Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Downside of Playgroups

Playgroups are all the rage. Every parent wants his or her child to have the social development nurtured when playing with other children. I am the same way, but I have been able to admit that perhaps the hype about playgroups is a little more positive than it has to be. They are not, in other words, what they are cracked up to be and do not work in every situation. The cons of playgroups are something that all new moms should consider.

First, playgroups are tougher to find that many magazine articles will lead you to believe. Playgroups are viewed as get together spots for new moms, and in these articles, mom is able to just hop into a group. The reality is that most of the time, these moms knew each other in some capacity before the playgroups began. They may go to church together, work together, or live in the same neighborhood.

Many of them are cliquish and do not take well to newcomers to the group. New moms also may find that the other mothers in the group do not share their political or social beliefs, which is something that is never discussed. When I took my infant son to a few meetings, I found that the other women thought that moms who work outside the home are immoral and are doing a disservice to their children. Most of my friends work (hence my need to find other moms for a playgroup) and will continue to do so. I am at home only because I have the luxury of being in a flexible field.

Playgroups also will be the first place where your child will deal with peer pressure. Okay, it is mom who will deal with the peer pressure, but it is there nonetheless. Moms will compare which babies roll over, gurgle, and crawl, and if your baby does not stack up, everyone will know. If someone else has an infant who has not mastered a developmental task, then watch out. That mom will tell you ad nauseum about why Baby Bob just does not make an attempt to stand yet. You probably do not care, but Mom will let you know anyway lest you think that Bob is just slower than the other infants.

Moms in playgroups also will try to show off what their babies can do. I will admit that this phenomenon is not limited to playgroups. We have been in many situations when other parents and grandparents want us to coo at their babies. The reality, though, is that other people are not as impressed with your progeny as you are. I try to keep that in mind when it comes to my own son, who I think is wonderful. I know that other people do not see him in the same way, however, and I try to keep that in mind.

Playgroup moms still will try to show you what their babies can do, however, although you have a baby the same age. They will want you to clap over their babies and their accomplishments. While you certainly want to cheer on other babies because they are learning so much so quickly, you also will want to show that enthusiasm on your own without Mom holding you hostage. I have no idea why playgroups evoke this kind of one-upmanship, but my theory is that many of these moms need something to prove their worth.

These women were likely in career fields for years before having children, and they probably were successful. Now that they are stay-at-home moms, they are trying desperately to show the world that they are doing something with their lives. Unfortunately for their children (and the moms around them) that something comes in the form of showing baby off to anyone and everyone.

If you do want to find a playgroup, by all means go ahead. Just beware that there is a darker side than the rosy pictures you will see. There are moms who fight with each other, babies who do not get along, and gossiping in many of these groups. Try to find a group of women who share something with you, such as a hobby, so that you can have something in common besides your babies.

No comments: