As a WAHM, you probably already know that play dates for your kids are a wonderful way to get work in while your kids are entertained. But, did you know that you can use play dates to network with other moms, while your kids play together? It's true--play dates are a great option for scheduling time with other moms, while helping your kids build social skills.
The Basic Concept
The basic concept of networking is that you share information and referrals with others, creating relationships that could help you later on in your career. You reciprocate as well, passing along recommendations, job leads, etc. about the people you know with others who could help them. Networking can be as simple as exchanging a business card, or setting up a profile on Facebook or LinkedIn. But the savvy WAHM steps outside the box, looking for unorthodox ways to network. One of the most underused ways to schedule face time with another WAHM is the play date.
The idea of "swapping" play dates benefits both, or all the WAHMs involved. The basic plan is to offer a play date in your home, while the other mom is able to work or run errands. Then she repays the favor later, enabling you to get work done. While technically you don't sit down and "network," swapping play dates allows you to build up trust and support other WAHMs.
The Working Play Date
A working play date means that another WAHM comes over to your house and helps with your work while the kids play. For example, if you are a freelance writer and you need a website, you could ask another WAHM with a web design business to come over for a consultation. Everyone benefits from this situation: you get a consultation for an important aspect of your business, the other WAHM gains a potential client, and the kids stay busy.
The Side-By-Side Play Date
The side-by-side play date is good if both WAHMs have projects to work on and need to keep the kids busy. In this case, you don't have to be working together: think of this as the work date play date. You and the other WAHM can sit at the kitchen table or in your office, and work on your separate projects while the kids play nearby. This allows you to both get work in, even if you don't have child care or school available. This also allows you the opportunity to see what another WAHM does, so perhaps you can recommend her services to others in future. And vice-versa, of course!
The most important way to network with other WAHMs is to recommend their products and services to others when you can, and buying them yourself. Work hard to build and maintain a support system with other WAHMs, and you'll be rewarded with a whole new way to network.
Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.