We decided to meet at the corner, half way between our apartments. My husband was working from home so we needed to go elsewhere. Before I left I did one final check. Teeth cleaned. Hair combed. Mascara on.
We’d seen each other in social circles a few times, but we never chatted much. Just some smiles and eye contact. But now, the stakes seemed high. Maybe because it’s my first date of this kind. I know we have a few things in common: we live close by and we’re going through a similarly tough time. If this date turns out to be “the one” I can picture long walks in the park, museum excursions, maybe even yoga classes. I want—no, need—this person to like me.
I arrive a few minutes early. Punctuality is important. On our dates, timing and schedules will mean everything.
“Hey, how are you?” I ask as we quickly embrace.
“I’m okay. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”
I already know where this is going and I’m relieved. Not because I wish sleep deprivation on anyone, but because it tells me we’re in the same boat.
“Yeah, me neither,” I reply. And we begin to commiserate. The baby barf, the diaper changes, and most important–the need to get out; to feel less isolated.
Within five minutes I knew this date was going somewhere. This was my first real “mom date” when Fia was 4 months old. And that grown-up whom I met is now my good friend Courtney. Her son Teddy is just 2 weeks older than Fi. We’ve already betrothed them. Courtney, along with a handful of others, makes up my inner-mom circle: the ones I will bitch to, laugh with, and wipe up vomit for. We have progressed far beyond the dating dance and into full-fledged friendships.
An added bonus: unlike in marriage, you get to have more than one significant other.
Before I had Fi, I used to get irritated at the term “play date.” It sounded so irritatingly cliche. “Just say you’re getting together with friends you idiots!” I’d think to myself.
Now, twenty months into motherhood, I get it (and basically did from date one). I know what mom friends/play dates do. They save your life.
- For starters, having a plan to get together makes the day go smoother. And dare I say faster? (Let’s be honest. It’s all about making it to the 6 pm wine/hand off to husband time, right? That is, if you’re not, uh-em, pregnant).
- For us, we all live in the breeder central neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, a place full of oblivious parents, who often let their kids run the asylum. We keep each other aware of not becoming these people. We leave restaurants and play spaces as clean as we found them. (Sometimes I even leave sporting a smug look of superiority on my face.)
- None of us have cars. In the winter, we stroll through snow, ice, and flying debris. In the summer it’s urine-scented subway stops, parks with little shade and also flying debris. Yet, despite these obstacles, we manage to meet up almost daily. And we always have good weather-war stories to tell. (Thus, my obsession with Lee Goldberg.)
- Our husbands, well, we love them dearly, but they are all workaholics. For that reason, I believe we have saved each other from the occasional desire to put a pillow over their heads while they’re sleeping.
Put these situations together and I quickly realize that raising a baby takes a village. And for me, these women are that village. Yes, maybe in my judgmental brain those two words—Play Date—are irritating and yuppie-like. But they are also the reason I’ve survived.