Between my cousin, Anisa, and I we have 4 children: 2 boys and 2 girls.  Her son and my daughter are 4 ½ years old, her daughter is almost 2 ½ and my son is almost 2.  We get together every few weeks for a playdate and while the kids play we have some tea and chat.  Earlier this week we even managed to get in 5 hours of Christmas baking and all we had to do was give the kids lunch at the appropriate time.  It was like our own little Christmas miracle.

I once mentioned to you that we started doing monthly babysitting exchanges; once a month she and her husband go out for a few hours and once a month my husband and I do the same.

At first the idea of having 4 children under the age of 5 for three hours was a little daunting, but in reality it is easier than having just the 2!  Why?  Because they actually play together!  As Anisa put it, they aren’t siblings who live together so they actually get excited to play with each other.

Last night when my husband and I picked up our kids from her place (where we spent another hour trying to coerce our children into coming home with us), Anisa suggested something that I can only describe as pure genius.

“Why don’t we have one of our regular playdates where you come over too and I can get some time to do my sewing…”  My eyes practically jumped out of my head.

“And I could READ!!  Or…WRITE!!”  I’m sure my eyes glazed over (a familiar look to her by now) as I dreamed of the possibilities.

“We have a massage chair, “ she offered.  Please.  She didn’t even need to go there.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect (how many times have I said that in my life?).  Just at dinner that evening, I was talking to my husband about my writing schedule.  I need to find a little more time each day to devote to writing my book.  (Yes, my Let ME Out!! book!)  Along came Anisa’s genius plan.  Even if we could snag an hour of creative ME time and manage to still get in our cup of organic raspberry leaf tea we could call it a perfect afternoon.

This seems like a great time to talk about my favourite playdate tip of all time:  I carve out a little tidy-up time at the end of each playdate, at my house or anyone else’s.  It really really bothers me to mess up someone else’s house and then just leave, as I know what it feels like to have that happen to me.   If the host mom tells me not to worry about it, I just tell her quite simply “It’s my playdate rule.”  I’m not saying I make the 4 year olds dust and vacuum – just put away the toys they were playing with.  This makes any kind of playdate experience even more positive.

How many of you moms out there already knew about this genius plan?  What do YOU mommies do with the time you open up while your children destroy the house play together?   Do you have other tips to share?