I've had a confession in my head for quite a while now, and even this article half-written in my "drafts" box for over a year. But, I have yet to come out and express the way I feel about this topic, even though I know for a fact that I'm not alone. Probably because of the ever-looming guilt that comes along with being a mom and the inevitable judgement from others. But, I've decided to just come out and say it...
I don't play with my children because... I don't enjoy it.
*GASPS* (that's what I think I can hear in my head from other parents reading this).
Do you think this makes me a bad parent?
Should I do it anyway?
I used to think so.
I used to get down on the ground and play Barbies, and crawl around like a horse, handing out free-rides until my knees seized, and pretend to be a baby while getting plastic food shoved in my mouth. But, I don't do that any more.
I was at a mom and tot play-group one day when I flat out said to a group of moms,
"I don't like playing with my kids. I don't enjoy forcing imaginary-play, but I do it any way because I feel that's what good parents do."
And then to my surprise, ALL of the moms agreed. Every. Single. One. And it got me thinking - why do we do it then? Interacting with our children shouldn't feel like a chore and it shouldn't be un-enjoyable.
So I stopped playing with my kids, and instead, started doing things that we both enjoy.
When I'm playing with my kids, or doing anything that I don't enjoy for that matter, my mind wanders (mainly about what I'm going to make for dinner, or the clothes that need to be switched over to the dryer) and I start planning my escape-route and thinking, "okay, 5 more minutes of this should satisfy them and make me feel like a quality parent."
Conversely, doing activities that we both enjoy has strengthened our bond and made me a more present parent. I no longer plan my escape route, but instead, focus on the time we're spending together when we're doing activities that are mutually enjoyable.
Instead of playing hide n' go seek and building lego, I set up paints, take them on hikes, read, collect shells on the beach, and teach them how to garden, cook and paint - all things that I enjoy, too! I've accepted my role as activity setter-upper, play-dough-maker and teacher - not best buddy.
Although I don't personally take on the role as my kid's bestie anymore, I recognise the value in imaginary play, and arrange regular play dates with other kids and attend Mom & Tot play groups whenever I get the chance.
Fortunately for me, too - even if we don't leave the house that day, my kids know that fun awaits when crazy-daddy comes home from work. My husband is a 10/10 in the play-department. He sincerely enjoys it, too - I guess some of us are just that lucky not to lose our inner child.