By Katie M, Triad Smarty Pants
I will never forget the words one mom said to me when my first born was just six months old. She told me she was “too busy to play with her kids.” At the time she was a stay-at-home mom and her children were in elementary school full-time. She did not have any work or volunteer obligations. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure she also had a hired maid, a husband who helped with dinner preparations and a laundry list of babysitters she used non-stop. All that, but she was still too busy, she said.
As a new mom, those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember being so angry and thinking (and later wished I had said), “Why did you even bother to have children?” Who knows – maybe she was exaggerating or didn’t realize what she was saying. Regardless, those words from her still haunt me. And after six years of being a mom, I am still trying to put those words into perspective.
So now my children are ages six and three. I have one in elementary school full-time, and one in preschool several days a week. I think I’m pretty busy. Besides this little thing called Triad Smarty Pants, I also work on occasional freelance jobs. I clean my house, do the laundry, prepare dinner most nights of the week, manage the grocery runs, care for my kids, blah, blah, blah.
I know, I know. You all do this too – plus a lot more! I’m not saying my situation is unique at all. We are all busy moms – whether we work or not. I get that. But despite the 8 to 13 waking hours I have with my children every day, I still worry I am not playing with them enough.
Being a mom and a wife is my first job (everything else comes second). And so lots of times that means I need to empty the dishwasher instead of color or paint. Or, vacuum the house instead of play in the yard. Or, change the laundry or start dinner – instead of play another round of I Spy.
I know it’s important to stay on top of all those things around the house, but I also know it’s equally important to live in the moment and not sweat the other stuff. The house will get clean, we’ll find something to eat for dinner (even if it’s just grilled cheese sandwiches), and chances are good we have a few clean outfits left at the back of our closets.
Added to this mommy guilt is the constant plea from my kids, “Play with me, play with me, play with me.” It makes me feel as if I never do, even though I know that’s not true.
Yet as much as I want to spend more hours playing, I also get easily burnt out. So, on the opposite spectrum, I have a confession to make. In the words of Rachel’s four-year-old daughter, “I would rather stick pins in my eyeballs” then dress up Barbie for hours on end or search for earthworms and spiders. I’m all about getting down and dirty with the kids, but I’m also all for fostering independent play. I mean, really – there is a reason we bought this house with a dedicated playroom and fenced-in backyard, right? 🙂
So when I’ve had enough of play and pretend, I go back to the same daily chores of cleaning, laundry and cooking while they continue to play (or not)…and then the predictable pleas of “play with me” continue…along with the unending cycle of mommy guilt..and it goes on, and on, and on…
As I go back and forth on this topic – and strive every day to NOT be the mom who says “I’m too busy to play with my kids” – I wonder if you all share this same struggle? Do you worry you aren’t playing with your kids enough? And as much as you want to play more, do you admit you get easily burnt out too? Where is the happy balance for you?