When I had my first daughter in February of 2015, life was overwhelming and a little lonely. I had been a nanny for 10 years prior to motherhood so I was not expecting to feel so much doubt and isolation. Luckily, my doula tagged me in a post on Facebook about a “new mama group” led by another doula. I went to that first meeting when Georgia was 5 weeks old and it was exactly what I needed. (Shout out to Leah, Emily and Nikol- the ladies of my first tribe who got me through the first year of motherhood!)
The only downside to this group was that it was about 30 minutes from my house. As Georgia grew older, her nap schedule caused us to miss meetings or get there late. This is when I began to think of starting my own playgroup closer to home. The only thing stopping me was that I didn’t know any other moms near me. My friends lived all over and most of them weren’t actually moms yet. I was a SAHM so I wanted to find a group of women who wanted to get together during the weekday.
I decided to do something a little intimidating and I start a playgroup from scratch with strangers. Putting myself out there was scary at first. I felt like I was writing a dating profile for friends. I felt lame for having to look for friends on Facebook. But ya know what? A bunch of other moms felt the same exact way and were dying to make new friends too. Forming connections and friendships as an adult is hard, plain and simple. So if you’re feeling the same way, read on to see how I did it.
Write up an “ad”
I wanted to be as specific as possible so other parents (or caregivers) would know exactly what I was imagining. Initially when I tried to start the group, I wasn’t specific with my vision and it gave too much room to fizzle out. So a couple of months later, I reposted and put the exact day and time I was hoping to get together every week. That way anyone reading the post would be able to envision this meetup in their week.
I also put my daughters age so that anyone reading would see if it would be a good fit for their family. I think playgroups can be amazing with a range of ages but if you have a newborn and another mom has a 5 year old in kindergarten, you likely won’t be able to meet at mutually beneficial times. Below is a screenshot of my exact post.
Find Your Target Audience
I looked through my “mom groups” on Facebook and decided where to place my ad. I settled on a local, small group that had about 125 members. (You could even just post it to your Facebook wall and see what friends would like to start one up with you. You never know what “acquaintances” on Facebook might live near you and be totally up for something like this.)
*Tip: Post in the group that makes the most sense for your life. I personally posted in a small group I knew had mostly SAHM. Maybe your kiddo has a peanut allergy and you want to get together with other moms in the same boat so you post in your peanut allergy group.
Get everyone in touch with each other
I put all of us in a group message on Facebook Messenger. This was easier than getting everyone’s phone number at first and in fact, we still use it as our main form of communication today. We just add new members as they enter our group. This is always where I send the monthly schedule as well.
Make a Schedule
When I first started the group, I hosted for the first month so everyone could get to know each other. Once we everyone felt comfortable with each other, the other ladies started to host. I started making a schedule every month, just going through a basic rotation, and if any of the ladies had a previous obligation that kept them from hosting on their designated day, they would just message back that they needed to swap dates.
Now if anyone needs to bow out for an extended period of time, we just recalibrate for a few months. For example, when I had Kerrigan I needed about 6 weeks before I felt up to hosting again so we just went through the rotation without me as host for those 6 weeks.
I personally think 4-6 members (and their kiddos) is the perfect size playgroup. You don’t ever host more than once a month and you get a variety of houses for your kid to play at. It’s also the perfect amount of ladies to engage in a fun conversation without getting too chaotic. But even 2-3 people can start a playgroup so don’t get discouraged. In fact, only 3 moms ever came from my original post and the additional moms have come from friends of theirs.
This is probably the hardest part. If you are starting the playgroup, you should host first. (As mentioned above, maybe do it for a few weeks in the beginning.) Pick the date, message everyone with your address and the time. Also ask that people “RSVP” the morning of by sending you a quick message. Sometimes it’ll be a fluke and no one will be able to show for their own reasons and you don’t want to be waiting around wondering where everyone is. We still do this today just to be courteous.
When I first hosted, I would make coffee for the moms and put out snacks for the kids. Nothing crazy: Goldfish, graham crackers, apple slices, etc. When the other ladies hosted they adopted this sort of regime and that’s what we do to this day. Luckily for us, no one in our group has any anaphylactic allergies so we don’t have to take the snacks too seriously but if you do, address it accordingly.
That’s it! A little work in the beginning and you’ll have a no-fuss, self-sufficient play group. Support from other parents in similar situations will strengthen you. Solidarity when you are having a tough week will comfort you. Perspective when you can’t get out of your own head will stabilize you. Your kids will make friends and learn to share (I’m pretty sure…ours are still working on it:) Your life will be so much better, trust. This is how you a build a tribe.
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Taran is a self-proclaimed undomestic mom. She thrives as a stay-at-home-mom by consistently carving out time for herself and practicing realistic self-care. As a busy mom of 3, she knows that if mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy! With a focus on how SAHMs can carve out time for themselves everyday, she teaches fellow SAHMs how they can do the same.