Mom's night out for the social caterpillar
July 7, 2010 6:24 PM   Subscribe

I want to be more social. Can you help me come up with ideas for hosting a mom's-night-out party at my home that isn't a jewelry, tupperware, pocketbook, home product party, etc. party?

I want to get to know the mothers of my kids' friends a little better. I've been to quite a few of some of their home product parties and I admit I like the vibe of a quick casual get together that only lasts a couple of hours, perhaps falls some evening during the week instead of the weekend, and is a reason to have munchies and a drink or two. I don't want to sell anything, but I appreciate the ease of how those sort of "parties" get a group of women together. There seems to be a focus at a jewelry party that makes socializing easier.
I'm not really very confident about hosting something like Bunko or poker night, or a book club yet, but I won't rule it out yet if you can offer me your best tried and true tips. Also, I could entertain some kind of small benefit for a charity if you have any great ideas for that as well. Thanks for your help.
posted by maloon to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What about a board game night? That gives you something on which to focus to make everyone feel more comfortable, and it could be a relief to play a grown-up game. Maybe something like Cranium? I've only played it once but it was at my cousin's bachelorette party and it helped us all get to know each other in a relaxed way as well as working for a large number of people.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:27 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Clothing swap?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:28 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Clothing swaps are what we used to do. People bring stuff [kid stuff I guess or mommy stuff or even books] and there are snacks and people can pick through clothes and chat and hang out. And then at the end you the host can take everything that is left to the local Goodwill or whatever.

I've also done a "women who make things" get together where people brought all their half-finished crafts and we'd hang out and talk and work on photo albums or whatever other thing we'd been meaning to get to and not gotten to [quilting, thank you cards]. You supply some basic stuff and people bring the rest. And snacks.
posted by jessamyn at 6:32 PM on July 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

I was gonna say a book club before I saw that it was on your "no" list. I think book groups are great ways to get to know people. You automatically have something to talk about whether or not you find you have anything in common with the other members. You could frame it as a "book discussion party" so you can see how it goes before deciding to have anymore.

I also like jessamyn's idea of a book swap.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 6:39 PM on July 7, 2010

As a teacher that deal with lots of moms, we host cocktail parties where parents bring food and/or booze. That seems to do well. The last one went from 7pm to almost midnight.... Do you need a 'theme'? How about just ask everyone to bring their favorite snack and provide drinks.
posted by AsRuinsAreToRome at 6:46 PM on July 7, 2010

I agree with Jessamyn - I was going to suggest a "Stitch n Bitch" but craft party is more open. Maybe you could let people know that if they don't have a craft, you'd be happy to teach them how to knit, crochet or whatever.

The clothing swap idea sounds cool too!

BTW I'm in a book club and it's not at all stuffy or intellectual. I agree with fiesta that it does give you something to talk about, and framing it casually is good.

Our meetings are basically a big pot-luck (with ample booze) and we spend most of the time gabbing - an excuse for friends to get together really. Sometimes the leader will have discussion questions but we're not strict about it. If the book had any particular culture or special dish, sometimes we bring food related to that (such as Italian/Indian/Indonesian for Eat Pray Love). If there is a movie we will often meet later to watch it.
posted by radioamy at 6:49 PM on July 7, 2010

During the holidays, I swear I go to five different cookie exchanges-and they are usually an excuse to drink wine and socialize. Not helpful right this second, but helpful around Christmas. Not sure if your groups stays home but if so, I organize playgroup dates constantly, let the kids roam the backyard while we drink coffee. Last suggestion-this Friday my mom's group is meeting for drinks and appetizers on our boat and then going to see that Eclipse movie, which a startingly number of suburban women are into. I am going for the social part, I haven't seen the other movies and don't care to see this one, but we do this every time a chick flick comes out- SATC2, Devil Wears Prada, that kind of thing. We've done this with a rental movie too-so doesn't have to be a theater thing.
posted by supercapitalist at 6:49 PM on July 7, 2010

Oh also, I applaud you for making an effort to be social with the other moms! It will pay off in the future - both in terms of potential friendships, and also knowing who your kid is spending time with.

I'm having trouble coming up with a concrete example, but could you find someone to teach a mini-class or give y'all a demonstration - like what they do in those home sales parties but without the sales pitch? Cooking or baking or some craft? Basically, when you have a party, you need to have some kind of "focus" but it doesn't matter what it is - for instance people like to go to Super Bowl parties even if they don't like football, because you get to hang out with people and you always have a topic of conversation to fall back on.t
posted by radioamy at 6:55 PM on July 7, 2010

Book swap. Anything left behind gets donated to your local book bank/literacy program.
posted by availablelight at 6:57 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

ooh, a "half-finished craft night" sounds like it would work for anybody, not just women!

I agree that themes can make socializing a bit easier. Food- or drink-themed nights might work. Have you seen the Mixology Mondays site? It would be fun to host one of these. I'm sure there are comparable sites for food gatherings.
posted by kanewai at 6:58 PM on July 7, 2010

I would avoid poker as a means of getting to know people, actually.

Every month or two I play cards with some good friends of mine and we often wind up just gaming each other and not socialising. That's fine, that's what we're there for, and we've all seen each other's badly behaved sides before---but it might be a bit confronting to have not-close acquaintances come into contact with people's hostile, grumpy, sullen moods, or worse, their crowing. It's a gambling game that happens to involve cards, not really suited to groups who don't know whether they like each other or not.

Other card games are much friendlier. I misspent high school and bits of uni playing hearts, and I'm told that euchre, bridge and 500 are much better socially. And you don't need extras like chips or money.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:08 PM on July 7, 2010

So you say these get togethers are a good excuse to have food and socialize. Well, a group of my friends and I get together on Tuesdays for the sole purpose of eating waffles. Other foods are acceptable too, but it's always a good time.
posted by theichibun at 7:15 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try Bunko... it doesn't look like much on paper but it is so much fun, not that hard, the rules are fluid and everybody becomes squealing, little girls in about 5 minutes. Lots of fun tips to spice it up online, have everybody bring a book as their entrance fee. Tell everyone that you are new at the game and all learn together, that is what we did and we have a blast!!
posted by pearlybob at 7:17 PM on July 7, 2010

I'm having a salsa making party this week. Everyone helps and they all take some home.
posted by GaelFC at 7:18 PM on July 7, 2010

bunko would make me run for the hills, no offense. a low-key mellow-type craft finishing party or a clothing swap sounds like low-pressure fun and you may end up getting more people to come. books swap is also a great idea.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:31 PM on July 7, 2010

i'm chiming in one more time to emphasize that swaps are super-fun. it's a great way to get to know people because they bring personal stuff. the atmosphere is focused but relaxed. my mother's group (when my daughter was wee) had a swap that bonded us for a long time. we brought old wine glasses, scarves, essential oils, beads, books, jewelry, newish toys, weird objects, old dvds. everything had a story, which is what made it special.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:38 PM on July 7, 2010

Speaking of clothing swaps: I've seen these get awkward, depending on the size range and/or body image health of the participants involved. (Which is why I prefer book/paperback swaps.)
posted by availablelight at 7:44 PM on July 7, 2010

Response by poster: Great ideas here. Thank you everyone. Keep them coming!
How does a swap work?
posted by maloon at 7:44 PM on July 7, 2010

I was going to suggest book club - my book club is just an excuse for an evening get together.

Maybe the first one could be a kids book sale (Usborne books does home parties, like the jewelry parties, but for kids books) just for something to do, but then discuss making there be a monthly mom-time wine drinking cheese eating party. I suspect everyone will think that's great :)
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:48 PM on July 7, 2010

Great ideas here. Thank you everyone. Keep them coming!
How does a swap work?

For the book swap I organized--like a tag sale without exchanging money! everyone brought good books (and some magazines like the New Yorker, etc.) they just didn't want to hang onto/store/move anymore. Lots of conversation and picking through the offerings. Anything left behind got packed up to donate to a second hand bookstore nearby.
posted by availablelight at 8:05 PM on July 7, 2010

The way my casual book swap worked was that folks just brought whatever books that they felt they could part with. These all got laid out, and people just took what caught their eye. There were no hard rules such as "you bring two, you take two," but I had seeded the room with 30 or so books myself. It was sort of a free-for-all, but in a good way.

I was concerned that people would just take what they wanted and rush off, so I made sure the liquid refreshments would be plenty, and asked this question here on the green. Got a few good suggestions, and I plan on incorporating more the next time. I think having a lot of quick, casual board/card games to choose from worked pretty well, and the "tipsy book report" idea is a real winner.

Good luck, and have fun, no matter what event you decide to have.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:06 PM on July 7, 2010

if you are interested in some kind of small benefit for charity, what about having a stuff swap with the stated intention of donating what's left to a local women's shelter? or "one for the swap, one for the shelter" type of thing?
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:18 PM on July 7, 2010

My friends and I do craft nights, with the stipulation that drinking wine is a craft, so nobody feels obligated to be crafty. :) Some of the women bring crafts, some bring something like filing or photos that need sorting, some just chat. These are very enjoyable.

I belong to a book club and something that was actually really fun recently was when we did The Great Gatsby (as part of The Big Read). (I asked for ideas here for my Gatsby-themed gathering.) What was fun about it was that it was something we had all ready in high school, so we not only conversed (some) about the book, but it spurred a lot of conversation about how differently we read the book now and back then, what we remembered, when we liked it better (now or then), and what we were like in high school at the time we originally read it! It was really fun. If you went book club, you could consider reading a book like that, that EVERYONE reads in high school, or maybe a book your kids are reading for class (if they're old enough). Many (most?) book club discussions don't stick too close to the book for too long, so you don't have to worry too much about Running a Serious Discussion. Having the themed food/party was also super fun, if your book lends itself to that.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:24 PM on July 7, 2010

all READ in high school, sorry.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:26 PM on July 7, 2010

Cookie Swap: Everybody brings a dozen cookies and gets to try a dozen different cookies This usually works best if there are at least 12 people, if you want a more intimate party you could go for a half dozen. I went to one where there was 24 participants, so we brought three dozen. Two dozen to swap and one dozen to eat at the party.

The hostess usually provides beverages. Guests are also supposed to bring the recipe for other's to copy if they love the cookies. The hostess usually also provides pens and index cards for the copying. This also works as a Brownie Swap or just a general Dessert Swap.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:27 PM on July 7, 2010

could you find someone to teach a mini-class or give y'all a demonstration

You might arrange with the Red Cross to come and do a CPR demonstration/class.

Or think of lessons along the lines of the kids/perenting - a child psychologist to talk about the upcoming teen years, a How to Talk to Your Kids About _____ (sex, strangers, etc).
posted by CathyG at 8:56 PM on July 7, 2010

Best answer: Nthing swaps. I'd suggest an accessory swap rather than a clothing swap, to avoid the potential self-consciousness availablelight mentions. No matter how positive your body image is, it still sucks to be the one person who's three sizes larger or smaller than everyone else and thus unable to try anything on.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:14 AM on July 8, 2010

Rock Band night? You can rent a videogame system if you don't have one already.
posted by mikepop at 5:33 AM on July 8, 2010

Maybe plan it around the release of a movie on DVD that most moms wouldn't have had time to see when it was in theaters?

I've heard of neighborhood cooking groups, where a few folks get together and cook, and then each person takes home a meal, but that would require a bit more planning.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:04 AM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: As a professional henna artist here in Montreal, in the past I've been hired to provide henna body art services for women's parties. The hostess might provide some wine and cheese and usually everyone pitches in on the cost of the artist. They often socialize and discuss various things while they look through my book of patterns.

Usually the first few get something discreet on a wrist or ankle, but then they gradually get more comfortable (or daring) and I might end up doing a few lower back designs or a heart or flower on someone's décolleté. It's often somewhat of a bonding experience for them all -- and of course, not everyone has to get henna if they don't feel up to it.

Just be sure to get a reputable henna artist who uses only fresh natural henna paste, preferably that they make themselves. (No "black henna"!) I couldn't see your location, so I can't refer anybody to you; but feel free to contact me via PM and I'll try to help you out if this sounds like something you'd like to investigate further. (There's a link to my henna business & portfolio in my profile, in case you'd like to see examples of what henna body art can look like, although other henna artists might have different styles...)
posted by Jade Dragon at 8:13 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

how about a miracle fruit party? it'll be a new experience for pretty much anyone, is fun for teetotalers and drinkers alike, and the most structured part of the event only lasts for about half an hour (but gives people lots and lots to talk about.) you could have people bring sour or hot things that might be interesting to taste under the influence of the fruit.
posted by juliapangolin at 9:46 AM on July 8, 2010

Make jam! Shelf-worthy jam needs to be simmered for 10 mins after you fill and close the jars, but freezer jam can just be put in the fridge and used up over the next few weeks.

What you need:
- a big pot (I use a dutch ovenish sort of thing) and a potato masher
- a gallon of berries (strawberries are easy)
- about 6-7 cups of sugar
- a box of pectin
- juice of half a lemon
- optional: a vanilla bean, cut in half and sliced open with the tip of a paring knife
- A case of half-pint Ball jars and lids (I found mine on Amazon). You want the small jars so everyone can take some home.

Directions: Run the jars and lids through your dishwasher to sanitize them. Put stemmed/hulled berries, sugar, lemon juice, pectin and vanilla bean pieces in pot over med-hi heat and mash with potato masher until the berries are mostly broken up. LOTS of juice will appear. Skim off foam with a large spoon -- just dip and drop foam into a bowl next to the stove for a while til it disappears. Everyone can take turns doing this while chatting, it's no big deal but a little hot to man the stove by yourself the whole time. When things boil down enough to look a little jammy (half an hour or so), turn off the heat and scoop the jam into jars (a widemouth funnel helps -- I got this on Amazon, too), leaving about 1/2 inch headspace at the top. Screw on hot lids and bands and put into fridge for cold storage and quick use, or simmer them for 10 mins in an (already boiling) pot of hot water with either a rack or folded towel on the bottom. Boiling water should cover the jars by an inch. Remove and listen for the "ping" that tells you they're ready for regular shelves.

I've made this jam twice in 2 weeks and it's SO easy and good. I'd double the recipe, and it's easy to make while standing around chatting. Bonus points for rounding up your own strawberries for cheap at a local farm or someplace similar!
posted by mdiskin at 11:05 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't know how mixed your neighborhood is. If there are big differences in education or income levels, it could be that some moms would not have the confidence for an event around books or swapping items. Perhaps the craft idea works best, "bring your embroidery/mending/craft, or if you haven't something on the go please help me make cards for xxxxx project".
posted by Idcoytco at 4:14 PM on July 8, 2010

I like mdiskin's idea about making jam - or any food or craft item really. Soap making is fun (although lye is a little scary for my taste).

Maybe do kids' clothing swaps instead of adult? I think that would even things out a little bit in case there was concern about sizes and incomes. There are so many things that kids grow out of before they wear them out. Also I like the idea of an accessory swap.
posted by radioamy at 6:18 PM on July 8, 2010

Oh also you could do a toy swap along with kids clothing.
posted by radioamy at 6:18 PM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I ended up having a 'Swap 'til you Drop' party that focused on nearly-new fashion accessories and home decor items. Intended on handing out tickets from double ticket roll to guests as they arrived and then drawing other ticket for their turn to pick. Only 8 people showed up so we ended up doing a Yankee Swap to make it more hysterical (um, read awkward,) drawing from card deck for high card to go first. Who ever brought what got picked got to go next. Some people brought real crap, so that made the Yankee Swap part of it, um, funnier. Thanks for all of your great suggestions. Now I have lots of future events to plan.
posted by maloon at 11:59 AM on August 10, 2010

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