We moved to a new town the spring my son was 15 months old. So began my adventures in mommy dating. I hated mommy dating, but without a job to go to, I had no other way of meeting new people. If you've never had to mommy date, consider yourself lucky.
Mommy dating is just like real dating, except the scene unfolds at the playground, (or supermarket, library, museum, etc.) instead of a bar. I paid a little more attention to my appearance, and Luke's, making sure we were both at least mostly clean. Ever on the hunt, I'd scan my surroundings for "attractive" moms.
What makes a potential mom-friend attractive? First, her kid's age -- no matter how cool a mom of a 6-month-old seems, there's no way she wants to hang out with my wild toddler. Next, she needs to look kind of like me (effort-wise) -- I'm not going to be bffs with a fancy mom. Finally, the hover test: If she lets her child roam more than two steps away from her, game on. So, with my sights set on new mom friends, I hit the "singles" scene.
Just like real dating, I had to put myself out there: I made eye contact; I was approachable; I was friendly; I visited the same places again and again, so I could see the same moms again and again; I made idle conversation with everyone; I introduced myself; I asked for phone numbers. All of this was entirely against my inherently unfriendly nature and I found it exhausting. The worst part? I had an unreliable wingman. Luke could be completely disarming, or he could throw sand in your kid's eyes. I never knew which Luke I'd get until it was too late.
In many ways, I think real dating is less awkward than mommy dating. With real dating, the whole pick-up process is expected and normal. Between moms at the playground it's odd. It's weird to go from chatting idly about the kids in the sandbox to, "Sooo, maybe I can get your number and we can do this again sometime...?" Truly awful. I'd come home from the park depressed because I hadn't plucked up the courage to get cool mom's number and she hadn't ask for mine. I'd go weeks hoping to run into her again.
That first summer I was able to set up a number of second dates. You know, a time to see if there is any real chemistry. I was unsure how to navigate these second dates, and several of them were pretty uncomfortable. At what point in a potential new relationship do you show your real self, not the charming version who picked-up this mom? How do you release your real personality? All at once? Or slowly, over time?
I decided to ease it out. I quickly found that these new moms fell into one of two camps: those who thought I was funny, and those who thought I was horrible.
Through this process of dating and personality slow release, I was able to build a new circle of friends. My mom friends. And then I moved. Now, with two kids, aged 7 and 4, I find myself in the lonely trenches as a "single mom" once again. Dating as an older mom is completely different from it was back when I had just one toddler in tow.
Gone are days filled with library story times and baby swings. Instead, my potential mom friends and I have busy schedules filled with school commitments, sports and homework. The kids of my potential friends have friends of their own, whose moms I imagine always hanging out together. Before, I worried that a new friend's child matched mine developmentally, so she wouldn't be shocked by my kid's 2-ishness. But now the kids have to actually connect and like one another. I have to date the entire family!
It's a slow process, made slower by the fact that I'm not nearly as desperate as I was a few years ago as a lonely mom of a toddler. I don't cruise the pick-up scene like I used to. I wouldn't even know where to find it. But, if I meet you and like you, and your kids are of approximate age and sex as my kids, and our kids show any interest in playing together, you'd better believe that I'll be asking for your digits and that I'll be overly excited next time I run into you at Target!
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