My major source of mothering guilt? Play dates. You know the drill – the 3.30 bell rings and your kid comes tearing across the playground with another child in tow, they pull up, breathless and excited and yours says “Can X come over for a play?” Cue guilt. Because my answer is inevitably no.
No because I have four kids who, on any given night, have to be taken in at least two different directions. Sometimes it’s eleventy billion directions all at the same time. Last time I checked, taxiing people around didn’t constitute a fun play date. Secondly, on the rare nights when every star in the universe aligns and I don’t have to take anyone anywhere, I want to lie on the couch in my trackies (as opposed to supervising activities that don’t involve screens… Just being honest).
I once had a rule that went “Kids, if you ask for a play date in front of other kids and put me on the spot, the answer will always be no.” That worked like a charm for a while until my kids realised that I always said no anyway, so they returned to the playground-3.30pm-ambush routine.
It’s only taken me six years, but I have recently stumbled on a few solutions. Firstly, the breakfast play date. Borne out of necessity, it’s turned out to be a winner – the kids eat breakfast (which they would do anyway); everyone’s happy because it’s the start of the day; there are no requests for Wii/ iPads/ screens; and best of all, there’s an end point. Because school.
Second new strategy – I asked the kids to nominate two friends who they’d like to have visit and over the course of the term, I’d make it happen. So far, I’ve held up my end of the bargain* and the promise of play dates has kept impromptu requests at bay.
Thirdly, the mega-play-date. Not for the faint-hearted, the mega-play-date means having ALL THE PLAY DATES at once. Yes, recipe for a crazy house, but I figure if I have four kids running around, an extra four doesn’t make much difference. Right?! It’s chaos, but relatively short-lived chaos. (Note to self – implement strategy three if we’re nearing the end of term and strategy two hasn’t panned out as planned).
But don’t even talk to me about sleepovers. Not happening.
* I accept that we are in week one of the term…