The older my daughter gets, the more I feel obligated to entertain her all the time. She’s at that perfect play age – where her imagination runs wild and she still wants her parents to pick an action figure and jump in the game. But after a little reflection and perspective from some of our dear readers, I’ve realized this push constantly engage with our children is causing plenty of moms more guilt than they need. And it’s not doing the kids any favors either.
Yesterday, I admitted that I hate playing in the snow. (It’s blasphemous, I know.) Even worse, I feel super guilty when my daughter wants to drag my out in 20 degree weather to build snowmen and ice forts and I’m not into it. One of our astute commenters, Anne Cordelia, noted “this modern trend where mothers are expected to play, play, play with their children all the time.”
Immediately, I admitted that I really do feel guilty whenever I expect my daughter to play my herself for long periods of time. I associated my guilt with feeling sorry that my little girl doesn’t have a sibling to play with. We’ve been trying to have a second child for years now. The fact that my daughter prays for a brother or sister weighs pretty heavily on my heart.
However, I wasn’t the only one who felt bad for leaving their children to their own devices. Another great commenter, LiteBrite, jumped in with her own perspective.
I too feel guilty when I’m not constantly interacting with my son. For me it’s less to do with wanting siblings for him and more to do with the guilt of me working all day and feeling like when I come home I should be spending time with HIM, even though like you I’ve got things to do.
While talking about this growing guilt we were feeling surrounding play time with our kids, a friend of a friend put in her two cents. For her, the guilt was centered around being a single working mom. She felt like she needed to constantly have fun and exciting evenings planned for her child, so that they weren’t missing out, even though they only had one parent. Her single mom guilt contributed to constant engagement whenever she had time with her child.
Three separate moms, three separate justifications, all the same mom guilt. And it all resulted in us over-compensating, wanting to spend all of our time engaged with our children. We’ve been told over and over again that kids do better when parents play with them, talk with them, expose them to new and exciting activities. We’re spending so much time focusing on those admirable goals, we’re not giving our kids a chance to play by themselves.