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?
Wow, this one hits home for me. I often feel guilty that I do not play with my children enough. Sometimes a day goes by and I think, I was around them all day but did I really "play" with them. One tip of advice that really helped me was focusing on things that I like to do. A friend of mine once asked a pediatrician, "What books should I be reading to my children?" He responded, read and buy the books that YOU like as well because you'll be reading them over and over again and it goes a long way when you actually enjoy them yourself. I try to carry this over to other activities as well. I love play doh, sidewalk chalk, coloring and having my kids help me make dinner and fold laundry (kills two birds with one stone)! Of course, I do a lot of things they like too but this strategy has really really helped me!
I have noticed that I really like to WATCH my kids play more than I like to play with them. I know it sounds horrible, but I love to just sit on the porch and watch them on the swingset, or running around the yard. I think it is a nice time to sit back and enjoy them while they are young. Once in a while I'll jump in there and play, too!
great post! I often get to caught up in getting my to-do list done to play. Thanks for the reminder!
Most moms actually have full-time jobs and only get a couple of waking hours with their children each day, and those hours are spent eating dinner, taking baths, getting dressed, etc. This essay is truly the lament of the leisurely upper-class.
Are you kidding me – the lament of the leisurely upperclass! I am not that and I totally identify with this article. I don't have a maid, yard service and very rarely do I even have a babysitter. I am the mom and I do all those things. Because I am doing all those things, my kids play often without me. It is something I worry about and we all have to make choices that we can be comfortable with. I try to use free time to my best advantage to spend that time with my kids. I am not sure why you would think this is an issue with the upperclass and please do not make this about working vs stay home moms. I would think this is even more relevant to working moms considering the fact that they have less time throughout the day with their kids.
I totally identify with this article and the reason I am NOT upper class is BECAUSE I stay home. We have given up a lot for me to stay home and I am so happy to be in our tiny house with old cars, no maids, etc. Just because someone stays home doesn't mean they don't have the same struggles as someone who works.
I can totally relate to this post. I just try to be fully "present" when I am playing with my little one. And, she thinks its fun to help me with chores, so that counts as quality time too! : )
Do we spend more or less time with our kids these days? The answer might surprise you.http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/are-you-spending-enough-time-with-your-kids-funny-i-should-ask/
I work full time and have the same question – do I play with my son and daughter enough? I'm trying to be a better worker bee so I can be home at a decent hour (beign a lawyer has perks and downsides) so I can do more then feed them and put them to bed. However, at the end of the day I still wish I didn't have to make dinner or clean up the house in the afternoons when I get home. I'm jealous of my husband, who comes home between 6:00 and 6:15 and plays with the kids while I make dinner. Someone has to make dinner, and since I'm the first one home it makes sense that it be me if we're going to eat as a family. It doesn't help that my son has been going through a Daddy-only phase for the last 2 years, so if Daddy's around, I'm not "allowed" to play with him. At the end of the day, I know that I'm trying very hard to spend as much quality time with my kids as possible, and hope that they don't think I'm not doing enough.
I kind of take the John Rosemond stance (with a grain or 2 of salt) on this. I think kids should learn to play by themselves while we set an example of how adults go about their business of chores, work,etc. I am a Realtor, so I am home with my daughter but often pulled away with work in my office. I think partly because of this, she has learned to entertain herself and keep herself occupied and has a great imagination. She does not rely on me to entertain her, but I certainly do jump in every once in a while. But I do want her to see that mommy has to make the bed or cook for Daddy or work. I feel like as parents we are not really here to play with them all the time (sometimes yes of course!) It drives me insane that my husband comes home and wants to play and be her buddy and he wonders why she has no respect for him or wont let him do parenting duties like bath, bedtime, potty, etc. I know he doesnt get to see her all day and wants to spend some fun time with her and not be a disciplinarian, but she sees him as more of a buddy than a parent. Same with my in-laws- they act like playmates and they let her be in charge- she has playmates her own age! Be an example of a grown-up please! I'm not a totalitarian- yes, sure play with her some, but my fondest memories of my grandparents and my parents was observing and trying to emulate their tasks and talents and interests, not them taking up playing with Barbies- they usually did it wrong anyway 😉 Just my 2 cents.
I actually was just thinking about this. My daughter goes to bed at 7 and when I am home I am busy cooking and feeding her and then getting ready for bed. What can you do to play with your 13 month old anyways? All she wants to do is get into things. Forget about reading to her she will not sit still!
I'm so glad you wrote this, because I feel this way often. I work 4 days a week, and on those days I pick the kids up from daycare, race home, make dinner, do baths, and get them to bed, so there's hardly any play time. On my days home, my to-do list seems never ending with cleaning, laundry, errands, etc. I have come to terms with the fact that I simply can't play with my boys all day long (and after the 19th round of hide-n-seek I'd be going crazy anyway!!), but I do try to make sure that when I am playing with them, I'm totally present, not multi-tasking, and doing something we all enjoy. I guess we are all just doing the best we can… and I'm sure that's good enough for our kids!! 🙂 Thanks for the post, so glad to know I'm not alone!
In a sense I feel like I am on the opposite end of this. I work 4 days a week, so I have a decent amount of time to spend and play with my almost 3 year old daughter, though I would be thrilled if I had the option of being a stay at home mom, that is not an option as I am a single parent. Sometimes when I am home I just want some time to concentrate on myself, so I am trying to get my daughter to learn to play by herself. However, the minute I try to do something leasurley for myself, or even try to clean, my daughter continuously says "mommy, play with me." Even if I try to tell her, "sometimes you can play by yourself," she'll repeat herself in just a few minutes. I love that she wants me involved, of course, but I don't like feeling guilty whenenver I want to take some time out of a day off work to myself. I suppose eventually she'll grow in to playing by herself some/most of the time, so I shouldn't worry too much. Everything takes time, not to mention she has no siblings. Playdates with my friends and their children are good for both of us. She will play with kids her age, and I can chat with gorwn ups! 😛 It's always good to know that others share your woes. Makes the world seem not so small 🙂
I think guilt is an inherent part of motherhood. It can be very detrimental because we can often feel like no matter what we do, it is not enough. I started staying home with my kids after the birth of my second child. When I was with my kids I would worry about all the things I wasn't getting done around the house and when I was getting things done around the house, I would worry that I wasn't being a good mother to my kids. Well after months of torturing myself, I decided that I make my choices each day and I need to be okay with it. I don't feel guilty about cleaning my house when I've been sure to spend quality time with my kids. Every day we take a walk, this is so great because we all get out of the house and just get to focus on each other, or we go to the park and I dig in the dirt and push them on the swings and just immerse myself in what is happening with my kids. I also am sure to tell the kids that "mommy needs to spend some time doing things around the house, but when I'm done we can go do ….." and it assures them that they have not been forgotten.