Not too long ago, my son walked up to me looking super cute with a giant smile plastered on his face and I thought to myself, “Man, I’d do anything to keep that smile there forever!” Then he asked me the dreaded question, “Mom, will you play with me?” and I wasn’t so sure I’d do anything for that smile anymore.
I didn’t like playing. I didn’t want to sit on the floor and roll cars around a pretend town. I had a giant to-do list nagging at me, and the thought of doing dishes actually sounded more entertaining than trying to keep up with all the different rules my son would inevitably come up with on the spot while we played.
As soon as those thoughts entered my mind, the mom guilt hit full force. Wow, you’re a horrible mom. You’d really rather do dishes than play with your kid?
I tried to enjoy sitting down and playing with my kid–I really did–but every time I did, it only took a few moments before I wanted to scream and the anxiety of the situation would eat away at me. I’d look at pictures of moms on Instagram playing with their kids and think, “How do they actually enjoy that? Or are they just faking it?” And worse, “How in the world can I call myself a good mom when I don’t enjoy playing with my kids?”
Moment of Truth
But then I realized something important: I DO like playing with my kids. I love it, in fact. But I don’t like playing everything. I was looking at the activities I thought I was supposed to be doing with my kids and forcing myself to do them, all while failing to recognize all the times I was playing with my kids and enjoying it.
You see, for the most part, I don’t like crafting with my kids. It’s messy and gives me anxiety. I mean, I don’t even like crafting myself, so I’m not sure why I thought kid crafts would be any different. I don’t like imaginative play where there aren’t rules and structure and I feel like I have to follow what’s going on inside my kid’s head when I’m not actually in there. You know, house or superheroes or going to the moon. And I don’t like Legos or video games.
But I absolutely love tickle fights with my kids. In fact, tickle fights are one of my favorite things in the whole entire world. Nothing can pick-up my mood quicker than grabbing one of my kids, ticking them, and hearing that sweet giggle escape. Is there a better sound than toddler giggles? (Answer: Nope. Definitely not!).
I love having lunch time dance parties in the kitchen. I love playing board or card games. I love puzzles. I love talking with my kids. I love laughing and telling jokes. I love playing chase and hide and seek. I love planning learning or themed activities to do with them. I love indoor picnics. And when my daughter asks for, “One more book, please?” (after we’ve already read 10), I can never say no.
I spent SO MUCH TIME feeling guilty for not enjoying playing with my kids, when in reality, I just didn’t love playing some things with my kids. And guess what, Mamas? If you’re in the same boat as me, I want you to know something important: it’s okay if you don’t like doing everything your kid asks you to do with them. In fact, it’s more than okay!
In life, we all have different likes, preferences, and hobbies, so why would parenting be any different?
Now I’m not saying I don’t ever do crafts with my kids or play superheroes or video games or Legos. I definitely do! A huge part of parenting is sacrifice, and if it makes my kids happy, then that’s reason enough to do it.
But I have noticed that the best moments come from activities we all enjoy doing together.
So now it’s your turn to figure out what you honestly like to do with your kids. I want you to grab a notebook and go somewhere quiet. I know quiet is hard to find, but try your best. Maybe during naptime or after the kids go to bed. Or tell your husband you need 10-15 minutes of thinking time when he gets home.
Take your notebook and get cozy. Think back on the past week. Were there any times you were with your kids that you lost track of time? What were you doing? Jot those things down. While playing, if you find yourself checking your phone every 4.3 seconds, you’re probably not enjoying yourself very much. But if you lose track of an hour, that’s something to remember!
Now we’re gonna go back a bit. What did you like to do as a kid? Dig deep. There’s a good chance you’ll still like doing those things today.
What about now? What are your hobbies? Can you get your kids involved?
Is there anything else fun that you can think of that maybe you haven’t tried yet?
Finally, take a few minutes and jot down each kid’s top 5-10 things to do. Did any of those things show up on your lists? Are there any that you enjoy? Those are things you should spend the bulk of your together time doing. If they love it and you love it, you’ll both have more fun and it will have a greater impact on your relationship.
Playing is Fun!
I bet if you really think about it, you actually like playing a whole lot more than you thought you did. And you’re probably doing it more than you think, too.
So stop feeling guilty. Stop shaming yourself. It doesn’t help your kids, and it definitely doesn’t help you. Now get playing!Stop feeling guilty. Stop shaming yourself. It doesn't help your kids, and it definitely doesn't help you. Click To Tweet
What’s your favorite thing to play with your kids?