Playdates with Vegan, Gluten Free, and Dairy Free Families, Oh My!

dietary restrictions playdatesRecently, thanks to a certain baby with a immature tummy, I have reluctantly joined the ranks of the dairy free. Additionally, my entire family is vegetarian. So right about now it feels like I can’t eat a thing unless I have prepared it (or bought it) myself. I’m okay with that. I’m flexible and I don’t mind going without a snack or even a meal because my daughter has a social engagement aka a playdate. Our hostess, I have found, may mind. It actually seems to bother me less than the people around me when I have to abstain from chocolates or sandwiches because milk.

Yes, I just said because milk. Just like I sometimes don’t get excited about the buffet table because meat. Someone else might not be chowing down because wheat. Or because peanuts. Or soy. These days, it seems we all have little – or not so little – dietary peccadilloes that can mean everything from skipping the proffered slice of birthday cake to not eating anything at all.

And that’s fine, whether our choices aren’t really choices at all because they’re dictated by allergies or we just would prefer not to eat anything with a face, thankyouverymuch. As long as we don’t force our families’ dietary restrictions on other people, we can all agree to get along with one another and eat what we want to eat.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that playdates and even making new friends can be a source of stress for moms and kids who have to eat around the rules. Vegans, folks who keep kosher, pescatarians, and the paleo crew all know that I’m talking about. You find yourself wondering how to bring up your eating habits in casual conversation so you don’t have to feel like you’re making a grand announcement when you tell people that no, you don’t eat white flour. Should you clue your fellow moms in before playdates – and if you do, will they feel pressured to make you something special even though you haven’t asked? Or what if you don’t, and they whip out a gorgeous spread of tidbits you can’t touch?

I say keep it simple when planning playdates that will include snacking. Let people know, as simply and as casually as possible, that you don’t eat whatever it is you don’t eat. It’s not at all rude to do so provided you’re not using your explanation as an excuse to launch into your meat is murder speech. You’ll avoid a lot of awkwardness later on by being up front, and you’ll avoid a lot of awkwardness in the moment by doing your best not to make it weird. Dietary restrictions in families are just a fact of life these days. Seriously, don’t make it weird. And if your dietary restrictions are due to an allergy, by all means share the severity.

Like can I eat a PB&J sammie next to you, or will that literally kill you? When I’m planning a playdate, that’s the sort of thing I’d really like to know in advance!

vegan moms gluten free moms dairy free moms

Why Start a Babysitting Co-Op or Babysitting Exchange

creating a babysitting co-opBabysitting is expensive. How many of us never go out on the town or feel like we have to bow out of events because we know that the cost of a date will include an added $15 per hour? Probably a lot. I know I’ve said no to some amazing outings for lack of affordable, reliable, and trustworthy childcare. Now, my kids come first, so I firmly believe that declining with regrets has been the right choice in many instances. But I’m also not ashamed to admit that it stung a little!

As I talk to more and more moms about Mom Meet Mom prior to launch, I’m finding again and again that most of us are facing the same parenting issues. Including a need for sometimes childcare, that is a person to watch our kids for an hour or two when we have a dentist appointment or need to put the finishing touches on a big professional project.

One solution more moms are embracing is the babysitting co-op – also known as a babysitting exchange. What it is is a group of moms who agree to exchange babysitting, for free, within the group. These groups can be as small as five families or as large as thirty, and it’s up to the group whether it’s moms doing the sitting or dads can get involved, too.

How an individual babysitting co-op works varies. Some babysitting co-ops are casual, just a bunch of moms who know one another and can rely on one another for sometimes childcare. Others follow specific programs that lay out rules of conduct, bylaws, instructions for screening and taking on new members, and hourly accounting systems to ensure that everyone is using the co-op fairly. Some even have a schedule of dues, presidents and secretaries, and home inspections.

In either case, the growing popularity of babysitting co-ops proves that we moms need help and that we can find ways to help one another. Starting a babysitting co-op can mean new friends and new freedom. As in the freedom to get a haircut without bribing the kiddies with lollipops. It also means you no longer feel obligated to sit for friends at the drop of a hat because they watched your littles last week – in an exchange, it’s all about accounting. Not to mention, accountability! Not only do you have a group seeing that you do your fair share, but you also have a group making sure you take your fair share.

As for kids, they tend to favor babysitting co-ops over babysitters because the whole arrangement feels more like a playdate than, bleah, an afternoon with a sitter. And when the whole family is happy, you just can’t beat it!

For more information on starting your own babysitting co-op, check out Smart Mom’s Baby-Sitting Co-Op Handbook: How We Solved the Baby-Sitter Puzzle by Gary Myers.