By Naomi Panzer

Speed Playdating: A Mom’s Matchmaker


    It’s been a long time since you’ve been on the dating scene. Thank goodness for that, you’re probably thinking, because dating brings back memories of trolling the bar in painful heels at 3am—also known as Hook-Up-Or-Throw-Up Hour

   Those lucky singles out there now, they’ve got it a whole lot easier than we did. They’ve got a fast, easy, no-nonsense way to meet a bunch of new guys—whether it’s Mr. Right or Mr. Right This Very Second.

   They’ve got speed dating.

   If you haven’t heard of speed dating, you’ve been spending too much time with your nose in the L.L. Bean catalog, your eyes on SpongeBob, or your behind in your minivan. The gist of speed dating is simple: You meet up at a bar with a bunch of other single guys and girls; following a round robin approach, you sit down and talk to each guy to see if there are any sparks, but only for eight minutes. When time’s up, you move onto the next bachelor, and so on. You keep track of the guys you like, the event organizer matches you up with the ones who said they liked you, and voila! You’ve got dates!   

   Now, we could learn a thing or two from these single smarties.  Obviously we moms aren’t looking to do any speed dating (at least not in broad daylight), but I believe there is a way to apply the speed dating principle to our kid-centric, energy-zapped lives.

   For example, you know that sinking feeling when your son excitedly asks for a playdate with his friend Joey, and you realize you barely remember what Joey looks like, much less who his mom is or where they live?  Wouldn’t it be great to know something about Joey’s family, aside from judging them by the dried flower arrangement tacked to their front door?

   Enter speed playdating.

   It’s just like speed dating, but instead of trying to find your soul mate, you’re trying to  find your child a playmate. And there’s something in it for you, too. While speed playdating, you might like a mom well enough to accompany your kid on his playdate rather than drop him off. 

   The most critical part of speed playdating, however, is the questions you ask in the 10 minutes allotted for each mom. Yes, I realize that single speed daters can size each other up in eight minutes, but since the typical mom’s brain is a bit cluttered, we need more time to get it together.

   Like speed dating, speed playdating events will occur in neutral locales its participants frequent. For speed daters, that means a bar. For playdater moms, that means Starbucks. Single adults are fueled by alcohol; moms are driven by caffeine.

   Here are some questions you might ask your speed playdater about her child:

   Does your kid spit? How many Webkinz does she own? How often does he get a bath? Does she speak as though she’s in Dolby stereo? Does he Velcro himself to your leg in social situations? Does he prefer Power Rangers or Jimmy Neutron? Disney Princesses or Dora?

   Before you ask your playdater mom any questions about herself, take a minute to observe her. There’s a lot you can learn without speaking.  

Food and Drink 
   Is she drinking a skim latte or grande extra whip mocha Frappuccino? Fat-free muffin? No food at all? If your playdate bachelorette is scarfing down two giant M&M cookies and a double shot of espresso before 10am, you can be sure your kids will snack on gum and 27 mini cupcakes at her house. Hey, I’m just saying.

   I know we teach our kids not to judge a book by its cover, but geez, what else do we have to go on? If your playdater mom is decked out in Lilly Pulitzer and pearls, your kids will have an entirely different playdate than if she were wearing a sundress and Birkenstocks.  And don’t forget, kids are Mini Mes of their moms, so chances are the speed playdater’s kids are going to dress and act just like her. Bottom line: I can accept those high-waisted mommy jeans, but only if her personality makes up for her fashion (non)sense. If she’s wearing a T-shirt splattered with spit-up or other bodily secretions? Now that’s a deal-breaker for me.   

Getting Personal
   Here’s your chance to ask your speed playdater the most burning questions about her parenting style. How many times a day do you say “Just a minute!!”? How often do you bribe your kid? Do you leave her in the car while you run in to pick up your dry cleaning? Are you an activist, environmentalist, or any other kind of –ist? Do you stick to a schedule or go with the flow? Do you hang out with your kids or do you dump them on someone else while you get a mani/pedi? How often do you dream of strangling your husband?

   Now, the last question might become an issue if your speed playdater is a dad, not a mom. Then you might need to tweak your questions a bit. For example, Do you consider bonding with your kid by plopping him on the sofa next to you to watch the Yankee game? When mom’s out and you’re in charge, do you tell others you are ‘babysitting’?  Are you a carpenter or general contractor? (i.e., are there rusty nails lying around your house?)

   Speed playdating will save moms, dads, nannies, mannies and other caretakers the headache of getting their kids together with suitably matched kids. Plus, you might make a new friend or two. If nothing else, at least you’ll have had your coffee for the day.

NAOMI PANZER lives in Fairfield, CT with her husband, two children and her syndicated column, Mommentary. Email her at