Toddler Friend Finder

Toddler Friend Finder Wagon

Toddler Friend Finder Wagon

One of my greatest successes as a person has been my ability to makes friends, as 1,779 people on Facebook will attest to. I am outgoing, friendly, and lack any intimidating tattoos or facial hair. I had therefore assumed I’d have a list of fellow at-home parents to call for a play date, arranged by interest, child’s age, and how inferior they make me feel as a parent. Turns out, not so much.

I knew when I decided to be an at-home parent that I was joining a work force that is over 96% women. And though that sounds awesome in one kind of way, it’s more like being the only guy at an Ani DiFranco concert. There are plenty of mom groups in the DC area who do not allow dads, and I understand that. Guys can be creepy and it’s better to not have to worry about them as a group. But by now, I honestly thought I’d have met a nice mom, gotten in her good graces, and infiltrated their private little group like Jane Goodall. Of course in this case, I am the scientist and the at-home moms in the DC area are the gorillas. It’s also possible I lack the charm necessary to pull this off.

At the heart of the issue is the fact that I would have to basically ask out a married woman. And though I’m married and have a child now, I still have a crippling fear of both rejection and women. And how would I even go about doing that? What does that next step even look like?

“Yeah, she’s really getting the hang of this walking thing… 14 months, and your son? Well, he’s not doing so bad either… Say, since we both have kids about the same age, how about I come over to your place and we get some Legos and wine and see what happens?”

I finally decided to go for it one particular day with a lady at the playground. I overheard her talking to her friend about her blog. Hey! I have a blog too! So I approached her and asked her what her blog was. I know I can use all the traffic to my blog I can get. Her demeanor shifted. Her eyebrows furrowed. She looked at her friend. I felt like I was asking for a list of her ex-boyfriends. Shit, I thought I was helping. She reluctantly told me and I mentioned I had one too, if only to make it seem less like the question was just for the sake of stalking. She did not ask about it. I chose not to pursue any further contact. This was three months ago and she hasn’t been back to that playground again. She instead started going to a similar nearby playground according to her blog. Which I am apparently now using to stalk her, affirming their reasoning to not allow men into their at-home mom groups. Maybe these women are on to something.

So what about the other 4%? Those that have the same genetic defect? Well, there is only one dad group in the DC area that I’ve found and most of their meet-ups are either for older kids who don’t need naps in the middle of the day or require a trek down to Arlington, VA. Arlington is only 14 miles from New Carrollton as the crow flies, which is a scant three and a half hour commute on the Virginia Beltway. So unless I make Mabel miserable by messing with her nap time – which seems counterintuitive to having a play date for her – it doesn’t look like this group is the answer either. I guess what I’m looking for is another at-home parent of either gender to come to my house during the hours I tell them to, preferably with their child and maybe a six-pack of Yuengling. Maybe I’ll draft an email.

A friend recently asked why I felt the need to have play dates for Mabel in the first place. I suppose this is a fair question, though one with what I think is an obvious answer. Though yes, the companionship of my daughter is enough to make my world aglow with a constant stream of undeniable love, wouldn’t it be better if there was another person there – perhaps one who could form complete sentences – who could also bring his or her constant stream of love into our already glowing world? I say yes.

Also of note, is that these potential play dates, though organized around and because of our children, are not necessarily primarily about them. Mabel’s opinion about who we have a play date with largely does not matter yet. I used to think it would, but play dates are set up by parents who get along with each other. At 16 months old, Mabel hasn’t had enough interactions with other children for her to have an educated opinion about who she likes. And if she did, she couldn’t really express it anyway. I don’t even know if she’s done eating, doesn’t like her food, or just enjoys the sound asparagus makes when it hits the floor. I doubt I’m going to really understand if she’s trying to tell me that this other child doesn’t have compatible values. At this age, we’re all just trying desperately to get our children to not hit each other in the face. Who the other child is matters very little.

And so, because of the structural design of the at-home parenting community combined with my inability to figure out a way to successfully ask a married woman on a date, Mabel and I are doomed to a life of being the friendly-from-afar regulars at the community playground. If only there was a website where parents could go to find local toddlers seeking play dates. That’s what the internet should be for.

Girls Chillin in a Wagon

Girls Chillin in a Wagon

19 thoughts on “Toddler Friend Finder

  1. I try to make it a point to be just as friendly with dads at playgrounds as I am with moms. But then, I’ve never been super good at being a girly girl. Have you tried sites like or babycenter? I know our area has a lot of “mommy” groups, but they also have a handful that just say “stay at home parents.” You’re right though… it’s totally skewed. As women who expect equality in the workplace, we’ve got to get better at giving it back to awesome dads like you who stay home with their little ones.

    • I haven’t tried those sites. I actually never heard of I’ll be sure to check them out. Thanks, Katey. And I haven’t found any plain “at-home” groups that don’t discriminate. Actually, that’s a lie. There is one group that I’ve heard is quite awesome, and we fall outside the geographic barrier. They actually make you type your zip code in online. We’re less than a mile away too. I met someone from the group hoping she’d be willing to smuggle me in as a mole. She was not. And kind of scared that I asked.

      And you’re totally right. If you want to be considered as our equals, you better start treating us the same when you finally have an upper hand in something! Now I don’t feel so bad you make 70 cents to our dollar. ZING! 🙂

  2. That stinks- when Dave stayed home with Joanna and Dean for a few months after we moved he said the same thing. It gets easier as the kids get older and get involved in activities and have preferences for certain kids.

    • Yeah, that time will be glorious and I’m looking forward to it (if I’m still at home then). I just hope she befriends kids with cool parents. Man that would suck if I get stuck with some weirdos.

      CUT TO:
      Another couple sitting on their couch at home. The calendar reads 2017. “Jeez, Mabel’s parents are such weirdos! How did we ever get stuck with them?”

      FADE OUT.


  3. Dustin, this is hilarious. Even as a part of the 96%, I understand the dating-likeness of play dates. One thing that helped a bit in Oxford was that men on faculty had different schedules and came in and out of the SAHM crowd (for perspective, I joined the SAHM crowd for 7 months before moving, and enjoyed every minute-even if occasionally those minutes required coffee or wine). Is there a college in close enough driving distance and a community around it? You might find more of your 4% there. 🙂

    • Hmm. the University of MD is about 2 miles away, so yes. How do I go about meeting these people? Should I hang out by the day care center? Should I go online and look for pictures of men with crayon stains on their tie and stalk them after class? Now there’s a whole new set of problems. Maybe I should just put up a flyer, like I lost a cat. 🙂

      Anyway, thanks for the suggestion. I’ll let you know if I figure anything out.


      To be fair, she never mentioned she stopped going to that park because of some creepy guy with an Eagles visor and a tape recorder hidden in his jacket pocket. I had also never seen her there before, so this could have been the anomaly. But that still doesn’t account for her standoffish behavior, unknowingly perpetuating my insecurities. Meet me in Baltimore sometime this spring and maybe after a few drinks, I’ll tell you. 🙂

  4. Dustin,

    As a guy with four girls and a wife (guess that part goes with out saying) I live every day of my life as a single digit percenterer (sp?). However, I escape the house everyday and do enjoy the occasional grown up dialogue. You are aware of my current place of employment so let’s not get too excited.
    You should reach out to my brother-in-law. As you know, he too is creepy, surprisingly married and working the at home dad thing. One thing he seems to have gotten down is finding the places to take his kids that seemed welcoming to the horrific idea of seeing a male with children in the daytime, especially without some form of estrogen based management system.

    What I refuse to do is acknowledge the fact that my wife is at home with four young girls of varying age who are more than likely in need of playdates. I just can’t risk having some married weirdo in my home.

    Good luck.

    • I did reach out to Jaime, though it’s been a while. I’ll certainly do that again now that Mabel is actually interesting and what not. And don’t worry, your wife has all the married creeper she can get. I won’t plague her with more.

      Yes I am aware of your place of employment. I actually tried to stop by a couple times and each time, forget that you’ve moved to a super secret location. But yes, I’d settle even for the level of dialogue present at that place right now. Please tell Zack I said that when you can. 🙂

      Thanks for reaching out. If your bro doesn’t call me back this time, I’ll sick you on him.

  5. I’m a stay-at-home mom who just moved to a new town. I’ve been trying to make friends with other moms, but for some reason, I just haven’t been clicking with very many. But there is this one dad that I really like. We have similar interests, similar parenting styles, similar senses of humor. Our kids play well together. We always have great conversations when we run into each other on the playground. But I’m stuck on that whole “asking out a married man” thing, too. Whenever I see him, I rack my brain for an excuse to ask for his number without sounding like I’m “asking for his number”. So far, I have not succeeded.

    Anyhow, this doesn’t really help you with your dilemma, but I just wanted to share it with you, because I understand what you are saying. I don’t have an easy solution, but maybe there is a really cool mom out there who is just too shy to ask for your number, too.

    • Yes, Julie. And because of that, it does help me. It’s essentially the same dilemma I had in high school (and college, and my mid-20s) played out again. It’s possible they’re all sitting at home alone wishing some guy would ask them out. Except this time they’re with a child. But it’s hopeful to know that it is the same basic principal at work. That it’s possibly my insecurity projecting this world where I assume it will be weird if I ask them out, when really they would like to be. Of course that mom at the playground kinda set me back a confidence points. Just like high school.

      Anyway, thank you for sharing. Now go ask out that guy and let me know how it goes.

  6. Oh man, I know the feeling… I stay home with not only our son who’s about to turn one, but also our best friends’ kid (6 mo). I’m in South Carolina, nowhere near the kind of major metro area you have in DC… I’m completely screwed, lol. < Sorta.

    • Yeah, you’re doubly screwed. Serves you right for living in a much nicer climate. 🙂 And if I crack the code to talking with these mothers I meet at the library or playground, I’ll be sure to update you. Good luck. Also, it’s a little bit easier once they’re down to only one nap and walking around. Then you can really start to do stuff with them.

  7. Have you tried pretending to be gay? I find that to be disarming with the moms. Just check for giant “JESUS” lapel pins.

    And my kid’s in preschool now, but we’ve got a big swing set and beer if you’re ever in MoCo. 🙂

    • Not yet, Brent. But I’ve tried pretending to be gay in other arenas for other reasons and it never works out to my advantage. HOWEVER, I am often in MoCo, or at least I’ll find a reason to be soon enough – perhaps a beer and a swing set is a good enough reason. Maybe for the figure skating finals or is that too stereotypical? 😉

  8. 18.5 years ago when I had my daughter in Canton Baltimore Maryland it was not the baby haven it is now. I lucked into a preschool that had a parenting class component. One day a week we all talked about a given topic ( meal time for instance) while the kids were doing the school thing. 2 hrs. The other days were drop the kids and you had some time off. I am still close with some of the women I met there (dads were welcomed though) and I learned some really great stuff.

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