We Don't Like Playing With Our Kids: Here's Why

Jan 10, 2022

We are so excited to bring you another Stace + Steph episode today on a particularly hot topic: playing with our kids. The two of us discovered early on that we shared this shameful secret: we really, really don't like playing with our kids. But you know what? It felt a lot better to say it out loud, and we've heard from many of you as well letting us know that we aren't alone on this. We want to say a loud THANK YOU to our listeners and guests who have confessed that they, too, cringe when their kids want them to get down on the floor and play. We figured with so many of us out there who find imaginative play excruciating, there might be something there worth exploring on the Mother Plus Podcast. And that's exactly what we did for today's episode. 

What about playing makes us so uncomfortable?

We both agreed that while this was a source of guilt and embarrassment for us, it's a real relief to admit it and know that we aren't alone. But we were also curious about what exactly it is that we dislike so much about playing. We think there's one thing in particular that might factor in: when you’re drained, and in perpetual giving “mommy mode,” it’s hard to flip a switch into being playful. Kind of like it can be hard to flip a switch into "romantic mode" after a day of working, caregiving, or doing household chores, if you get our drift. 😉

We've been giving and giving all day, and now you want us to morph into a carefree and silly person? Easier said than done. Stacey shares that whenever she's playing with her kids, she's always thinking about the other things she could be doing or wishes she was doing instead-- sound familiar?

We also think that play feels like an obligation rather than something natural that feels good; when imaginative play isn't your jam, putting on a costume or making a doll talk can feel both cringeworthy and disingenuous.  

How to tap into play that feels good for both you AND your kids and ditch the guilt, too.

Step one: Remember that you are awesome at other things-- there are so many types of moms out there, and guilt is not going to suddenly make you love playing.We shouldn't be beating ourselves up or, or criticizing ourselves as being boring, unimaginative moms. It's natural to feel this way. 

We discussed the fact that usually, when we aren't having fun, our kids can tell. So for everyone's sake, it's a great solution to find another form of play that appeals to both you and the kids. To use another classic Mother + phrase, it's important to find what lights you up when playing with your kids.

What type of activities are actually fun for you, light you up, or make you feel rejuvenated (or at least doesn't feel oppressive!)?  Because frequently this is the reality:  Their version of play is not our version of play. 

 Stephanie shares: "The play that actually does light me up is when we are exploring something new together for the first time." Going places-- the zoo, a hike, a museum, sometimes even Target!--is way more appealing than playing on the floor. 

Stacey has found a useful tactic with her oldest daughter-- negotiation. As in, Mommy really doesn't love doing this; can I watch you do it or find something else we can do? She tells listeners, "When you negotiate with your children, at least to a certain age, I think they're able to understand, and then they come back with, okay, if you can't do that, can you do this?"

We both agree that we hated the idea of thinking of ourselves as someone who had lost that magic of childhood (you know, the Un-fun Mommy), and that we think creativity and play are super important to us as moms (shout out to our conversation with Kimberlyn last week!) But think: singing in the car, dancing in the kitchen, having an outdoor adventure, in lieu of the teddy bear tea party. 

We may not all have the same idea of fun when it comes to parenting, but we think this is a universal truth:

The best type of play, whether it's with our kids or with ourselves or with our friends, is the type of play that reminds us who we are. It makes us feel that inner spark, makes us feel that thing that lights us up. 

Why the Montessori method revolutionized our beliefs about play

Both Steph and Stace are serious fans of Montessori. Our girls even went to the same local Montessori school, and both of us explored this early childhood methodology when our kids were toddlers. One of the hallmarks is encouraging and teaching independence to your children. Not only does it give you permission NOT to play, it emphasizes the importance of teaching our kids NOT to rely on us for entertainment. Let that sink in! 

That is not your job. Your job is not to play. Their job is to play.

Stacey has adapted a beautiful daily routine during dinnertime prep; she's discovered how life-changing it is when we set boundaries that, at least during certain times of the day, Mommy is not available for playing. Tune in to our episode to learn more about how she developed this transformative practice, and why it's worth putting in the time to teach your kids that particular type of independence. 

The competitive culture of modern motherhood may be reinforcing this belief that we need to be our kids' playmates. Letting go of this is huge: remember, we are not and should not be everything to our kids. 

What it looks like on the “other side of play” as our kids get older:

Stephanie offers a glimpse of motherhood life from the other side of imaginative play. As the mom of 10- and 15-year-olds, she reassures listeners: When the “playing field” is leveled, it’s more fun, more genuine, and more natural. 

When your kids are older, you are operating closer to the same energetic vibration of play--you're feeding off of their energy, there is more give and take, and your idea of play usually has more overlap with theirs. 

Stephanie shares:

"We have literally leveled the playing field. And it's legitimately fun. Their jokes are legitimately funny. We laugh during movies. We watch TV shows together. We have fun and it doesn't feel like hard work."

You'll get there, mother plussers of little ones! In the meantime, give yourself a break and let yourself off the hook. Whether you love playing or hate playing, be proud of the things that you're great at, stop beating yourself up, and remember: nobody ever intended for you to be the one and only for your kids.

Mother Plusser Takeaways: 

  1. It's hard to shift gears from "mom duty" to feeling playful: give yourself a break!
  2. Try to find some common ground with play that lights you up and well as makes your kids happy. 
  3. Experiment with teaching your kids more independence around play-- boundaries are good for everyone!
  4. You won't always be at this stage of life: embrace who you are as a mom and lose the guilt!

Check out the full episode here

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