I’ve had my fair share over the years – I’m mum to a seven-year-old and three-year-old – and I’ve got the formula down to a T. Because, if things go well, they’re a blast for all involved.
You’ve got to make sure the playdate benefits you, not just the kids – and for me, that means a glass or two of wine and a catch-up, at a parent friend’s house, at around 3pm.
Here’s why that formula just really works.
What time is it normally acceptable to open a bottle of wine? In the non-parenting world, this might be, say, 7pm. The end of a hard day at work (if you’re not having a boozy lunch). But when you’re a school pick-up parent, 3pm is the new 7pm. And believe me, it’s for the better.
It’s also a necessity, because you simply can’t wait until 7pm to have a glass of wine with a parent friend. At 7pm, you will be wrestling your child out of their clothes and into the bath. And they will of course refuse, and make their limbs completely stiff so it’s like trying to bend the Eiffel Tower into submission.
They will also be laughing hysterically, treating your attempts to wash them like a jolly old game. And you will give in, because it’s simply too much, so you hastily wet-wipe the ketchup stain from beneath their chin and hope the other parents don’t judge you. Which they won’t, because they’ll be sneakily doing the exact same thing.
So, a playdate after school with a few glasses of wine? It’s been a game-changer for me. I’m not saying you have to drink to relax – and I’m not saying that every playdate has to end in a couple of glasses of Pinot Noir – but boy, does it help. Particularly on a Friday.
“I’m not saying that every playdate has to end in a couple of glasses of Pinot Noir – but boy, does it help.”
When you’re a parent to young, primary school-aged children, it can be hard to go out. It’s expensive, for one thing – babysitters cost an average of £10 an hour where I live in East London, meaning that a trip to a local restaurant for dinner or a ‘date night’ at the cinema can set you back close to £100.
But if you bring the party closer to home... then, well, worry over.
You have childcare sorted, for one thing. And, if you’re really lucky, the novelty of kids ‘showing off their bedroom’ won’t have worn off yet, so you and the other mum or dad can sit and relax on the sofa with that glass of red and imagine you never had children at all.
Until they start shouting, or squabbling over a toy, or demanding to watch Peppa Pig. At which point you can shove some fish fingers in the oven, get them settled on the sofa, pour another glass and do as we do – go and sit in the kitchen.
We’re sensible, though. Of course. You can’t safely parent if you’re sozzled, and having a hangover at 7.30pm is no fun for anyone.
But a glass or two, a gossip about the school day, a laugh about the madness of the ‘Year 3 WhatsApp group’ and a mutual moan about how irritating your kids can be? Well, it helps us feel less alone.