You've just had a baby and it's time to attempt leaving the house and meet other mums and babies. The logical choice? Playgroups - places where babies and toddlers can play while mummies and daddies have some much needed adult conversation. Granted that conversation is fuelled by caffeine and centred around snot, poo and sleep patterns but it counts. Not only that, to some they are a lifeline.
They are also pretty intimidating at first though; walking into a room of strangers, fears of cliques and the fact you are transported back to an irrational school child fear that no one will like you. I'm really lucky that although we live in a pretty rural area, we have found 2 really sweet playgroups. Ones that have a lovely welcoming group of people, have play stations set up for the kids so they don't get bored, baby mats for the little ones to stretch out on, craft activities for toddlers along with games and songs and of course a steady stream of hot drinks and biscuits!
However, it felt like I had to kiss quite a few frogs to find these two so here is my guide to surviving the search for a decent playgroup:
Ask for recommendations - even if you've lived in an area all your life the likelihood is before you had a baby you just didn't notice these things, so ask around to find out what's out there. Other parent friends, online community groups and even your health visitor are all great sources of information to find out what's about.
Try more than one - each group is different: set in different locations, with different people and therefore a different feel to it therefore don't just settle on the first one you come across and try a few. The perfect fit for you may be just around the corner.
Listen in and jump into the conversation - a lot of people in these groups know each other therefore will be talking at 100mph in small groups. Most likely they're not doing it to be rude - they're just excited to be speaking to someone who isn't arguing the fundamental need to shove a cheerio up their nose. Just listen in and when you have something to add just jump right into the conversation. Scary I know, but 9/10 you'll be a welcomed new voice. And if not? Then see next point...
Give it a few weeks - sometimes it takes a few weeks to warm up to a group. Every group can have an off day or a particular child or parent affects the atmosphere. That's why it's important to give it a few weeks as by then you would be a familiar face to the other people and will have a real insight into what that group is like. You can then make the decision as to whether it's for you and your little one(s) or not.
Don't let a bad experience put you off - however, some groups are just not for you. There's a particular one I tried that was just too cliquey and I just couldn't break through, another was ran with military precision by a absolute tyrant that had the parents and children alike terrified to step out of line. The point is that if its not working for you, don't be afraid to cut all ties and find one that does.
I promise that not all groups are bad though and most will be welcoming, the important thing is finding one that you all like and using that as support. Becoming a parent is hard and if you're a first time mum or dad then it's life changing on an enormous scale, so whatever helps you get through the day is worth it.
For me it was adult conversation and the promise of a hot cup of tea!
This post was first published on www.tippytupps.com