Wine tasting once a month…
Cheap margaritas and queso at Chuy’s…
Girls’ Nights Out at innovative new restaurants at The Pearl…
Yeah, I don’t do those things anymore.
Or at least I don’t very often, and you probably don’t either.
Why? Because having kids means reshuffling priorities, and almost weekly, I find myself saying no to fun with friends so I can say yes to something else. I say yes to my career, to serving on the board of San Antonio’s premier women’s organization (JLSA), to working with Alamo City Moms Blog, to coordinating a book club, and most of all, to being an engaged and involved member of my family and parent to my daughter.
Of course, that all sounds really good on paper, but the reality is that sometimes it’s not nearly as fulfilling as I want to believe it is. And I almost always feel like I’m saying no to things I really, really want to do so I can shuffle my priorities and keep my head above water in these and a few other categories. Without having family in town, out options for childcare are limited, and it’s hard to justify getting a babysitter several times a week, both because of the cost factor and the “I already work and don’t want to spend even more time away” factor. I want to have it all, but maybe sometimes having it all means having to choose between cocktails and cuddles, between frozen margaritas and singing Frozen songs for the fiftieth time.
Enter the play date.
My husband observed recently that I am always out of the house with my daughter most of the day Saturday and Sunday and that I’m always scheduling something with one of my daughter’s friends on those days, because as a working mom, those are my days. I mostly get to control what happens during those days and I mostly take responsibility for childcare on those days. I realized, play dates have become my new happy hour.
Now, that doesn’t (always) mean you’re going to find me and my best girlfriends tipsy while our kids are running amok. Sometimes our happy hour libation of choice turns out to be water fountain sips at a playground or milk at the doughnut shop. But the happy hour mentality does mean that I can use the weekend for my purposes and cross a few items off my list. I run errands on the way to and from play dates. I get some social and active time for my daughter with other small people. And, I catch up with the friends whom I love and miss dearly and with whom I haven’t spent nearly enough time since becoming a parent. It makes me feel productive, like I’m checking a few boxes on my weekend list, while also making me feel like I’m enjoying a guilty pleasure, carving out some girl time in the middle of my always-hectic schedule. It often feels like every minute of my life is spoken for—even my workday lunches are claimed weeks in advance for team meetings, coaching, networking, or errands. When I mentally think of play dates as a chance to savor my time with a dear friend, they become something to look forward to over the course of a week, a little break from the frenetic pace of normal everyday life.
Another thing about play dates that I love is that—ostensibly—they are about the kids. That means it doesn’t matter how clean your house is, how Pinterest-worthy your snacks are, or how impeccably attired you are.
So, I encourage you to call your best friend and start booking some “happy hours” soon. Maybe in a few years, your kids will be old enough that you can start having the real ones again, too. In the meantime, maybe just plan to play in the morning and make some mimosas!