Do you really need to play with your kids? I’ve seen this topic pop up a bit more lately, and it’s something I’ve struggled with myself. The controversy surrounding what “type” of mom you are or should be is overwhelming, to say the least. Playing with your kids is one of the ways that these critics seem to measure whether or not you are a good mom.
After about a year of trying to be whatever kind of mom society thought I should be, I finally decided that I didn’t want to fit their mold. I want to be whatever kind of mom suits my family and suits me! Please keep in mind throughout this post that I acknowledge that you may have a different view and a different parenting style and I am in complete support of that!
Do You Really Need to Play With Your Kids?
Different Cultures, Different Times
Playing with your kids is a relatively new concept in the U.S. and is still uncommon in many other parts of the world. In other cultures, and previously in ours, children always played with the other children around them, leaving parents to take care of the adult tasks they needed to maintain. Children didn’t feel the need to play with the adults, because kids were more fun to play with anyway!
Unfortunately, the opportunity for kids to play with other kids has become harder to come by in our culture due to a variety of factors. This leaves kids surrounded primarily by adults, aside from any siblings they may have. This has led to a great deal of guilt for parents like you, which is often remedied by setting aside time to play with your kids.
While there is reason to believe that taking time to play with your kids can further their development and strengthen your bond, the part that rubs me the wrong way is the guilt and the obligation to do so. In my opinion, when you play with your kids it shouldn’t be something scheduled as part of a daily play-time requirement, but rather something that happens naturally.
The reason this topic has hit a nerve for me recently is due to some lifestyle changes we have had at home. I am a stay at home mom, and my husband works full-time. When we began this lifestyle, I was on top of everything. The house was immaculate, my son had a perfect routine, and I catered to my family’s every need. I decided to start blogging for fun only to discover that it was a true passion of mine. When I started taking some time for myself (something I urge all moms to do), I wasn’t as diligent with the housework, my son’s perfect routine was less structured, and my husband didn’t necessarily get everything handed to him all the time. This change wasn’t a big deal. I was still maintaining our home and caring for our family, I just wasn’t making everything perfect.
Mommy Needs to Work
The real struggle came when we decided that, financially, I needed to start bringing in a second income. We still agreed that I should stay home, as we don’t want to put our son in daycare if we don’t have to. So I had to find a way to make money from home. Here’s the thing about that…
You can make money from home in one of two general ways. You can generate income by working for a company from home or you can become an entrepreneur. Finding legitimate work from home companies is a nightmare, and many of them are not only extremely unfulfilling but often pay very little. I decided to go the entrepreneur route.
Working hard to simply BE at home
As exciting as entrepreneurship is, it’s also extremely time-consuming. You essentially have to make something out of nothing. It takes time and dedication and, when you have a little one running around, it’s about a thousand times harder to get anything done.
I am finally at a point where I can see a future as an entrepreneur. I manage two websites with blogs and social media accounts for each, run a Pinterest Management service from home, and work a “real job” for a VA company on the side. Oh, and I take the occasional graphic design odd job here and there.
I have to work hard if I want to succeed in this business. The alternative is to go to an in-office job and have our son spend the majority of the week away from mommy and daddy. It’s just the reality of the situation and I can’t let guilt get in the way.
Dropping the Guilt
After months of spinning my wheels and trying to balance keeping my toddler happy with running a business from home, I finally accepted that I was just going to have to play on his own. And you know what, he loves it! I’m right there if he needs me. I give him hugs and kisses when he comes over to see me. I’ll even stop and play for a couple of minutes at a time, but overall, he plays by himself for the majority of the day.
Here’s what I discovered…he’s learning. He’s trying new things without me guiding him. He’s picking up on words from kids shows that I put on for him. All on his own, he’s trying to master tasks that I normally do for him. I’m not showing him how to do these things and yet he’s still developing at the rate he should be.
Is Independent Play Beneficial?
When I looked into this more. I found tons of information on independent play and how wonderful it is for kids. Just look at this excerpt from this article about independent play from parents.com.
Personally, as an only child, I played by myself a lot when I was a kid. Sure, when I went to see my grandparents or went to my friends’ houses, I played socially, but I definitely had a lot of independent play time during the week. It wasn’t because my parents never played with me, they absolutely did! But they also worked a lot to pay for the things we needed and when they got home, they were tired! As I grew up, I understood this, I appreciated it, and I didn’t feel neglected. They always took care of me and gave me the attention I truly needed. Oh, and as far as development – I was a straight-A student for most of my elementary and high school years, received a full-ride scholarship, and have always been an extremely driven and creative person. Clearly, independent play didn’t hurt anything for me and it’s possible that it helped!
Where to Start
If you’re struggling to get your day-to-day tasks done in fear of not playing with your little one(s) at their every beck and call, I highly recommend trying out independent play. That’s not to say you shouldn’t set aside time to play with your kids when you can (for me it’s evenings and weekends more than anything). Mommas need time to focus on themselves, work, and get things done! Here are some helpful tips to get you started.
If your little one is used to mommy playing all the time, or whenever they demand it, there will be a bit of a transition period before independent play becomes routine. Introduce the concept slowly. Find a toy that captivates their attention enough for you to walk away (assuming they are in a safe space) for a moment without your child being bothered by your absence. Slowly increase the time you are away, ensuring that they begin to realize that mommy will always come back.
Try Out Independent Activities
Look for activities that don’t require interaction from others to be fun. One example of this is things they can build with, like Legos. Not only is this a great way for them to explore their creativity, but it often keeps them distracted for a longer period of time.
Another fun task that my son loves, is coloring. It’s another creative activity that really doesn’t benefit from my interaction with him. Of course, I have to keep an eye on him pretty closely or else he’ll be pooping out a blue crayon, but at least they’re non-toxic just in case!
Depending on the age of your child, they may also enjoy more complicated activities like a maze or a word search. Your kids can gain fine motor skills while coloring in this spring-themed maze! Check out more of Education.com’s fun resources for young children here.
Stick to a Routine
If you are able to, stick to a predictable routine. When kids know what to expect, they tend to handle the situation better. For example, my son knows that after breakfast, it’s independent play time. It wasn’t always this way, I had to slowly transition him into this process. But now, after breakfast, he can’t wait to get to his toys. Sometimes I even have to beg him for a kiss before he runs off to play without me!
Related Post: 10 Ways to be an Organized Stay at Home Mom
Accept the Off-Days
There will be days when independent play just won’t work out the way you want it to. If your little one isn’t feeling well or is teething, they may just need more love from momma. Whenever these days come up, I just accept them for what they are and decide to spend more time with my little guy. Granted, there are times when this is hard as a work at home mom. It may mean that I have to do more work after he goes to bed. Even if I absolutely have to work a bit while he is begging for my attention, I’ll try to get the top priorities done and then let the rest slide for the day.
You Do You
What it all comes down to is you and your family. If you have a highly sensitive child, this process will be different for you. Or perhaps you don’t have any commitments other than momming, then, by all means, play with your kids! Although, I do still recommend you make some time for yourself here and there.
As a mom, you know what’s best for you and your family. The important thing to remember here is that you shouldn’t let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong. Go with what feels right to you and go from there.
Looking for ways to fit in guilt-free mom time ideas? Check out: 7 Ways to Treat Yourself Without Feeling Mom Guilt
Do you set aside time to play with your kids as part of a daily routine? Let me know what works for you and your family in the comments below!