When I had our first baby, I was enthralled with motherhood. I could sit and stare for days at my newborn, relishing the hours with her in stay-at-home-mommy bliss. When she began to coo, crawl, and toddle I wanted nothing more than to be with her on the floor, making faces, playing with toys or reading.
But then we had another baby. And another.
Over time, motherhood kinda lost its luster. Whether from the tantrums, sibling rivalry, or the never-ending to do list of laundry, dishes, and meals to cook and recook for picky eaters, I fell out of love with my job as stay-at-home slave mom. I no longer had the time, and admittedly, the desire to play with my kids.
It became habit to say “no,” “not now,” or “maybe later” to every request to play Go Fish, hide-and-go-seek, read a book, or do a craft together. I had every excuse in the book not to be present with my kids. Do any of them sound familiar to you?
- “I’m tired”
- Distraction of social media and TV
- Volunteering and/or “work-from-home” income
- Adult conversation
- “Me time”
Motherhood can be one of life’s greatest joys, but it’s hard work, too. It’s frustrating, exhausting, and takes a lot of willpower to forgo other “adult” responsibilities and daily play with our kids. It also flies by.
One day these little ones are going to be teenagers or young adults and want nothing to do with their mom. Soon after, they will be gone; and when we look back what will we see? That we were able to keep a clean home? Maintain our twenty-five-year-old figure? Or that we watched every episode of every season of every show on Netflix? Do any of those things matter more than relationships with our kids? How do we maximize the time we have with them now, fight the excuses, and stay present with them on a daily basis?
Please don’t get me wrong; I am not promoting the complete loss of self, and none of these excuses are inherently wrong. In fact, I believe that we are better parents, spouses, friends, and PEOPLE when we are rested, fulfilled, and have an ordered home. Having nothing for yourself does not make you a better parent, and no one can be “on” 24/7/365 and still maintain sanity.
There has to be a balance between selfishness and complete self-sacrifice. Here are the ways I combat my excuses not to play with my kids, making sure I have quality time for them AND myself:
Our bodies and minds NEED adequate rest. Make sure you are getting the sleep you need at night, or taking daytime naps to fill in the gaps.
Binge-watching Netflix is enticing, but it’s not exactly healthy. It keeps us from getting sleep at night, and distracts us during the day. Besides, in fifty years will you REALLY care about the Gilmores or Bravermans?
Inclusion and Family Fun Nights
Your kids want to participate, so share your life with them! Teach them to cook and include them in housework, eat dinner together while taking turns talking about your day, watch appropriate programs together as a family, find a fun book series to read through, or start a weekly game night!
After Bedtime or During School Hours
Children crave our attention, so if you volunteer or work from home, try to put those hours in when they are at school, or after they’re in bed.
Girls Nights Out and Date Night
Make it a priority to spend quality time with your friends and with just your spouse at least once a month. No kids, no interruptions. It will do you a world of good!
Date your kids, individually, too. Put aside everything else, and give them your full attention. It will bring them so much joy!
“Smile Therapy” and Changing Your “Want To”
We all get in a funk sometimes, and it can be hard to snap out of. When this happens, put on your cheesiest smile, ask your higher power to change your “want to,” and you know what? After a few minutes, that forced smile and attitude change can actually put you in a better mood! Seriously, try it!