I was pretty relieved when my husband and I finally said, "I do" a decade ago. No more awkward first dates, will-he-won't-he-call anxiety and wondering if that connection was imagined or genuine.
Rings on, vows said. We were in it for the long haul and the truth about the seriousness of my "cute" coffee addiction no longer had to be a carefully guarded secret. Phew.
Then I had a baby, and then another. Instead of Friday happy hours with co-workers, my social circle abruptly changed. Sure, I still had my husband and girls' nights out every few weeks, but what about all that time in between? Was I seriously supposed to spend my days with only these creatures whose primary method of communication involved hurling a bowl of oatmeal at me when frustrated?
Of course not. The fellow mom dating pool was suddenly wide open to me. And somehow, several years after I thought I had said sayonara to courtship forever, I discovered I was back in the same situation. There may not have been the stress of wondering about first kisses at the end, but I found I had to carefully navigate other potentially sensitive obstacles, like joking about Calliou being sent up to Netflix from the seventh circle of hell. In other words, I learned first play dates didn't differ all that much from first dates.
Here are five ways I discovered they were eerily similar
1. Location is everything
The entire tone of the first date is set up by the venue. Loud clubs in my early 20s hardly set the stage for long-term romance. In that same vein, if you suggest Starbucks for a first rendezvous with the expectation you can cuddle your babe-in-arms while having a meaningful, deep conversation to confirm you and that mom with the awesome sock bun are in fact soul mates, her three-year-old has probably already built a fort out of the shelf supply of K-cups. Oh look, and now he's playing a primitive version of air hockey on the tile floors with the ceramic cups.
Remember, there is no sweeter background music when building a long-lasting bond than children happily playing on bouncy castles.
2. First appearances
I always prided myself on taking care to look good on a first date. I felt like I should probably show a potential new mom friend that I cared enough to comb my hair for her. But the truth is, I didn't. In fact, if I managed to change out of yoga pants and wash the sour milk out of my hair, I felt like a compliment on my efforts was warranted. No, demanded. I COULD HAVE SPENT THAT 30 SECONDS CRAMMING A STALE BAGEL INTO MY MOUTH, LADY. Now tell me how pretty the peanut butter hand-print on my shirt is.
3. It's only safe to talk about the weather
On a first date, it's generally safe to sidestep topics like politics and religion. I was extremely proud when I avoided discussing my voting preferences during initial meetings. But then I hit uncharted territory and suddenly issues like breastfeeding or co-sleeping reared their ugly heads, and I watched expressions go from warmth and curiosity to barely-masked horror.
For the love of everything, do not talk about schooling options. Do not talk discuss working versus staying at home, how much juice you actually give your kid every day, or if the American Academy of Pediatrics are really being alarmist with their no-screen-time-for-kids-under-two narrative. AND NEVER EVER CASUALLY DROP THE S-WORD (spanking).
Here are your safe topics: "Why it is not okay to lock your children in a closet to go buy drugs." That's it. That is the only universal, non-gray area. If you venture outside of it, I can only offer you luck and maybe an unhelpful "I told you so."
4. Look Up. Way Up.
Once you procreate, you no longer have to shell out on $70 on the Victoria's Secret Bombshell to draw attention to your assets; they are a side show all on their own.
Look, I don't care if there's a baby hanging from one of them, milk indiscreetly leaking through her shirt or an obvious case of engorgement due to a sleeping infant. Just look at her face when you talk to her.
5. Secure that all-important second date
Slip something into her diaper bag or leave it on her playroom floor to guarantee that you have a good reason to follow up in the next day or two. "I'm so sorry, Taylor is always misplacing her organic, non-GMO food pouches. It wouldn't be a big deal, but they cost $25 per serving. One year olds, amiright?"
Do not choose anything so beloved such as a toy or pacifier, that will guarantee you 48 hours of screaming, no sleep and general misery. No potential mom-mance is worth that. Sippy cups, water bottles or one shoe in a non-essential pair are my personal favorites. Bonus points if the second date gets you laid.**
**"Laid" in this case refers to your new mom friend offering to watch your children for an hour while you go take a nap.
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