Playdates can be a lot of fun for both kids and moms, but there are times when it just is not a good fit. If you find yourself invited to a playdate that you would rather not attend, declining can feel very awkward. But honestly, suffering through it is not something you should have to do.
What is the Point of a Playdate?
Playdates have two main purposes. They are meant to get the kids playing together and to give the adults some socialization time. When you are changing diapers all day and all night, some quality adult interaction can be much needed. It can also be very helpful to connect with other moms and talk about the highs and lows of parenting.
So, playdates are meant for moms to talk and kids to play. What many people do not realize is that babies do not actually need social interaction. Kids younger than about three years old engage in what is called parallel play. That means they may play in the same space, but they are focused on their own toys. They do not play together (but they may get into scuffles over wanting the same toy!). Their parents or adult caretakers are still their primary agents of socialization. Moms with babies and toddlers should not feel any pressure to attend playdates for socialization purposes.
If you want to politely turn down a playdate offer, you have a few options. The best way to approach it often depends on why you do not want to attend in the first place.
READ MORE: 10 Tips For A Successful Playdate
Reasons To Decline a Playdate
There are three main reasons that a playdate might not be a great fit. First, poorly-timed playdates can mess up your kids' schedule and cause problems you do not want to have to deal with. Next, there are times when you just do not connect well with the other mom. Other times, the issue is with the kids.
Many young children are very sensitive to small changes in their daily routine. Even something as simple as driving to a playdate can be a headache, especially for kids with carsickness. The visit itself can be very overstimulating and leave you with a cranky child, especially if you interrupt naptime for it. Rule of thumb: naps trump everything else.
READ MORE: 20 Playdate Rules No Mom Should Break
Getting along with the other mom makes all the difference when it comes to how to successful a playdate will be. You want to spend your adult conversation time with a likeminded woman. Not only do you want to have common parenting philosophies but you also want to share (gasp!) interests other than kids.
Kids just do not always mesh well. Some kids may be too rough for your sensitive child. Conversely, some kids may be too sensitive for your rough child! It is not a matter of either child being better in any way, it is just about finding a good fit.
How to Say No While Being Nice
Essentially, you have two choices when it comes to turning down a playdate politely. You can either make up an excuse or you can be honest.
Good manners are all about making the other person feel as comfortable as possible. Therefore, you should consider inviting mom's feelings when it comes to turning her down. What will do the least harm?
If turning your schedule upside down just is not worth it for the playdate, it is best to be honest. You can also suggest another time or offer to host if that could improve things. If not, or if she cannot accommodate your child's schedule, honesty is the best policy here. If you continue to make excuses, she may suspect the worst and think you don't like her or her child.
If the issue is with the mom or her little one, transparency might be a little too blunt. Making up an excuse is probably the kinder choice. You can even use scheduling conflicts as an excuse because this is such a common issue with young kids.
If your excuses fail and she keeps inviting you, you may need to be straightforward. Always try and word it in the gentlest way possible. Instead of blaming or putting anyone down, focus on how it is not a good mix. Regardless, it is important to be able to say no. There is nothing to be gained from suffering through a playdate in the name of obligation.