Do you keep score?

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ScoreYou know what I mean. It’s one the unwritten rules of parenting: a play at ours in exchange for a play at yours. Free childcare with a trusted friend, preferably when you really need it.

Of course I am exaggerating a bit here. Mothers don’t really keep a scorecard with ticks on it. No, it’s much more subtle and complicated than that. It’s all in our heads. Or not, as in my case. I suffer from a severe case of mummy rot and have lost ten percent of my brain cells with the birth of each child (I have three children). I can’t keep track of it all.

These favours are especially important to career mums and mums that work at home. I can remember one (working) mum frantically asking children over after school on a day that she was home, to rack up her points. She was completely upfront about it (I love this mum).

Calling in “favours” can be tricky. Some mums just ask flat out. This is the best way in my opinion. It’s usually a panicked call before school. “Can Lexie please come over to yours and play with Alexandra after school? I have to take Johnny to an apt and it would really help”. That is simple and straight forward. I can deal with that.

Some mums just muddle around the point, expecting some sort of osmosis to occur. “Johnny has an appointment and it’s really a hassle to bring Lexie. I wish my mother lived closer so she could help out more.” That is then my cue to offer my help. This of course usually goes over my head and I absentmindedly throw in some comment like I totally understand because my mother is thousands of miles away too.

Then of course, there are the mothers that don’t even hint that they need help. They just look really stressed. Of course these are the mums that need the most support.

The problem is, I’m not good at reading minds. With three children, I can’t keep track of whose played where and who I should ask over. I usually end up inviting lots of children over and hope for the best.  I sometimes even forget playdates (but I’m very good at pretending I remember). I’m hopeless.

So what’s your playdate score?

PS — I have more playdate etiquette here.

Photo credit

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  1. 23/01/2010 / 10:31

    This year my sleepover score is -1, but I figure we are almost even since I give her daughter a ride to school several times a week (and no, this isn’t a carpool thing). Or maybe not.
    I hear ya about asking flat out, but I think you can only do that when you are comfortable with the other mom. I don’t like being put on the spot and my house is way too messy normally for any Swiss kid (but my own daughter, who is half Italian ;-)) so I’d rather not be asked something like that on the same day.

  2. A Modern Mother
    17/01/2010 / 18:36

    It’s all about having good friends really.

  3. 16/01/2010 / 20:18

    I don’t keep score, but I’m quite lucky in that there are a few Mums who help me out when I need it, and of course I’m happy to return the favour.
    I’m definitely an asker. I think it’s just simpler all round, but you raise an excellent point about the Mums who don’t ask but probably do need the help. I’m going to try to be a bit more aware on that front.

  4. 15/01/2010 / 12:17

    This is so true – I try and keep track but am so bad about doing it
    Am probably going to get kicked out of my group of mummy friends

  5. 14/01/2010 / 22:29

    I have one arrangement that is absolutely fantastic – I take my friend Sally’s daughter for a sleepover on a weekend and then my friend reciprocates – sometimes even taking both my kids!!! heaven. This is the best situation ever because you don’t have the hassle of babysitters etc. Regarding playdates I don’t really keep score but if the other person does not reciprocate at least half the time I kind of drop them!

  6. 14/01/2010 / 17:46

    I sometimes need a playdate to accommodate the fact that my work schedule and my child’s school schedule do not always match. I am pretty up front about asking, but I always follow my request with an offer: “I know the kids have off on the 18th and the 29th. I really have to get some work done on the 18th. Is there a chance my son could come over that day for a while, and then your daughter could come here on the 29th?” I don’t know if this is the proper etiquette, but I hope that if I’m being direct and offering to reciprocate, people will see that I’m not just trying to take advantage.
    I do pine for my own childhood, though, in a neighborhood FULL of kids, where this was so much easier to manage. Now, I live on a street with mostly retirees, so it’s much harder to have the spontaneous play.

  7. 14/01/2010 / 13:25

    I guess I have all this to look forward to šŸ™‚

  8. 14/01/2010 / 03:23

    Ugh! Because I live really close to school, and my older two don’t need to be dragged to this and that after-school activity, everyone knows I’m an easy target. They’re not so much playdates as “holding pen” favours and because they’re usually less than half an hour while they rush back from the dentist etc.(causing both children a lot of upset) they’re not even worth reciprocating.
    There’s one mother who is very open about this and has traded favours (even had him over for a sleepover) and I love that.

  9. Knackered Mother
    13/01/2010 / 22:31

    Ha, that is hilarious. Like reading a brain dump of my own! Having learnt from bitter experience will now only do playdates with low maintenance children. Just dont have the energy to deal with three of my own and a demanding visitor x

  10. A Modern Mother
    13/01/2010 / 21:38

    Rosie — We started playdates on their own when they were 5/6 …
    Woman who Can — I can see how that can happen … probably for the better šŸ˜‰

  11. 13/01/2010 / 20:54

    Somehow this has all passed me by. I work quite a long way away from home and have over an hour commute. Combine this with working full time, I’m never really home to have other children round, and my son goes to a childminder. Now he’s 11, and sort of an inbetween age, it’s a real dilemma.

  12. 13/01/2010 / 20:34

    My daughter doesn’t really go on many playdates on her own. That may be because she is only 6, they may start more when she is older. If I need help with childcare I just ask and get to the point. But I only ask people who I know will understand they can and will say no if they just aren’t available. That way, no-one thinks I am taking advantage. If others want childcare help I would rather they ask me out right, I often don’t pick up on hints either, and I can’t read minds!

  13. 13/01/2010 / 20:28

    Great post, I am that Mum who racks up the points and I never forget – so I quietly seeth or worry that my boy is a monster when he does not get invited back…. I am so sad! Mich x

  14. A Modern Mother
    13/01/2010 / 20:28

    Nappy — it’s coming and you’ll love it
    CalifLorna– it never hurts to ask…

  15. 13/01/2010 / 20:23

    Oh no, I’m one of those types that explains everything without actually asking, hoping that the person will pick up on what I need. Must improve on that I think and be more direct!

  16. nappyvalleygirl
    13/01/2010 / 18:39

    Mine are not at an age where I can leave them unsupervised with someone else yet. I long for that day! Mind you, if we ask someone over to play (with mum) I do rather expect them to ask us back.

  17. A Modern Mother
    13/01/2010 / 14:12

    Laura — better not to keep score, like me
    2Many — I guess that’s next for me…

  18. TooManyHats
    13/01/2010 / 13:57

    I’m sure I’m behind either hosting or dropping off my kids somewhere. I don’t tend to keep score. With three kids it’s too much work. Now they are older there isn’t a need to either which is good.

  19. 13/01/2010 / 13:43

    Ooh, I didn’t think I had to keep score. Do I?
    I just do it as and when the mood takes me or when needed.
    Last year we went through a period where there were no playdates – the house we lived in had the husband’s office on the ground floor and he couldn’t concentrate with a house full.

  20. A Modern Mother
    13/01/2010 / 12:58

    Angels — exactly my take!

  21. angelsandurchinsblog
    13/01/2010 / 11:57

    I love being asked because then I can ask straight back! And we have four children aged under five in our house anyway, so what’s another one or two?

  22. A Modern Mother
    13/01/2010 / 11:19

    Liz — that’s how it should work
    Vic — no, you’re fine, men are exempt from this rule!

  23. 13/01/2010 / 11:13

    I am so screwed!
    Up until now the husband has dealt with all this stuff whilst I’ve been off at work. I guess I’ve got a lot to learn.

  24. 13/01/2010 / 11:12

    Gosh no! I think I’ve been really lucky. The mums I know are super super helpful to each other and there’s no question of keeping score – I think most of us know that if you look after your friend’s children it’s a brilliant way of entertaining your own offspring. I’ve helped them out, they’ve helped me out. Very lucky!

  25. A Modern Mother
    13/01/2010 / 10:35

    Ang — ask away, all they can do is say no
    Mwa — I had not idea. That must make it hard on you then.
    Stig — must be hard to function with just one šŸ˜‰
    Jen — you’re right with the BFFs … over too much to keep track…
    Britin Bosnia — thanks!
    grit — interesting … part of the priviledge of “dump and run” comes from knowing the mums and trusting their judgement, being friends, etc. so am not suprised it didn’t work with that mum …

  26. 13/01/2010 / 10:22

    an interesting window into a world, thank you! in our home ed land, play dates are sort of built in to the everyday, and are certainly part of the way i consider learning, so ‘do you want to meet up at a museum?’ or ‘would you like to come round for clay/felt/film etc’ is normal. i’ve dumped kid for sleepover to friends when needed; i’ve taken kids from other friends when they need help. i guess we form some friendships that are more special than others; some it’s close enough to dump and run, and others more drop in and stay for lunch.
    the only strange instance of a playdate came from a school mum. (sorry.) she came in, dumped kid, left, and picked her up 2 hours later. i didn’t feel it would happen quite like that and it surprised me. in home ed land, as a relatively new friend, she would have stayed and we’d have talked over resources and ideas. she never invited squirrel back, either, so i felt like a childminder for her.

  27. 13/01/2010 / 10:12

    Tagging you for a new meme over at mine. x

  28. 13/01/2010 / 09:50

    I try and keep score, my daughter doesn’t really do them often, too old and too cool, but my son does and I try to keep rough track of who he has been to and have I had that child back? Not with his two BFs, we have them so often and they have him so often it doesn’t matter, but with the occasionals. Which reminds me, must ask Ethan round, since my son played with him before Christmas…

  29. 13/01/2010 / 09:33

    Ah… back in reception I’d ask my son’s two friends parents once or twice if they could take my boy, I had a masters exam. A flat no! In year one, my son asked if A could come and play but A said his mum said our place was too ‘dangerous’!! A couple of mums offer, and I do offer back but it’s their choice. In another world I would invite kids round the whole time. Would I keep a score board? Well, like you, brain cells have disappeared, but not with the birth of each child, I have but one, but with each time we were handed notice on our home (ooh, maybe chuck in the two redundancies aswell.. oh dear, doesn’t leave much!)
    Good luck and go with your own heart I’d say!

  30. 13/01/2010 / 09:32

    I wish. I wish! Belgians are antisocial, so hardly any playdates here. Also, with most parents working full-time, they have grandparents or after-school care lined up so no need for playdates. Sigh. I bloody wish. So much.

  31. Ang (A Mum's survival guide)
    13/01/2010 / 09:25

    I’m usually the one who will stress and not ask, but I am learning that sometimes you have to ask and it is ok, no-one will think any less of you.

  32. A Modern Mother
    13/01/2010 / 08:22

    Bosnia — Don’t be scared! These arrangements can be extremeley beneficial in many ways …. and having friends and being sociall aware is the main benefit … having some free time for yourself (for work or whatever) is a secondary benefit.

  33. 13/01/2010 / 08:19

    I feel at the brink of a precipice that we are about to plunge into. We haven’t done so many playdates yet, but with Adam starting school when we get back to the UK it is only a matter of time…. I’m officially scared!

  34. A Modern Mother
    13/01/2010 / 08:18

    Mad House — I think it comes in a major way when “big school” starts…

  35. 13/01/2010 / 07:59

    I am an asker, I think. Although we are not really at that stage yet, I guess when the boys are bigger.