Is There Value in Mom-Only (or Dad-Only) Playgroups?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

When I try to piece back together the first couple of years of parenthood, it ends up being a mosaic of different playgroups. There was the regular Wednesday morning coffeehouse run with all of the other infant-toting parents on the block. There was the weekly city-sponsored playgroup, which leavened the chaos of a room full of toddlers with a professional leader who knew a thing or two about kids. And then there was the library story time gang and the noontime post-preschool gatherings at the playground.

All those groups were crucial to keeping my wits about me during that time. They were a kind of inoculation against the isolation of spending most of your time with pre-verbal children and the boredom that often creeps in when each day starts feeling exactly like the day before.

Making the playgroup rounds as an at-home dad meant that I was in the minority, gender-wise, pretty much everywhere I went. But that wasn't an issue. After all, we all had plenty in common: nervousness about the school system, frustration with home assessments, confusion about what the kids should be eating, ambivalence about jumping back into the paid workforce.

So, I was a bit stunned the other day when I read a piece in the Nashville Scene, Nashville's answer to the City Paper, about a mom who tried her best to keep dads out of her weekly moms-and-kids klatch. Her rationale was simple: Though she didn't mind having a one-on-one playdate with a dad, having a man in the midst of what would otherwise be a gathering of moms fundamentally alters the conversation.

I don't want to suggest that I don't understand the allure of a girls' night out (or a guys' night out, for that matter), but it seemed weird to me that a gathering of kids should be so infused with mom-ness that dads shouldn't -- or couldn't -- feel welcomed. Am I just living in my usual gender-equity Shangri-La, where everything from babysitting to the PTA to hockey is a co-ed endeavor, or do you folks see the value of single-sex (for the parents) playgroups? Are there frequent topics of conversation that would be squelched with a dad around? And I'm curious to hear from at-home dads, too: Are you comfortable in a gang of moms? Have you ever felt locked out of a playgroup?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  February 21, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts , Dads
Previous: Help! My Children Don't Match My Wallpaper! | Next: The Amazing Mom Song

Add On Balance to Your Site
Keep up with the latest installments of On Balance with an easy-to-use widget. It's simple to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry to On Balance.
Get This Widget >>


Please email us to report offensive comments.

haha, first!

Posted by: newslinks1 | February 21, 2008 7:03 AM

You may have been first, but I am going on vacation today! ha! ha!

Off we go to the airport!

Posted by: fred | February 21, 2008 7:05 AM

i think groups for minorities make sense, but majorities should welcome minorities into their groups. IE, it's fine that we have the NAACP, but if we have had a NAAWP, it would be a real problem.

Same thing here: I totally support dads-only playgroups, since they are usually outnumbered at "parents" groups, but moms-only playgroups have no appeal. aren't alot of these groups moms-only anyway, without shutting out the few dads that would like to come?

Posted by: newslinks1 | February 21, 2008 7:07 AM

I have noticed that there are some topics that women discuss at playgroups-- breastfeeding, recent childbirth scars and pains, various body part issues-- that many are not comfortable discussing in front of men other than their husbands. To that end I understand the need for women only playdates. But to completely keep Dads out of a regular playgroup seems a bit drastic. You can schedule other playdates to discuss those things. Otherwise you are punishing a kid because his or her dad stays home and not his mom. Where is the sense in that?

Posted by: happydad | February 21, 2008 7:31 AM

I guess it depends on the play group. I don't have much experience with this because I am WOHM. But from what I know there are formal play groups and informal play groups. If a group of parents want to set up an informal play group, they have the right to exclude whoever they want. But if it is some sort of formal community based group, I think it is pretty horrid to exclude parents from something that is about the kids (or at least it should be). But if they can "legally" form a mom's group, who is stopping the men from forming their own group. I think my church has a mom's only play group/prayer session. I doubt they totally exclude men but it is certainly advertised for women only.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 21, 2008 7:36 AM

I wouldn't want all playgroups to be women only, but I can understand that someone might prefer a women-only group on occasion.

Mom's don't have limitless social opportunities. A playgroup is a nice time to visit, and it would be nice to be able to talk about personal things that you aren't comfortable discussing in a mixed-sex group.

Parents have a tendency to be cliquish, so this kind of thing probably isn't good as a main course, just a side-dish.

Posted by: RedBird27 | February 21, 2008 7:42 AM

As a work at home Dad I regularly was at the playground with my toddlers. I called myself the 'playground pariah'. Most moms, definitely not all, would pretend I was invisible.

After much thought, I think it was a few things. They weren't comfortable with men who didn't follow the normal mold of the working Dad while they were the stay at home Mom. And they weren't used to talking to a man about their children, including their husband.

I also understand the desire to talk about personal things. My being around definitely cut down the conversations of women's issues and problems with men. Conversely, I missed discussing politics and sports with the guys.

It just depends what you are there for. I was there for my kids and not myself so any hardship on my part, pariah or breast feeding discussions, was worth it.

Posted by: annali | February 21, 2008 7:58 AM

Though I'm usually liberal about stuff like this, for whatever reason I have to say I'd prefer the all-women playgroup. Maybe because I just saw the movie Little Children?

Posted by: maggielmcg | February 21, 2008 8:04 AM

This is an interesting question. I belong to a privately-organized playgroup, and it's usually all moms. The few times that one of the kids' dads brought him/her, the conversation was definitely more stilted.

I think, though, that it's more of a function of having a relative stranger in our midst, not necessarily a gender thing. If we had a dad who'd been part of the group from the beginning, or even attended regularly, I think it would be fine.

My playgroup has turned out to be such an important part of my life as a mom -- we all met as parents of newborns, and have provided company, support, comic relief and information for each other for over two years now. I can't imagine what life would have been like as a SAHP without these people, and because of that, I would never want to deny someone a chance to belong just because he's a man.

Posted by: newsahm | February 21, 2008 8:05 AM


If this is the article:

Wowie wow wow! More evidence that women are their own worst enemies.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 21, 2008 8:08 AM

Our play group in Leesburg has two dads and four moms, and it works out very well. I can understand why some moms might want female only groups, but I think that says a lot about their personal hangups. I think that it is good for the kids to have some men around, particularly since a lot of them don't see their own dads for more than a couple of hours each day.

Posted by: vmczar | February 21, 2008 8:09 AM

Sounds to me like they just want to b!tch about their husbands. :-)

Ya know, I get that the conversation can be different -- I enjoy both hanging out with my women friends and meeting in larger, mixed-gender groups. But different can be fun! Good Lord, the last thing I'd want to do is hang out with the same gaggle of people to chit-chat, day in, day out. So I cannot imagine intentionally trying to exclude men from a regular get-together.

Then again, it's not like the women in Tennessee have a lock on the whole exclusionary thing, either (helloooooo, Augusta National).

Posted by: laura33 | February 21, 2008 8:16 AM

Oh, my. I just read the article. I can guarantee you that our playgroup has never once, not ever, talked about the relative hotness of the Wiggles or about boob jobs. And most of us are pretty darn happy with our not-at-all-bumbling husbands.

Posted by: newsahm | February 21, 2008 8:20 AM

chitty, that is the article. BTW this is the same woman who wrote a very catty piece about the Green Hills Moms Club a year or so ago for making HER feel out of place.

My friend's husband is a SAHD - it took awhile but the neighborhood moms invite him to things, bring their kids over to play etc. It can work.

Posted by: tntkate | February 21, 2008 8:23 AM


"chitty, that is the article. BTW this is the same woman who wrote a very catty piece about the Green Hills Moms Club a year or so ago for making HER feel out of place. "

Thanks for the verification. This woman is a liar and a moron. It's too bad nature has permitted her to reproduce.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 21, 2008 8:35 AM

I went to a women's college and I have REALLY fond memories of my early years at home with toddlers. For me, being in this little cocoon of kids and moms was like being back at college. I felt warm, supported and part of a really strong community. I felt competent (well, most of the time) and good about what I was doing.

I should add that I was mostly on a military base overseas with my little kids for over three years -- and most of the men (even ten years) ago were deployed and gone a lot. It was kind of like a ghost town a good deal of the time.

But we had a church moms playgroup once a week , a combination playgroup-aerobics class once or twice a week, and I also met up with other moms daily on the playground with my kids every afternoon. As a first-time mom, I especially appreciated all the mentoring, advice and help I got from more experienced moms -- about raising my kids, being a military wife, helping my marriage to survive the frequent deployments, and yes, breast feeding. The few times there were stay at home dads at the playground and so forth, I have to admit I found it intrusive. It definitely changed the atmosphere.

Also, Brian, I was a member of a diplomatic playgroup overseas for a while and a few years prior to our joining, the wives had actually written legislation to make it the International Women's Playgroup and not the "stay at home" playgroup. It was actually so they could exclude particular people - in this case, it was a couple of gay male households from some of the Scandinavian countries. The whole "we're uncomfortable with men" thing was actually only a cover story. Perhaps this is actually the case with the Nashville situation. it's pretty conservative there, isn't it?

Posted by: justlurking | February 21, 2008 8:48 AM

1. I have never felt cut out of a playgroup based on gender. I did go to an AP playgroup where I felt cut out because I was using disposable diapers.

2. My core playgroup which meets on Saturdays often has dads attend, esp. the dads at whose home the playgroup is occurring. It's great. I prefer a mix of people to all women.

3. Never have discussed the relative hotness of the Wiggles. The closest I've come is discussing who's better on Blue's Clues - Joe or Steve. I think we all agree that Steve is better.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | February 21, 2008 8:55 AM

Just read the original article, and I can't decide if it's hugely offensive or just flat-out hysterical. Especially the crocodile tears -- "SAHDs have it sooooooo tough." Yeah, because of idiots like you.

It must be a very weird world to live in where "man" = little green creature from outer space. OMG, how could you POSSIBLY have ANYTHING in common with something so strange and different???? The horror, the horror. Cause, ya know, it's not like you've actually been MARRIED to one of 'em for how many years now?

Posted by: laura33 | February 21, 2008 9:26 AM

We never had any SAHDs when we had a playgroup. I would have killed to have a man there, just to stop the endless discussions of babies, cleaning, cooking "light" and decorating. Sometimes I wanted to gouge my eyes out.

Now I have two SAHDs who I consider friends. While I was always friendly to them, it took sometime to get to the point where we could go to each other's homes etc... I needed to get to know the wives first before I felt comfortable being in their home with their husband. I wanted the wives to know that I didn't have designs on their husband. I think some SAHMs leave dads alone because they don't want there to be any misunderstandings or appearance of impropriety. One of the SAHDs has a pool and now I hang out there frequently in the summer, but initially, hanging out in my suit with him in his suit and no one else there just felt a little weird.

I have also enjoyed learning from their different approach to parenting. SAHDs come up with a great deal of clever solutions that I've been happy to steal.

I generally prefer the company of men especially now that I'm a mom. With moms working or not, there is a tendency to fall back to mom discussions. Not so much with me. That said, I liked hanging with the guys in high school and college better too - guess, I'm just a guy's girl.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 21, 2008 9:39 AM

Moxiemom makes a good point about not being comfortable with just her, a dad, and their respective kids.
I was never a SAHD, but was very active when the kids were younger, taking them to swimming lessons, dance class, etc. because I worked early hours and was out of work by 3 pm. Although my kids always wanted friends to come over to the house in the late afternoon, moms didn't like to bring their kids over unless there were two or three moms. And one time one mother did bring her daughter over to play with mine, my wife wasn't real happy when she came home and found me chatting with the mom at the kitchen table (about schools, get your mind out of the gutter).

(A few years later, a friend of ours was discovered to be having an affair with a neighbor. They would take their kids to the school bus stop in the morning and then walk back to their houses. One morning she invited him in for coffee; one thing led to another and it wrecked both marriages. My wife told me "see, that's why I was worried.")

Posted by: m2j5c2 | February 21, 2008 10:07 AM

@all. Thanks for the comments -- particularly those about how mom-only groups can be more comfortable.

Here's my question for those who find dads can be off-putting: what's off-limits when a dad is around? I've been present for my share of discussions about breast feeding, and I am not in the least bit offended by a debate about the relatively cuteness of Joe versus Steve (though I have to agree with Shandra that there's really no debate there).

Posted by: rebeldad | February 21, 2008 10:24 AM

Brian, how about putting the figurative shoe on the other foot: Are there frequent topics of conversation in an all-dads group that would be squelched with a mom around? Uh, I'm guessing yes (LOL!).

Fred and Frieda, have a great trip, and say "Hi" to friends.

Posted by: mehitabel | February 21, 2008 10:45 AM

mehitabel: yes, indeed. We won't talk about who wins the title of "Ms. Hottie McMommie". And we won't crack jokes about women who discuss which brand of jeans makes your rear end look fat. We will, however, continue to discuss hockey and expect you to know the difference between Maurice and Henri Richard.

(I'm embarrassed to admit that those are true. If Fred wasn't gone, he'd probably consign me to a cavern - sage green, was it, then?)

Posted by: m2j5c2 | February 21, 2008 10:52 AM

"Though I'm usually liberal about stuff like this, for whatever reason I have to say I'd prefer the all-women playgroup. Maybe because I just saw the movie Little Children?"

I'm a working father. In a previous work environment, there were no women. They were excluded by Federal law. There were also no homosexuals, or at least we didn't ask, and they didn't tell. The U.S. government thinks it's better this way. We worked in very close quarters, and we don't want any appearance of impropriety. Maybe they just saw the movie "Brokeback Mountain." Incidentally, in the management sector in which I was involved, there were no racial minorities either. All college educated white men. Boy, the jokes we could tell...

If anyone's offended by this, you should be. I was also. But remember, you can't have it both ways.

For everyone that innocently decides "Men would negatively impact the social dynamic..." why not just apply to same argument to blacks? Or homosexuals? Or Jews? Or Muslims? Or overweight mommies? Or poor parents?

Posted by: rr321 | February 21, 2008 10:54 AM

m2j5c2, You'll be pleased to learn that I DO know the difference between the Rocket and the Pocket Rocket, eh?

Posted by: mehitabel | February 21, 2008 11:02 AM

I was part of a playgroup when my son was born. The organization allowed both mothers and fathers but I would say that it was all moms 99% of the time. Part of this is because where I live, moms are usually the ones to stay home on maternity leave (I live in a European country with generous paid maternity leave-- both parents can get it but mothers get it longer and often fathers don't take it, for various reasons.)

Also especially in the early days I think it would have been a bit uncomfortable for the moms and dads both to have both moms and dads. All of the women were breastfeeding and in the beginning lots of post-childbirth body issues were discussed-- things that might not be so comfortable to discuss in front of someone else's husband/partner.

As the babies got older, from time to time a dad would come-- but it was usually the moms. The dads who came were welcomed by the moms.

Our group was also unique because it was organized based on language, English, which is not the language of the country we live in. All of the moms were English speakers, mostly native English speakers and the ones who weren't mostly spoke at the level of a native speaker, while not all of the dads had a common language. We did have a few events planned for both moms and dads to come to with the kids and it often split into 3 groups-- moms, English-speaking dads, and non-English-speaking dads. So while all the moms could communicate with each other, not all of the dads could.

Posted by: elske | February 21, 2008 11:08 AM

I'm on the side of dad-only playgroups being ok but mom-only not. My husband was a SAHD (and will be again soon, when our second child is born) and they do get a lot of additional crap that SAHMs don't. Fair enough if they want a place to be able to talk about it, without moms saying "Oh, why would you say we exclude you! We just don't want you around." (Er, not in so many words, but they might as well.)

Generally the playgroups he went to were fine - there was some initial awkwardness, but the moms accepted him pretty quickly and we're still friendly with a lot of the families, even though our daughter's in school now. The playground - sheesh, you'd think he had "child molester" tattooed on his forehead the way he's treated there. Weekends are easier, because there are more dads around.

Posted by: beardo1 | February 21, 2008 11:11 AM

Does anyone else think there may be a difference in our society's perception of SAH fathers, compared to WOH dads who are home during at least some weekdays because they work other shifts?

Posted by: mehitabel | February 21, 2008 11:16 AM

Hey, DandyLion, do I remember correctly -- is it Annoying Son's birthday? If so, happy birthday!

Posted by: laura33 | February 21, 2008 11:17 AM

For my older son, there just weren't any dads. Every once in a while a dad would bring a kid to playgroup, but I couldn't imagine excluding them on purpose.

For the second kid, there was one dad. Much older than most of us, and it was nice to have the different perspectives (he had another kid who was in his 20s, I believe). The mom ended up going on a few girl's nights out with us and was very happy to!

Then, another dad did join. He was part of a gay couple. I shudder to think of how on earth they would find a 'mommy's only' playgroup. How horrible to exclude people. Now if you wanted to only hang out with a few good friends and not just be 'thrown' in with whoever, then that's one thing - start your own group as invite only. (and I haven't read the article, so sue me...)
But if the group is 'open' yet exclusive, it would seem to me to be that there's something else going on there.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 21, 2008 11:19 AM

Adding a different type of person to a homogenous group always affects the dynamics. Even in our schools. If you have a school of all afro-american upper class children, you have a common denominator to teach. Add a lower-income caucasian or hispanic child to the mix and the whole teaching dynamic changes. First for the worse, because there are few shared references for cohesion and lessons. But secondly for the better, because now there is an alternative point of view.

Think back to early on in this blog when Laura was posting about her "bumbling" husband and how he had to call her for every little thing. Well, she thought we might all get a laugh and nod our heads and go our merry way. Instead, we blasted her for her prejudiced view of her husband and explained that he was probably doing what was best for himself and the family by getting it the way she wanted it the first time rather than risk making his own decision. We can only hope that she was open to the change and it has made her marriage better for it.

The closed groups, to me, are for those who aren't open to other points of view. So you can't talk about some body issues. I would be that if the SAHD heard the cats meowing about their husbands, he might be able to give them some advice on how to make it better. Their loss that they are unwilling to accept that there may be an alternative method to their bumbling husbands' madness.

Posted by: WorkingDad | February 21, 2008 11:23 AM

oh, yes, sunday mornings are typically 'dads only' on the playground. It's interesting to see! Typically, these days, I have the younger one with me alone (for various reasons). So the dads are typically WOHM and it seems they want to spend the time with the kids and the moms want some time alone. It's amusing to watch, cause sometimes the dad's are awkward, or whatever. But they are all having the best time. Another thing is, during the week, the moms typically WANT to reach out to others, whereas on Sundays, the dads typically want to play with the kids and aren't looking as much for social things - cause this may the the time they spend with the kid(s) while the moms during the week are typically with the kids all the time. Just an observation...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 21, 2008 11:24 AM

mehitable, whoot! Now if you can tell whether Frank or Peter Mahovlich was a better player for Les Habitents, you can join our dads' playgroup any time, eh.

(Am I dating myself by revealing that the topics of hockey discussion all retired 30 years ago?)

In response to your other question, yes I do believe that society views SAH dads very differently than it does WOH dads who are around on some weekdays because of their schedules. For Better or Worse, there's still a negative perception of the SAH dad whose wife is the sole breadwinner.

Posted by: m2j5c2 | February 21, 2008 11:30 AM

While I agree its okay for a SAHM to at times prefer the companionship of her same gender, permanently excluding SAHD seems unfair. Imagine if the standard being used here were applied in a mostly men workplace situation, and extracurricular activities excluded the woman. I can hear the howls is this any different behavior, in a situation where woman are in the majority?

And if what above posters have said, that today's author wrote something last year that demonstrates a catty/cliquie point of view, all I can say is boohoo! Get over yourself.

Posted by: sb | February 21, 2008 11:38 AM

Hey, m2j5c2, I'm the proud owner of Mouton's history book "The Montreal Canadiens," which I bought on a visit to Montreal *several* years ago! Of course, if I weren't such a wimp I'd have bought the French edition ;-) I've also see Pete Mahovlich play in person (talk about showing one's age -- zut alors!).

Posted by: mehitabel | February 21, 2008 11:39 AM

Should read "seen," not "see" -- ack!

Posted by: mehitabel | February 21, 2008 11:40 AM

Correction to my 11:38am: I meant the author of the article referenced today by rebeldad, not "today's author" as I wrote above. Sorry.

Posted by: sb | February 21, 2008 11:41 AM

mehitabel, whoot again! If you haven't figured it out, "m2j 5c2" is a Canadian postal code, in the Toronto area where I used to work. Being a Habs fan in this burgh is somewhat like being a New Democrat in Alberta! Anybody with an ounce of taste is welcomed.

(Hmm, NDP in AB? There's gotta be a Yank equivalent of that. How about 'like being a Democrat in Utah?' 'like being a Republican in San Francisco?' Whatever.)

Posted by: m2j5c2 | February 21, 2008 11:47 AM

m2j5c2, You've brightened my morning! Gotta get to work soon -- but will close by invoking Sir Peter Ustinov, who characterized the marvelous city of Toronto as "New York run by the Swiss" :-) Et j'aime Montréal.

Posted by: mehitabel | February 21, 2008 11:54 AM

Thanks Brian, this topic hits close to home. I might be surprised by some of the responses so far, the "Though I'm usually liberal about stuff like this, for whatever reason I have to say I'd prefer the all-women playgroup" reactions, but they absolutely reflect my recent experience.

My husband stays at home with our son. He's always had playdates with our SAHM friends in the neighborhood, but their kids are a bit older, so we've been trying to meet parents with kids closer in age to ours. It's been hard for him.

My husband takes our son to library readings, community open gyms, and parks where he can't be excluded, but has often been made to feel like a pariah by the moms there. Yep, he's there for the kid's sake, not his, but it would be nice to not be treated like a leper.

This isn't Little Children stuff. He's not trolling for chicks, he's not eyeing the other kids inappropriately. He's not a caveman, he's not a cad, he's not a creep. He's a parent, who wants his kid to socialize with other kids, while having an opportunity to talk to other adults. About parenting issues that are common to all of us, about politics, about whatever. And though his own preference might be analysis of last night's game, he's comfortable with discussions about breastfeeding, dorky husbands, and even the relative cuteness of guys on tv.

The addition of a man to a group of women does change the dynamics of the group, but not necessarily for the worse. I can understand women being uncomfortable talking about leaky, saggy, and sore body parts in front of a strange man. But is that really all we talk about, especially after those first couple of months? Dads can actually add interesting perspective to a conversation, and as experienced parents, can offer advice and help to other parents.

Posted by: kali | February 21, 2008 12:01 PM

mehitabel: In my travels to dadcentric playgroups, events, etc., I've never really come across all that many topics that would be out-of-bounds in mixed company. Honestly, we don't sit around and bemoan the declining relevance of the SI Swimsuit Issue.

These groups do frequently discuss hockey, though I believe that to be a gender-neutral subject. And I am certainly brave enough to endure the debate about whether Mike Green is cuter than Brooks Laich.

Posted by: rebeldad | February 21, 2008 12:02 PM

Happy Birthday to you too Laura!

I'll tell my "annoying" son you wished him a happy birthday. He turned 11 today.

Funny thing about the "annoying" part of his personality is what was what i once considered an annoying aspect to his character has matured into a great sense of humor. Not only does he keep me laughing, but now I get a much, much more detailed description of what the female contestants on American Idol look like than I ever did with the wife or daughters. LOL!

Posted by: DandyLion | February 21, 2008 12:11 PM

I'm with those who say that sure, the dynamic might be different in a single-gender vs mixed-gender group, but that's no reason to permanently exclude men from a playgroup. I love the special intimacy that comes with getting together with a couple of my close girlfriends. But I don't need that every time I socialize. Nor do I have that feeling with every group of women - it's more about those particular friendships. I also have fantastic friendships with men, in which I can discuss things that I wouldn't necessarily with other women.

My husband was SAHD for a while, and is now part-time, and I think he did feel shunned by the moms at the playgrounds sometimes, though it didn't seem to bother him much. But we just found that one of our son's friends at pre-school has parents with the same set up we do (mom works full time, dad part time and has their son after preschool) and I think my husband was pretty excited about that.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 21, 2008 12:12 PM

Wow, those women in the article make me shudder. My husband is currently a SAHD with our toddler son. He's joined a local SAHD's group, which also allows moms to join. However, my moms' group doesn't allow dads to join. My husband doesn't feel that he's shunned by moms when he takes our son to the playground or other activities, and in fact has become friends with some of the moms.

Posted by: alkreske | February 21, 2008 12:33 PM

"he did feel shunned by the moms"

And the moms do it to other moms just as well.

I've figured out the formula:
Pleasantness + Attractiveness + Values = total score.
If the total score is below the minimum, the new mom or dad on the playground gets shunned.

Fair enough!

Posted by: DandyLion | February 21, 2008 12:40 PM

"While I agree its okay for a SAHM to at times prefer the companionship of her same gender, permanently excluding SAHD seems unfair. Imagine if the standard being used here were applied in a mostly men workplace situation, and extracurricular activities excluded the woman. I can hear the howls is this any different behavior, in a situation where woman are in the majority?"

While I'm all for including everyone, your example is deeply flawed simply because the greastest achievement one might get from being affiliated with one of these groups is to be in charge of the PTA or school fundriaser as opposed to becoming CEO. While their willingness to exclude makes them by defnition, exclusive, they really aren't that "exclusive" a bunch - just women who all stay at home and have kids the same age.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 21, 2008 1:02 PM

Awww, thanks for remembering, DL! :-)

Posted by: laura33 | February 21, 2008 1:02 PM

And to the person who is Canadian that lived in Toronto and liked the Habs. You go!!

I have to admit that I basically hid my love for the Canadians until I moved to DC. How can you explain that you like Montreal when you are in Maple Leafs territory? Its inexplicable to the average Torontonian and you are simply asking for a lynching! And not only that... I never once saw the Canadians play because Toronto-Montreal tickets were absolutely impossible to get. I finally saw the Canadians play in DC. WooHoo!!

Posted by: Billie_R | February 21, 2008 1:03 PM

Spot on DandyLion! As usual. Happy B-Day to Not-So-Annoying Son, and to Laura!

Posted by: LizaBean | February 21, 2008 1:03 PM


"I have to admit that I basically hid my love for the Canadians until I moved to DC."

For Pete's sakes, I can't stand hockey, but I know how to spell the name of the team you claim to love!!!! Duh!

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 21, 2008 1:19 PM

I don't know that it's fair to refer to being "shunned" on the playground as a SAHD. If I am at the playground with 20 moms and 1 dad, then I think it will look wierd if I single out the dad to talk to. Is he taking the day off work, or really a SAHD looking for playdate companions? If I go over and be friendly will I look like I'm coming on to him? I think it's up to SAHDs to find someone to have playdates with the way we all do: join Gymboree, have playdates at the park with one other person who can "vouch" for you, meet someone with compatible kids, and build your network slowly like many of us SAHMs do.
As to playgroups being moms-only, this mystifies me. I often feel that by being a SAHM I am relegated to a strange 1950s women-only world. Many days I don't even talk to my husband if he works late. I would love to be in a mixed gender playgroup.

Posted by: jcadam | February 21, 2008 1:28 PM

Billie_R - thanks!

Yes, chittybangbang, it's "Canadiens" parce que c'est un mot Francais. (Sorry, no accents.) As my grandmother from Prince Edward Island would say, lighten up, widder woman!

Billie_R, I got to see a Habs game at the old Maple Leaf Gardens because the "Make Believes" were so bad you could get tickets. I never found one for a game at ACC for less than about 500 dollars, so haven't gone there. Although with the Make Believes sinking back to their old ways, it may happen sooner than I had planned.

Posted by: m2j5c2 | February 21, 2008 1:32 PM

oh, and realistically, when I was a stay at home mom, it didn't matter to me if someone was a mom or a dad or whatever. I found being home all the time with a little one very lonely and isolating. So connecting with another human being was great.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 21, 2008 1:37 PM

jcadam, first, if no moms are willing to talk to the dad for whatever bizarre reason, that's pretty well cutting them out of the group dynamic, which I think is fair to call shunning. Morevoer, given your apparent concerns about talking to him, it seems unlikely he is going to have a lot of success talking to you or someone else who shares those concerns.

When I take my son to the playground and there are a few other moms there, we often strike up conversation, just friendly chit chat. When my husband does the same, that friendliness is often not reciprocated. I'm not saying that it is something deliberate or mean spirited or anything like that, but it can certainly be isolating for him.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 21, 2008 2:06 PM

oh, and after having read the article? I really DO think the writer has serious issues. Wow.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 21, 2008 2:29 PM

The large mother's group I belong to (70 moms or so) does not allow men to join. I was told the reason for this was because of instances where men attempted to join the group in order to meet women, and the women wanted to be spared this.

I imagine the rules are quiet different when you have a group of parents who don't necessarily know each other well (or at all) vs when it's a bunch of neighbors or friends.

Posted by: floof | February 21, 2008 2:32 PM

Sexism is indeed alive and well.

Amazing how so many put so much on dangly bits between legs.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | February 21, 2008 2:36 PM


Peter Mahovlich--when he played with Guy Lafleur. I spent several years in Baie-d'Urfé (l'Ouest de l'île.) Guy lived around the corner; a friend and I used to babysit his (then) young son...

Posted by: kate07 | February 21, 2008 2:40 PM

"If I am at the playground with 20 moms and 1 dad, then I think it will look wierd if I single out the dad to talk to. Is he taking the day off work, or really a SAHD looking for playdate companions? If I go over and be friendly will I look like I'm coming on to him?"


Who do you think it would look weird to? I think it's sad that you feel that you can't talk to a man because people might think you are coming on to him.

And who said you have to "single out" the dad? Why can't you talk to the moms and the dad? Here's a radical idea: maybe you could try including the dad in the "group" chat.

Posted by: dennis5 | February 21, 2008 2:50 PM


"Who do you think it would look weird to? I think it's sad that you feel that you can't talk to a man because people might think you are coming on to him."

Ah, but you forget that the poster peaked in high school and that she will never get over that mind set....worrying about what other people think and what looks "weird" is a big clue.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 21, 2008 2:57 PM

When my oldest was 1, he & I became friends with the other kids & moms in his Gymboree class. I always thought it was nice when -- for whatever reason -- a dad would bring a kid to class one week. Not only b/c we got to meet the mom's husband (we chatted about our hubbies, but NOT in a "he's a jerk" or "he's an imbecile" type of way), but b/c we got to meet the child's dad. Sometimes it was akin to finding a missing link: "AHA, Jimmy totally has his daddy's eyes" or "WOW, Sally smiles the exact same way as her daddy."

We'd often go out for lunch after class, and we always invited moms AND any dads. It was a bit awkward, but just b/c we didn't know the dad(s) as well as the other moms. No one ever thought of excluding the dad(s) b/c they were male.

But I've noticed a different relationship b/tw a SAHP and their child and a WOHP and their child. I've found that the WOHP look at time spent with their kid(s) in a way that SAHP -- who spend almost 24/7 with their little darlings -- often do not. Thus, a WOHD (or M) who occasionally brings a child Gymboree wants to spend that time bonding with his child, while the SAHMs (or Ds) are wanting mostly ADULT interaction. This just means there is a different dynamic between the moms (who most often do this all the time) and the dads (for whom this is most often a special treat).

Posted by: nvamom | February 21, 2008 3:20 PM

i don't always agree with you, chitty, but this:

Ah, but you forget that the poster peaked in high school and that she will never get over that mind set....worrying about what other people think and what looks "weird" is a big clue

was spot on. Why? Cause ya know - most people don't spend half a second thinking about others, so it's interesting how much time some people worry about looking weird or whatever. So I just go along, being my goofy self, and don't care much what others - on a playground, no less - might think.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 21, 2008 3:23 PM

It was a little sad, though, nvamom, when my husband and I - due to his work schedule - were able to switch off taking our son to his music class. Many people asked if it was due to the 'divorce agreement.' Sad - the kid was barely 9 mos. old...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 21, 2008 3:34 PM

"If I am at the playground with 20 moms and 1 dad, then I think it will look wierd if I single out the dad to talk to."

See, I don't get this. I generally talk to: (a) whoever is sitting on the other half of the bench I sit down on; (b) whoever's kid is playing with my kid; (c) whoever looks nice and like they want to talk; or most frequently, since I'm an introvert, (d) whoever starts talking to me. Probably half the time it's a guy (but I'm there during more guy-heavy weekend and evening times). It's not a question of "singling out" someone (yeah, that would seem weird) -- it's a question of just chatting to whoever is nearby.

I guess I don't get why this is some big, emotion-laden event that the all-knowing "they" would even care enough to have an opinion on. It's just people, being nice, exerting a minimum degree of sociability. This isn't Saudi Arabia, so the fact that one is make and the other female just shouldn't be an issue. Unless, of course, your opinion of men is so low (or your opinion of yourself so high) that you presume that every man you meet is hitting on you (mental image of self in raggedy sweatshirt and baggy jeans from last playground trip -- yeah, THAT's part of my world, LOL).

Posted by: laura33 | February 21, 2008 3:42 PM

LOL, well I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who doesn't think it's a big deal to talk to a man at the playground. I'll pretty much chat up with anyone.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 21, 2008 4:19 PM

Cool, Laura and LizaBean. And I hope you don't think any less of me for posting to this blog simply because I like chatting with hot mommas. This place is like, chalked full of 'em. I have my favorites too, but there's room for everybody to play in the sandbox. :-)

Posted by: DandyLion | February 21, 2008 4:40 PM

Laura, Atlmom, LizaBean, et al., I suspect there's a self-selecting process on this blog inclining toward folks who'll "chat up" most anyone! Otherwise we wouldn't be here.

Pour m2j5c2: Allez les Habs!

Posted by: mehitabel | February 21, 2008 4:44 PM

"The large mother's group I belong to (70 moms or so) does not allow men to join. I was told the reason for this was because of instances where men attempted to join the group in order to meet women, and the women wanted to be spared this."

Seriously?! What do they do about the single lesbian moms whose hidden agenda is to 'meet women'? Perhaps they exclude them too. Hey, as a woman, I approach a lot of situations with caution, but to assume that a dad would join your playgroup because he wants to hit on the women is crazy. Or am I wrong?

Anyway, would that be such a bad thing? Post-baby weight, saggy parts, unshowered, sleep deprived. And someone wants to hit on me? I say bring it on!

But for those who want to avoid it, here's a hint: look for the guy with NO kid trying to join your playgroup. It's like when I got kicked off the local rec hockey league because they figured out I just joined to pick up men. I guess the fact that I couldn't skate clued them in on the ruse.

To those who said they'd talk to a lone daddy on the playground, I say thank you, and I'll send my husband your way. If he talks to you, don't assume he's hitting on you. Really. Though I sometimes do wonder why he insists on taking off his wedding ring during the day...

Posted by: kali | February 21, 2008 4:53 PM

DandyLion, A-OK with me! I'm with Kali and Laura, if someone calls me a hot momma, I'm not complaining.

kali, the real question is whether your rused worked?

And mehitabel, LOL, good point!

Posted by: LizaBean | February 21, 2008 5:41 PM

So I am to conclude that it's OK to exclude whites from a group thing, but on other ethnic group gets to have that kind of identity thing going on . . . it's more than OK to exclude men from a group because: (1) they are perverts anyway out to find kids to molest, (2) they only want to hit on the other women, (3) you can't talk about your epsiotomy scars when they are around, and (4) why aren't they at work for crying out loud.

I am always uplifted by the rampant sexist attitudes in this blog. Thank for making my day!

Posted by: RBCrook | February 21, 2008 6:10 PM

I should have been more clear- these WERE men without children who were joining the mother's group and lying about having kids, and then attending mother's night out type events to scope women. Apparently it was a significant problem several years ago. Let's face it, there is also a safety issue involved because people in these groups have access to all the members' home addresses, and they know they are home alone during the day.

(reminds me of a coworker of my father's, who used to go to "parents without parners" meetings to meet desperate women, although he had no kids).

Posted by: floof | February 21, 2008 7:11 PM

Sad to say, in my experience, the addition of a man to a group of women leads to 1)the man dominating the conversation; 2) the women deferring to him; 3) the man changing the agenda to what he cares about; 4) the women self-censoring; 5) an unsatisfying experience. This applies ONLY in groups that were previously female by choice. But in mixed groups, I do see the men dominating and controlling things.

Posted by: babsy1 | February 22, 2008 4:11 PM

Admission, I don't have kids, so little experience with the play date thing...I do have 8 lovely nieces and nephews...


Why not talk about boob jobs, menstrual cramps, saggy breasts, breast-feeding, child-induced ennui and your problems with your husband with a man around? At the worst, educational for him, but I bet the women against it are selling these dads short, these men have made a decision to be there for their children and wives so I don't think these will be new topics for the majority of them. And they might tell you something new about the difficulties of being male and having children ...

I guess there will always be people of both genders who think that raising a child is a woman's duty and the man shouldn't take part in it, except for half an hour after he gets off work. Woman-to-woman relationships are important, but are these play dates really so exclusively your social contact that if you want to discuss something "with the girls" you can't call up & make a special date afterwards to talk to them, with or without kids? For women who say yes, maybe you need to talk to your husbands about taking charge a bit with the children so you can have some free time.

Posted by: haiku_rd | February 22, 2008 10:28 PM

As a woman, I actually tended to avoid the Mommy groups which tended to occur at playgrounds or the nurseary school. What I looked for was adult conversation and not that "Look, little Johnny is walking already or starting to potty train". We all know that by the time kids enter kidergarden that they are able to walk, talk, feed and yes, weed thenselves. I would have enjoyed having a man converse with me over the maintance of a house as opposed to the lastes swapping of a recipe. Even in nurseary school, my girls were subjected to the thinking of din-witted mothers who felt there daughters should not play with cars and garages but play dress-up nor heaven-forbid climb the wooden apparatus by themselves... because they required help of course. the 20th/21st century has not helped some women. I would have loved a man (father) to coach or allow my daughter to do the things that some MOTHERS would not.

Posted by: friscong | March 28, 2008 1:09 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company