Jan 31, 2011

Playtime - fun or a chore? Discuss.

I first came across Mia Freedman's comments about how she doesn't really enjoy playing games with her children in her book, Mamamia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines and Motherhood.

Today she expanded on these thoughts in her weekly newspaper column which she also publishes on her website http://www.mamamia.com.au/.

As always, the column was entertaining, honest, a bit shocking and at the same time you recognise the truth in it and feel a bit better about your own mixed-up feelings on the same thing.

I like playing with my kids - sometimes. Sometimes it's a chore, or while I'm doing it my mind is thinking of other things I need to do next. Sometimes it's genuinely inconvenient or not possible, such as when I'm cooking dinner or we need to get them out the door. Like any parent who has been doing this gig a few years, I have become adept at managing these situations; depending on context you either divert them with something they can do independently, promise playtime in a few minutes, or tell them to go off and do something else.  All perfectly acceptable of course.

What got me on reading this post though were the comments. 311 and still going, and quite narky too.

The commentators basically fall into two opinions (agree / disagree) and three camps:

1. God yeah, hate playing with my kids, what a drag! (LOL, etc)

2. Oh my god, this is so shocking/shameful/sad, you are selfish/lazy/endangering your children's mental health and oh my god what about the people reading this who can't have kids, how would this make them feel? You should be ashamed/I am appalled...etc etc etc.  Includes the occasional brave soul who doesn't have kids venturing the opinion that people who have them should be happy to play with them all the time. [Chuckle!]

3. The callers to reason - pointing out that yes sometimes it's boring, and admitting this doesn't mean anything is wrong with the way you parent.

I was in the third camp (Naturally - you noticed how I made the third one sound the best?!). This was my response:

I liked this article and I don’t doubt for a minute that Mia and the others DO play with their kids – they just admit they don’t always love it. What, are we all meant to pretend we love every second of every minute of the day?
Doesn’t mean you are selfish or “sad” to admit you’re not crazy about something!

I can relate – I love spending time with my kids and love talking, listening, dancing, cooking, walking, reading, watching a movie with them, or doing creative stuff like play-dough, but games and playing with dolls are not my favourite thing. Big deal. I still do it with them on occasion, and do plenty of other stuff instead.

I do quite like the park though – once they’re 3 and older it’s a nice way to unwind and enjoy the outdoors while watching them play.

("Once they're 3" is an important point. I reckon the most difficult age with little kids is that time around one-and-a-half to ...three and a half?? well, let's say to about two-and-a-half, where they want to play and do stuff but can't do much and you also have to watch them constantly because they are toddling disaster areas. The park is only fun for a very short time at this age - basically just to break up the day and get out of the house).

It's great when kids get old enough to play with themselves or each other for most of the day.
Admit it, it's great!

And yes - I am well aware, and remind myself often, that at some point they won't want a bar of me and I'll miss the times I was playing with them. Hopefully that day will never come - but they start school next week and I know that is going to change everything.


  1. Not to worry, life takes care of itself. You and I live in the same world but not the same planet. While my body walks the earth, my mind, heart and soul can be anywhere I want them to be. I choose for them to be at peace. I arrived at this place only by following the road life has taken me. Life is long with unimaginable suffering and hardship. I have loved and lost most people, including my children. I have survived terminal cancer twice while watching my loved ones die around me from the same disease. Depression, Mental Illness, A&D addictions. With each challenge and difficulty I have picked myself up only to be knocked to the floor again. I have more developed more compassion and character than I could ever have imagined possible. I love my life and would not go back in time and change a thing. I am at peace, and I fear nothing.
    You are just beginning in life. Love your children like this is their last day. One day it will be.

  2. I read that article yesterday and found myself agreeing with Mia entirely. I *Hated* playing with Sapphire when she was younger and infinitely preferred to watch her, or help set things up and be next to her, but hours of tea parties or dancing - no. Five minutes - yes.

    However, as you say, once the toddlerhood stage is over (and it is just herding them and keeping them safe, esp out in public areas) it gets easier.

    At eleven it is challenging but also brilliant. We do 'play' together now and I'm oh so aware that her willingness to spend this kind of time with me will soon be over.....

  3. Looking at this, I'm glad I'm the eternal aunty - and only have to think about this as I had the kids back after babysitting.

    If I had kids I think I'd be in your corner too.

  4. Anonymous:
    I hope this post didn't offend you. Don't worry - I am grateful for (and fearful of losing) my children every single day. I am so sorry for your terrible losses, and I truly admire your strength. Thank you so much for your comments.

    eleven is a great age! Kids are great company for sure

    yep, I loved being "auntie" to my cousin's kids before I had mine - though I wimped out and never babysat, I liked spending time with them during my visits.



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