Childrearing

You Don’t Have To Play With Your Kids To Be A Good Mom

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mom-playing-with-babyI don’t play with my kids very often. We have our moments, of course, but the majority of their days are spent doing things independently. I work from home and have a lot going on. It would be impossible for me to spend significant portions of my day on the floor playing blocks or baby dolls, and even if I had more time that’s probably not how I would choose to spend it. I don’t believe children need parent-guided play most hours of the day and I don’t feel guilty about that.

I’m thinking about this because I read a post on Babble recently by a mom who says her commitment to playing with her children was literally destroying her house. Like, she wasn’t cleaning or doing anything during the day because she felt guilty taking that time away from her children. The chaos was beginning to affect not only her house, but also her marriage as she grew more and more resentful about all the tasks that were going undone.

I think a lot of parents struggle with the idea that children need constant engagement and involvement. In fact, I know they do because things like Pinterest exist for parents to inform themselves of new ways to occupy every waking moment of their child’s day. Children must never be bored, parents must never be too busy, and everything about childhood must be wondrous and magical and filled with activities!

We live in a world where time is a status symbol. If you have time to cook all your meals from scratch from food you’ve grown in your own yard and then sit your children down in handmade clothing to play a game you made yourself from cutesy craft supplies, you are a good person. If you can’t do these things, well, then you should at least aspire to them because these things are what good people with happy lives do.

I disagree.

I had a great childhood full of magic and joy. I always knew that I was loved and cared for, I always felt special, and I recall the idyllic sense of innocence and wonder we all hope our kids will have, yet I can’t remember one time my mom and I sat down to do a craft together or that she played on the playground with me. My mom was a single parent with three kids. Most nights she worked late to make ends meet while I made dinner for my siblings and made sure everyone got homework done. Sometimes we played board games together on Friday nights, but she wasn’t my playmate and constant companion. She was my mother.

If you have time to do everything for and with your kids, I think that’s lovely. I would never fault someone spending time with their kids. Rather, I’m writing this for the people who worry that they’re taking something from their children if they have to step away from them to take on other responsibilities; the ones who feel busy, guilty, exhausted, and frazzled.

I occasionally do a craft or bake a special treat with my kids. Sometimes when I finish work early I’ll sit down and build Lego houses or go outside to kick the soccer ball around. I make sure we eat dinner together, and my husband and I take turns reading them bedtime stories at night, but I don’t play with my kids. Not all the time. I offer them quality time when I can, and I don’t feel guilty about the quantity.

(Photo: Shutterstock)