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Mommy Doesn't Want To Play

Photograph by Twenty20

I know it is wildly unpopular to admit, but I don't like playing with my children.

Now before you dismiss me as a terrible mother, let me clarify. It's not that I don't like to spend time with my children, I love spending time with my kids. We craft and bake and go for walks. I happily read stories for hours and talk about any subject under the sun. But when it comes to playing, I just can't get into it. I quickly lose my focus when I'm supposed to be chasing bad guys. I'm ready to move on after just one block tower. I pray for the bon bon card to be pulled in Candy Land. And participating in playground play is most definitely not my jam.

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I used to be really hard on myself about my particular proclivity to watch the clock while playing. Play is by definition supposed to be fun. Why was I such a stick in the mud? What kind of mother tries to fold laundry in the middle of hide and seek? But then I realized that feeling guilty about it wasn't going to help anyone. And forcing enjoyment simply doesn't work. This is not to say that I stopped playing with my children, I just stopped trying to make it a magical mothering experience.

Play is extremely important for children's development, but it doesn't require an adult's participation to be beneficial.

I accepted playtime for what it is, enlisted help, and set a few limits. A tedious task is not improved by feeling guilty that you find it tedious. Laughing at my own impatience with Lego building helped me quite a bit. I also discovered that my husband enjoys, and is much better at, imaginative play so he officially became the bad guy getter. I decided that I don't have to be a part of every playtime. Play is extremely important for children's development, but it doesn't require an adult's participation to be beneficial. I gave up being cruise director and everyone is happier for it.

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If you find yourself checking your phone during playtime, please know that you are not alone. I wanted to love it so much, but it just isn't my favorite part of motherhood. As moms we find so many things to beat ourselves up about, but nobody wants a begrudging, guilt-ridden playmate. And perhaps that's it right there, mothers wear so many hats, maybe the playmate one is just the wrong size for some of us. Let's stop forcing joy where we can't find it and free ourselves up to savor all the things we do enjoy.

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