When Heike was born I remember those few friends or acquaintances I had with kids being very vocal regarding their opinions on mother’s group and playgroups. They were either firmly for or against. I remember one friend saying that mother’s group was the worst experience of her life whereas my boss at the time told me it was where she met her closest friends. I think I always secretly knew I’d be a fan – I love a chat, love meeting new people and love drinking tea.
Now I can join my ex-boss in saying that many of my closest friends are ones I’ve met through mother’s groups or playgroups. Sure, I’ve met the odd person who is maybe slightly different to me or has different opinions and obviously you have those you click with and those you don’t but overall most of the women I’ve met have been lovely. I also enjoy being exposed to different ideas and ways of doing things, because there is always something to learn if you keep an open mind.
That said, I’ve recently been experiencing some serious playgroup fatigue. Since Heike was born almost five years ago I’ve been in two mother’s groups and attended an insane number of playgroups and music classes and coffee meet ups and play dates. Then we moved to Hong Kong and I didn’t know anyone so I had to start the whole thing all over again – absolutely worth it as I now have a lovely network of friends here but still pretty exhausting.
Now we’ve moved to the other side of Hong Kong, I know I should really be making the effort to attend the local playgroup. And I really want to, I do. I want to know local people and have local friends (at least one I can call if the baby makes a swift or early arrival!). But I’m just so fatigued. The thought of putting myself out there and going through the somewhat awkward process of making new friends again just makes me feel like a lie down.
At this point I’m hoping for two things. One, that Heike makes a best friend at school with a nice Mum who really enjoys a Friday afternoon drink. Or two, that when the baby is born I can just start fresh with a group of local Mums with new babies like me. I can just pretend like it’s my first baby, until someone asks otherwise. “Oh yeah, I actually have another two at home! But I’ve learnt nothing I swear!”
I’d also like to work and meet some friends in that way – after two, almost three, babies I would just like to form relationships that are completely unrelated to my children! If only I could decide what I want to be when I grow up…
Anyway, just because I am fatigued doesn’t mean I’m not a believer – I love playgroups and think they are absolutely essential for those days when you just need a sympathetic ear. You might have amazing friends and family, but no one will ever really “get” what you’re going through like those going through the same thing. So, here’s some suggestions for playgroups in Hong Kong (see, I told you I’d been to a few…):
I’ve written about Baumhaus a few times, a play room and cafe that also offers music and drama classes for under 5’s. It’s perfect for the 0-3 year old set and now runs “Mommy Mondays” from 9-12 weekly. It’s half price (so just $40HK) and they make great coffee. Still my favourite even though we’re now living South Side.
St John’s saved me when I first moved to Hong Kong and will always hold a special place in my heart! They are a lovely church and the playgroup is run by some lovely women who’ve lived in Hong Kong since forever and have many stories to tell. They run a 0-2’s playgroup on Thursdays from 2.30pm and a playgroup for older toddlers on Tuesdays from 3pm. It’s a $20HK donation to drop in and unlimited cups of tea are provided.
This playgroup is slightly more formal than St John’s with circle time, snack time and activities, and that’s reflected in the cost at $100 per session. The playgroup runs on Wednesday mornings and always attracts a wide range of Mums from all over HK due to its central location. For under 4’s but generally mostly toddlers attend.
City Kids is again a more formal playgroup that runs during the school term and has a fee per term. It is extremely popular and has a wait list, so if you’re moving to Hong Kong or thinking of joining you should get in right away.
This is the playgroup that Walter and I now attend twice per week, and it introduces the basic Montessori learning philosophies (independent work, practical life skills etc) in a playgroup environment. One thing that is hard for me personally is that mostly helpers attend, so it’s not a great opportunity to meet other parents. That said we love it – it is quite formal and more of an introduction into the school setting, and it’s not cheap! Fees are per school term.
This is my local Stanley Playgroup and is truly lovely, despite my constant reluctance to go. Those interested can try it once for free and will then need to pay a membership fee – the group runs on Monday and Thursday mornings and has a lovely outdoor area which is rare in Hong Kong. For under 3’s.
Any to add? I’d love to hear your experiences! Happy playing.