If you foist yourself on people, it won’t help you make lasting friendships.’
It’s not that she means to be rude about your cooking, it’s just that she read an article about the dangers of too much salt in toddler food, so she doesn’t feel safe letting her tot eat your Bolognese if you can’t confirm the exact quantity of sodium in each portion. And, anyway, she’s brought
her own organic rice cakes and crudités (lucky kid). Nourishment aside, The Helicopter is also horrified that you’ve taken down your stairgate. With under-fives in the house, is that really a good idea? But you can’t hear her anymore. Your head’s in the fridge looking for tonic – by the end of this, you’re going to need a large G&T.
Most likely to Do a health and safety assessment of your house before she lets her child out of her buggy.
Least likely to Join you at the local soft-play centre (‘Is that masking tape holding up the rope ladder?’).
What’s really going on? By micro-managing every element of her child’s life, this mum is attempting to assert control over her tiny terror.
Is this you? ‘Being constantly anxious is unhealthy,’ says Mia. ‘The more you try to control things, the more stressed you’ll be. Find ways to reduce anxiety, such as exercise or relaxation techniques, and you’ll feel happier.’
The Point Scorer
This mum is a master of the humble brag. Over coffee, she’ll tell you endless anecdotes about the funny things her kids do. But what starts as a story about lax parenting suddenly swerves off and becomes all about how brilliant they are. Her preschooler has barely any picture books in her bedroom. Why? Because she’s outgrown them. And her eight month old nearly fell down the stairs because he can already crawl. There’s nothing this mum likes better than reminding you how critical developmental milestones are – before telling you how her kids beat them all.
Most likely to Suggest that nursery classes should be streamed.
Least likely to Point out that, in Scandinavia, children don’t start learning to read until they’re seven.
What’s really going on? This mum harbours a deep sense of insecurity, ever since she failed her first maths test in primary school. Since then, she’s been on a mission to prove herself.
Is this you? Competitiveness is natural, but it’s not often associated with happiness. ‘When we think we need to be better than others, we become less content,’ says Mia. ‘Stop taking notice of what everyone else is doing and just try to enjoy living in the moment.’
The Nosy Parker
This mum seems unnaturally interested in the details of your life. From how much TV your kids watch and what you do at the weekends to what’s in your fridge, she’s hungry for deets. But the reason she’s mining you for all this info is so she can cherry pick the bits that suit her and use them to improve her own home, kids and life. Initially, you’re flattered by her interest, but the attention is soon suffocating. Yep, this is Single White Female in mum form.
Most likely to Be snapping pictures of your built-in wardrobe with her iPhone when she ‘goes to use the loo’.
Least likely to Suggest meeting in a café. If there’s no opportunity for domestic insights, she’s not interested.
What’s really going on? This mum might look like she’s in control, but motherhood secretly makes her worried. Before maternity leave, she had a good job and she’s found it hard to navigate the landscape of becoming a parent. Because you seem confident, she thinks you might have the answers to all of her problems.
If this is you? ‘Constantly comparing yourself to others is exhausting and demoralising. It interrupts your ability to just enjoy their company and vice versa,’ says Mia. ‘Make a list of all the things you like about your life, focusing on how much you’ve got right.