I don't play with my kids, here's why...
Today, on Instagram, I opened up in my Instastories about how I don't enjoy sitting down on the floor to play with my kids. Instantly, I was mom shamed via messages. One mother told me how sad it was that parents don't play with their kids, another told me I should get off my phone & play with them and the last few all put it out there that I was a bad mother for not wanting too. Maybe this was just my take, from their words - what they meant or not - why do mothers do this? Why do they need to put others down for their choices? Our mom shaming culture is out of control.
Not only that - why are we obligated to love playing with our kids? I am not a perfect parent. I make mistakes. I feed my kids french fries & cheeseburgers twice a week sometimes. I know that I am not alone with the thought that sitting down to play make believe - be it with trains, cars, lego or dolls, is not for everyone. But the looming judgement from others often has us keeping thoughts to ourselves. I learned this over the years with my honesty about gender disappointment. I am lucky that my husband enjoys playing - but I do not. And that is okay. I don't need to love every bit of mothering. Playing should be a joy for all, not a duty. If you aren't enjoying yourself - you aren't really playing and that isn't fair to your kids. Interacting with your children shouldn't feel like a chore and un-enjoyable. So instead, I do other things with them. As I sit and type this, the same toddler I was playing with this morning is still playing with the Lego house I made him. He is still enjoying the 10 minutes I spent on the floor with him and I am still encouraging play and interacting as he asks me what kind of sword his pirate should use next. Doing activities we all enjoy has strengthened our relationships more than forced play ever will. I am willing and able to focus solely on them - instead of looming thoughts of "how do I get out of here" - (today was "mom needs to make a coffee").
Instead of playing lego - I take them on walks. I set up colouring or play dough stations and encourage creativity. Instead of shooting each other in nerf gun wars (though I will admit this is one of my favourite kinds of play when I get into it) - I bake with them. I teach them how to make delicious treats and foods we can enjoy together over conversation. Instead of racing around the train track - I take them in the yard and chase them with the hose or toss balls around on the trampoline. Instead of pretending I am a horse that needs riding - I take them swimming, apple picking, or read a book at the library.
While I recognize the need and value in imaginary play - I also recognize the need for independence and allowing my children to foster their own creativity that does not involve an adult always. My children all attend school or pre-school and we regularly attend play dates and play groups so they can foster that play and imagination when mama just is not into it - with other kids who are just as excited to play lego's as them. And, fortunately, they know when dad gets home it's game on! He is the funnest dad around and I am so thankful he hasn't lost his inner child.
So what do I do, when they ask me to play? If I am feeling up to it - I play for short spurts. I direct them to something that I may enjoy instead (baking, going for a walk etc). I give them options - "Mom doesn't want to build a hot wheels track right now but I would like to play play dough with you". In no way shape or form do I just walk away from my child. When a child asks to play, they want that connection, attention and interaction. Brushing it off, is also not okay to me.
Having fun together should involve having fun together not just the child having fun. That is where true relationships, connections and growth happen with our children.
Kayla is a mom to three sons, wife, and doula. She works within the Shuswap/Okanagan Region providing mothers and their families with a whealth of knowledge and support in all things fertility, pregnancy, birth and beyond.