To you, a play-date is a leisurely chance for your kids to have fun while you get to know another mother over coffee, but the truth is, you might not always get along splendidly with junior’s BFF’s mum. This cheat sheet of play-date profiles helps you identify the different types of mothers you’ll encounter, so that you’ll wise up to ways to deal with their idiosyncrasies. Who knows, you might even recognise yourself!
1. The dump-and-run mum
This mum is not looking to make friends. Instead, she’s looking to unload her kids somewhere for free. So as soon as she arrives, she’ll be slinging her toddler out of the car before you can say, “Do you want to come in for a drink?”. Her child is unfazed (he’s probably used to this), happily waving and shouting, “Bye mummy, have a nice day!” Hang on, nice day? He was only supposed to be with you for an hour...
Most likely to: Collect her child late.
Least likely to: Reciprocate the play-date any time soon.
What's really going on: She’s not off to spend the day in a spa, but more likely to run errands or duck into the office to finish some work.
Is this you: If you regularly need to offload your child onto other mums, you’re doing too much. “Find a more workable solution to meet the demands of your lifestyle, or you’ll just run yourself ragged,” warns psychologist Mia Scotland.
2. The overstayer
The polar opposite of The Dump-And-Run Mum, getting The Overstayer off your premises before dark is a serious challenge. She lures you into a false sense of ease when you first meet, as she’s warm and chatty, but then a relaxed coffee somehow turns into lunch. You pretend not to mind sharing the stir-fry you cooked for dinner, but when she asks what’s for dessert, you realise your home has become a free drop-in centre.
Most likely to: Bring all three of her children — and the family dog.
Least likely to: Help you tidy up.
What's really going on: She isn’t aware that you have other things to do. And the idea of spending her afternoon alone sitting on the bench while the kids run about in the park makes her feel so depressed, she’d rather settle in your kitchen. Take it as a compliment that she’s chosen you and your biscuit tin.
Is this you: “If you’re a stay-at-home mum, arrange something every day that involves being with adults,” Scotland suggests. “In time, you’ll meet other mums who are in the same boat.” If you impose yourself on people, it won’t help you make lasting friendships.
3. The helicopter
It’s not that she means to be rude about your cooking, it’s just that she read an article about the dangers of too much salt in toddler food, so she doesn’t feel safe letting her tyke eat your Bolognese sauce if you can’t confirm the exact quantity of sodium in each portion. In any case, she’s brought her own organic rice cakes and crudites (lucky kid!). Nourishment aside, The Helicopter is also horrified that you’ve taken down your stair gate. Is that really a good idea when you have rugrats under 5 years running around? But you can’t hear her anymore. Your head’s in the fridge looking for some wine because by the end of this, you’re going to need a big drink!
Most likely to: Do a health and safety assessment of your house before she agrees to a play-date.
Least likely to: Join you at the local indoor playground (“Is that masking tape holding up the rope ladder?”).
What's really going on: By micro-managing every element of her child’s life, this mum is attempting to assert control over her mini-me.
Is this you: “Being constantly anxious is unhealthy,” Scotland points out. The more you try to control things, the more stressed you’ll be. Find ways to reduce anxiety through exercise or relaxation techniques, and you’ll feel happier.
4. The point scorer
This mum is a master of the humble brag. Over coffee, she’ll tell you endless anecdotes about the funny things her kids do. But what starts as a story about lax parenting suddenly swerves off and becomes all about how brilliant they are. Her preschooler has barely any picture books in her bedroom. Why? Because she’s outgrown them. And her 8-month-old nearly fell down the stairs because he can already crawl. There’s nothing this kiasu mum likes better than reminding you how critical developmental milestones are — before telling you how her kids beat them all.
Most likely to: Suggest that nursery classes be streamed.
Least likely to: Point out that, in Scandinavia, children don’t start school until they’re 7.
What's really going on: This mum harbours a deep sense of insecurity, ever since she failed her first maths test in Primary school. Since then, she’s been on a mission to prove herself.
Is this you: Competitiveness is natural, but it’s not often associated with happiness. “When we think we need to be better than others, we become less content,” Scotland sums up. “Stop taking notice of what everyone else is doing and just try to enjoy living in the moment.”
5. The nosy parker
This mum seems unnaturally interested in the details of your life. From how much TV your kids watch and what you do on the weekends, to what’s in your fridge, she’s hungry for deets. But the reason she’s mining you for all this info is so she can cherry-pick the bits that suit her and use them to improve her own home, kids and life. Initially, you’re flattered by her interest, but the attention can soon get suffocating.
Most likely to: Be snapping pictures of your built-in wardrobe with her smartphone when she asks to use the toilet.
Least likely to: Suggest meeting in a cafe. If there’s no opportunity for domestic insights, she’s not interested.
What's really going on: This mum might look like she’s in control, but motherhood secretly makes her worried. Before taking maternity leave, she had a good job, so she’s finding it hard to navigate the parenting landscape. Because you seem confident, she thinks you might have the answers to all her problems.
Is this you: “Constantly comparing yourself to others is exhausting and demoralising. It interrupts your ability to just enjoy their company and vice versa,” Scotland notes. Make a list of all the things you like about your life, focusing on how much you’ve got right.