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Why We've Quit Our Playgroup

playgroup loneliness, friendly playgroupsPeople. I just don't always get people. 

Maybe it's me. Maybe it's them. But sometimes I just feel like I really can't quite grasp this whole 'social' thing. 

And I don't mean social media. THAT I can just about get my head around.
I guess I should start by saying that I take some of the responsibility.. I'm not shy, not in the slightest, but I often find social situations draining and groups overwhelming. 

I find it a task to try and keep myself in the conversation sometimes when in a group situation. I wonder if I am sometimes 'like' other people. Many of them all seem so grown up, so organised and so much more serious in their manner than I am. And whilst I take my responsibilities seriously, I am in fact quite a jokey sort of person, who doesn't mind laughing at herself and enjoys finding the funny side of most things. It's in my blood - my Mum's a total nutter too, but I also feel like life's too short to be serious the majority of the time.

This morning I took my two little boys, aged four and one to playgroup. It's my closest playgroup and whilst I don't go every week, we've gone on and off ever since Ethan, my eldest, was crawling. 

When I first started I found it overwhelming walking in those doors with my baby, but people were friendly enough and they all helped me get to grips with the place. I was soon especially welcomed by three friendly faces, one of the Dad's there and two Mum's - who instantly made me feel at ease, relaxed and totally comfortable in my surroundings. We'd talk each week and week after week we all really got to know each other. 

In fact everyone there was quite friendly and despite being closest to those three, I'd often chat to lots of the other parents there - we all did, no-one was left out. And it was nice - as a Mum at home all day alone with her baby, it was good to get out of the house and speak to other adults. It was nice to watch my baby interact with other young children and also have the chance to speak to other people myself. It was good for us both and we always enjoyed it. I wasn't at work and so I loved getting out and hearing other people's stories again. 

But time went on and our babies grew up and started nursery, pre school or school. A lot of them already had older children, but Ethan was my first and when I started going again after having my second little boy Logan they'd all moved on. And now when I'm there there are no faces I recognise anymore. 

I don't get to always go, but I like to take my boys when I can. I figured, after returning back to the playgroup after having Logan that it'd be like before and I'd soon make friends. But it's been different this time. This time I don't feel welcome, I don't feel relaxed or at ease. I feel awkward and alone and a little bit invisible. 

And I ignored it for a time, thinking it was me and that I needed to try harder, telling myself to reach out to people more. I invited my neighbour, who's recently had her first baby along and when we're there together it feels better, but mostly it just feels like a room full of adults who spend a hour or two keeping themselves to themselves and speaking only to the people they already know. 

And for those that go alone most of the time, that sucks. Because whilst of course it's totally fine to have your own friends and to speak and catch up with those that you see each week, it can make those on the outside of that feel all together a bit awkward and a little bit invisible. 

And I don't blame them really, it's a 'social' thing isn't it really? We tend to stick to who we know and chat to the same people time after time. I do however, think that these baby and toddler groups need to be run right. 

Not one person spoke to me today, no one welcomed me as I entered the room, no one checked to see how much I was paying, or if I was taking out of the pot. No one asked if I had been before. In fact I don't even think any of the other children there spoke to my boys once. 

I smiled at as many people as I could when I managed to get some eye contact, to which they smiled back but then looked straight away. I wondered if I had something on my face or if I had an unapproachable face? We left early, because sitting there alone was making me feel anxious and invisible and a bit sad and I knew I didn't have to feel like it.

I wasn't sure whether to write this post, part of me worries that it could put people off when really this doesn't happen at every group and really us parents needs to get out there and talk to people, because parenthood, can at times, be pretty lonely. But then another part of me wanted to reach out to the Mums and the Dad's who've been through the 'invisible feeling' too to say to them.. IT ISN'T YOU. 

Find a group that makes you feel welcome and relaxed and at ease. They are out there, they do exist. Find a group that is run by the right people - people who don't let you walk through the door without giving you a friendly 'Hello!' and a big smile. Find a group that gets the kids involved in different activities, even if it's just a few songs. Find somewhere that really brings people together. Parenthood is at times, hard, so find people who tell you that we're all in this together without even moving their lips. They're out there.  


Thanks for reading. Alex xo

27 comments

  1. Aww this makes me so sad! I run a playgroup and we try so so hard to make everyone feel welcome. Everyone is welcomed at the door and we say goodbye as each person leaves. There is always someone on the craft table to chat, and always people going round. When mine were born I was lonely, and groups were pants. The ones I tried were all cliquey, the toys were all broken and dirty and the people running them told me off for one reason or another (pushchair in wrong places, not filling in forms right etc), but thankfully I haven't experienced that for a few years. Groups can be pants 🙁

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  2. I often felt the same Alex so you aren't alone and it's good that you've shared this.

    I think as we get older it gets harder to make friends and as nice as the groups are in principle, it's not always going to work for people - there's no guarantees. It's worth trying as it can be great for some people but don't put too much pressure on yourself.

    I would totally talk to you and I really don't like to take things too seriously either - life is serious enough!

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  3. Such a shame �� Horrible when it's like that though. I remember going to a mum coffee morning thing to help new mums connect. And I sat on my own for an hour and NO ONE spoke to me. Despite me trying to strike up conversation with "how olds your little one?" And "oh she's so cute" etc. Most awkward experience. Ever. Really knocks your confidence doesn't it! Hopefully you find somewhere better to go with better people ��

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  4. I have never attended play group. I was on maternity leave only 6 months and I didn't feel ready to bring either of the kids to a place like this. Main reason, I don't socialise that good. I am not a chatty person. I probably live in the wrong country for that because Irish people chat so much but I find it hard to get a conversation with someone I don't know.

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  5. I love this post Alex. It's not you, it's them...and their loss at the end of the day! As you know, I hate baby groups - I've tried at least 10 over the years and never found a friendly one or one that didn't make me feel like an outcast.
    We need to start our own! The NotABitch Baby Club! haha! xx

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  6. I too have felt like this. I've been at a group with barely any communication and just felt completely invisible. I left with no goodbyes exchanged. Made me feel terrible.
    I do try to make an effort with other parents but cliques evolve fairly quickly and now it seems I'm not interesting enough to first time parents which kind of makes me laugh!
    Bizarre. Great post xx

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  7. Great post Alex. I run a toddler group and i know how important it is to make people feel welcome. If i see somebody new arrive and they dont know anybody i go over and talk to them and make sure they know that they can help themselves to tea and coffee or whatever. Its so important and just awful that you had to feel so ignored at your group. Try a different one :-)

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  8. I loved reading your post. I can totally relate to how you feel.I have only really connected with one mum friend but its so hard crossing the line from just a visitor to making a decent mum friend.

    I find with our playgroup they have moved on too. We had our second child and they just had the one.

    Being a mum is tough! Xx

    analesha 💜
    Morethanmakeupblog.blogspot.com

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  9. I have never once found a friendly playgroup and I have tried every single one in my town. You're right, it is just how it is, people stick in groups same as at blogging events etc but when you are on the outside it is bloody awful. I'm really shy and would never have courage to go up and try and infiltrate a group, so I used to sit on the outside. Best thing I ever did was to pop an ad up on a netmums meet a mum thing. I met Sian (Quite frankly she said) that way and a couple of others that are now my closest friends. But playgroups, nope, waste of time. x

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  10. Aw Alex, I know exactly how you feel! This is one of the reason I hate them! xx

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  11. I've been to a couple of playgroups, one small, one big, and the bigger one felt pretty much like this. Sorry you felt you had to leave, people suck sometimes x

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  12. I get exactly like this year first time I went to a playgroup and I haven't been to one since. One friendly or so I thought lady asked about baby girl and I let slip that I'm back to work full time. Well that was my death sentence she just got up and walked off. Playgroups are not my thing. Baby girl loves to run around down the park with the other kids and that's her interaction with kids.

    A lovely post xx

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  13. Oh Alex I'm sorry you were made to feel like this. This is the reason I don't go to groups, I have had such bad experiences in the past that I can't put myself through it now. I take Holly to a ballet class, so we get to do something together, but there I don't have to try and talk to people. We just have fun doing the class. It's the same as blogging events, you stick with people you know because you are just pleased to have a friend there. But boy does it feel horrible to be on the outside x

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  14. So sorry hun! I struggle with this....I seriously think my only "friends" are on social media and not in real life.....it's basically like dating for grown ups and it's so hard to make friends as an adult :( xoxoxoxox

    Erica Valentin
    www.ericavalentin.com

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  15. I think playgroups can have off days - like people. I got this when I moved towns. I left a lovely group, a lot of whom I still keep in touch with. When I got to the new town and tried to find a new playgroup I did feel invisible. I sat on the craft table and said a few things about the kids but got funny looks as if I was doing something wrong. I only went once. THe funny thing is that I met some of these mums again as our kids started school and they are lovely. I think that me and the playgroup were having an off day and if I'd gone again it might have been better.

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  16. Aw this makes me sad reading this Alex, and how rude that you weren't even welcomed by the people running the group. You have such a lovely friendly face how could anyone ignore you. Keep smiling as it's their problem not yours x

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  17. Its sad to see nobody making any effort to be friendly and inclusive. I know how you feel though as naturally, I'm quite an introverted person but ever since having my baby boy I have tried to make the effort to go out and go to different 'mother & baby/playgroups' to help socialise my baby and also to get myself out of the house (even though I actually like being in the house). I feel that if I don't, I'm not giving a chance for my boy to 'see the world' in a sense and I don't want him growing up shy like I was when I were younger.

    It really does help when you can walk into somewhere and the lead person who runs the group can help make everyone feel relaxed and included. I really hope you will find somewhere else and meet a new crowd soon!

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  18. Reading this took me back to to my local playgroup where I pretty much felt invisible. I did try to sit with a group of mums with young babies, mine at 6-months was a big chap and after so many comments on his size I crept away. I did keep going to the group as my toddler really enjoyed a different set of toys to home (he hated the singing part though), a couple of mums would talk to me but it was a relief to not to go anymore because I went back to work. Like you I don't take life too seriously and prefer to find the humour in a situation but occasionally things happen that squash you a little and you have to find a way to bounce back.

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  19. Totally get it, glad we found a weekend group where the organisers are very welcoming as it makes all the difference even if you are not making new friends or connections. I am glad that I am back at work and go to the group with my OH now, as not sure I could hack week after week of being snubbed, although again I am sure there are lovely groups with friendly parents at them and enjoy going to the one we have found with our son

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  20. From the other side... Back in the day, I used to take my small boys to a toddlers group on my one day off work. I'm not very sociable naturally and was happy just to spend that time with my children in a different environment for an hour or two. They liked the craft that I'm rubbish at, the group singing and music, and also some of the other regular children - so all good.

    But I didn't want to make friends and chat and put others at ease because this was my precious time to be with my children. I was happy to read to a group of kids (I always seemed to end up with extras on my lap!) or help another child with painting or whatever, but if I was socialising with other adults, I was never focused on my children. Not a snub, not cliquey - although I'm sure it could have come across that way - I just had different priorities for that time.

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  21. I remember this well. Don't take it too personally, take a book, newspaper or magazine and glance at it when you are feeling like a spare part. Let the kids run riot and trash someone else's gaff once or twice a week, they love tots groups and remember it's for them and them only!

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  22. I'd love to join the NotABitch Baby Club too!!!

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  23. I'm sorry this happened I no exactly how I feel,it's happened to me a few times x

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  24. Oh Alex I'm so sorry you were made to feel like this honey. I don't get people sometimes either. If I saw someone on their own at a group, I'd always try to chat to them as you'd hate to be in that situation yourself! It's not you st all lovely, I've been to a number of groups like this and never gone back xx

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  25. I can relate to this. Thanks for sharing Alex.

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  26. Maybe I'm just anti social, but it honestly never bothered me if anyone spoke to me at playgroup or not! I just used to love getting out and about to the toddler groups and getting out of the house. If anyone spoke to me, that's good. If they didn't, that's also good! In fact, some mornings over chatty people would have done my head in more than the ones who didn't say anything, haha! :-) Just let me enjoy my cup of tea and the fact I have 5 minutes to myself whilst munchkin's off amusing himself, lol....

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  27. I'm a dad who goes to Dads' groups where I live on a weekly basis, and thankfully my experience has been that they've all been pretty inclusive and everyone speaks to everyone else with little in the way of 'inner circles' forming. When I feel uncomfortable in a group setting though, I do often 'give myself permission to leave' - I totally agree that 'it's not you', sometimes the dynamic just sucks.

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