Another day’s flown by. You haven’t played with your kids as much as you could have (or at all). You kept meaning to do that jigsaw. ‘Just give me two minutes,’ you’ve said about 40 times and suddenly it’s 5.00 PM. Because you’ve been busy. With all that other stuff. School runs. Washing and cooking. Admin. That all takes up SO much time. And now you’re feeling guilty. BUT. What if ‘all that other stuff’ is the most important stuff? What if that stuff is actually LOVE?
Labour of love.
So the other day I had this really interesting conversation with a fellow mum of three who used to be a teacher.
‘You’d be surprised how many kids don’t feel loved,’ she said.
‘How do you mean?’ I said. ‘That their parents don’t tell them they love them?’
‘No. The kids don’t feel loved. They don’t have someone who looks after them. Who makes sure they have a clean school uniform in the morning. Or a meal at night. Those things that we do? They come from love.’
This was a complete revelation to me. Because I have NEVER thought of these things as love.
I’ve thought of them as chores and things I’m neglecting my kids for. That I’m doing instead of playing with my kids. That are getting in the way of me being with my kids. That I should be doing when they’re in bed even though I’m so knackered by that point, I would end up washing the quiche and eating my socks.
I’ve shared this conversation several times since. Because I think she is right. And I think it helps take some of the pressure and guilt off of us mums, to think of ALL that we do for our kids (not what we don’t do) in such a positive light.
The light of love.
(Pass me a bucket.)
I’m too busy to play with you (I actually am).
Because let’s face it, that’s what we excel at. Berating ourselves for what we don’t do.
A while back, I wrote a post called The top 10 things mothers feel guilty about. It’s been one of my most popular. I wonder why. (That ole devil called GUILT.)
It turns out that the thing we feel most guilty about isn’t going to work and leaving our kids. Or even letting them watch TV. It’s not playing with our kids enough that really keeps us awake at night. Because we don’t have the time or, (GASP), we just don’t want to.
‘It’s so boring!’
‘I find myself counting down the seconds until I can do something else.’
‘I’m not a 5 year old! I can’t lose myself in play like they can.’
‘I can’t seem to find the time.’
Just some of the comments from lovely, honest mums.
Who are beating themselves up for not doing that jigsaw.
I’m NOT a 5 year old (and that’s ok).
So many of us equate play with love. With being a good mother. I often talk of my obsession with crafts and my fear that if I don’t do pipe cleaners with them once a week, I’ve failed as a mother (I don’t, so I have).
When we don’t play with our kids, we feel bad. But there are many reasons why we don’t. Yes, sometimes, we don’t want to play with them (this doesn’t make us dreadful mothers). Or we don’t really know how (we aren’t 5 year olds anymore after all). But often, we are just preoccupied with everything else that needs doing (and that’s a truth there’s no getting away from).
Kids and grown-ups are different. Obviously. And try as we might, we aren’t young kids who live in the moment. We’re grown ups with a ton of responsibility and a to-do-list that never gets done. Sometimes it’s hard to make the headspace for play. And that’s ok.
Because all that other stuff we’re doing? Making sure the washing is done so that they have a clean school uniform, panicking about what they’re going to wear on World Book Day (before forgetting completely and sending them as Snow White AGAIN) and doing homework together? We do these things for them because we love them. In the way that comes most naturally to us.
As nurturers. Rather than playmates.
Two whole minutes.
If the guilt still continues to niggle (which, of course, it totally will), maybe, just maybe, there’s a middle ground to be found.
And that next time we catch ourselves saying, ‘Just give me two minutes,’ we acknowledge that it’s going to be (at least) another two hours before we get EVERYTHING done.
So we give them two minutes instead of making them wait two hours. Do a quick jigsaw in between making a fish pie and putting another load of washing on. After all, isn’t that pretty much the attention span of most kids anyway? Two whole minutes.
Come to think of it, isn’t that pretty much our attention span these days?
Footnote: (If you’ve occasionally sent your child to school in, ahem, ‘recycled’ tights and bought them a Happy Meal three nights on the trot, this doesn’t mean you don’t love them and you’re not alone. It probably means you’re a bit up against it. We’ve all done this. THAT I promise you.)