do you play with your kids?

It’s summertime and the kids are home from school. The days are an interesting mix of lazy and full, long and quick. We make an effort to plan outings, camps, lessons, vacations and still make room for stay-home days. This can be a sweet time of connecting with our kids and we certainly don’t want to take these moments for granted. After-all, we only have 18 summers to spend with them, right?

What has surprised me most this summer, whether lazying around at home or at the swimming pool on vacation, is this frequent question from all four of our kids:

Can you play with me?

No. 1 wants me to swim with him in the deep end.

No. 2 wants me to jump with him on the trampoline.

No. 3 wants me to battle him with light sabers.

No. 4 wants me to play cousin memory with her. Again.

And what do I want to do?

Sit on the lounge chair next to the pool.

Water the plants while the kids bounce.

Clean up the toys that are already strewn about the house.

Not play another round of cousin memory.

Now don’t get me wrong; I like kids, especially my own. I also like swimming and bouncing and playing games with them. My mom was always that mom who would give us under-dogs at the park and get her hair wet at the pool. I always liked that about her. She played with us.  And I want to follow her lead and be that mom to my kids as well.

But every single day this summer I’ve had this internal struggle when I hear the request can you play with me? It goes like this:

I know my kids won’t be little much longer. They won’t ask me to play with them. I will probably look back and wish I had played with them more. So, yes, even though I just took them to swim lessons and played tag at the park and bought them ice cream, and — , of course I will play with them.

but …

I am not my children’s playmate. I have responsibilities and tasks and my own desires that also need to be addressed today. So, no, they can play on their own for a bit.

but …

if I choose responding to email over playing with them, what does that say to them? That email is more important than they are? I never want them to feel that way. I should just play with them.

but …

they need to know that while they are very important, my life does not revolve around them. There is more to me than ‘mommy’ and they must learn to respect that. This time, they can manage a game without me.

but …

is that just an excuse? Am I the most incredibly selfish mother alive? Maybe I just need to suck it up and realize that parenting is one gigantic act of sacrifice. Go play with your kids, Emily.

… and round and round I go.

It’s a balance; of course it is.

Sometimes a mommy puts down what she’s doing to read a book to her daughter. Sometimes she asks her children to play in their room so she can make a phone call in peace. And sometimes she just doesn’t feel like playing legos and sits on the chair reading a new magazine instead.

It’s a balance that I haven’t figured out.

That elusive balance between saying yes and saying no. Wanting the best for our kids, but retaining our identities apart from them. Worrying that somehow if we get it wrong we’ll mess up our children for life.

Am I alone in this? I’m guessing and hoping not.

And so, please share, how does that balance work in your family?

Do you play with your kids?

147 Responses to do you play with your kids?

  1. Judy H. January 12, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

    I’m reading some of the comments here and feeling my age! My children are now 34 and 33, When they were very young, the conversation about whether to play or not play with one’s children was just beginning to surface for it was at that time that many women were deciding to work outside of the home. Out first child was born when I was barely one year out of college. (yes, my husband and I married when we were in college, something our parents were not too happy about, but we were in love!) I was so young it never occurred to me whether I should or should not play with her or how much time I should devote to it. I was a stay home Mom from the begining, my husband’s job called for him to travel Monday-Thursday, my children NEEDED the consistency of me being there all of the time. A year later, our son was born and once again, at 22 years old, I never even thought about playing with my children, I just did. If they wanted me to read or put a puzzle together, play tea party, do play-doh or coloring books and crayons, I did. They did not always get a “yes” from me. If I was busy with something else, I simply told them we could play later because I was busy. They never complained. Back in the 80’s, many children like mine attended Playschool, which were parent co-operatives where there was a teacher present, but also two parent helpers. It worked out that each Mom or Dad helped about twice a month. Playschool was only 3 mornings a week from 9-11:30 a.m. As a parent helper, we played with all of the children. When it came time for Kindergarten, they both went happily, no tears, but Kindergarten was only a half day then, so my kids were never over-stimulated, over-tired or over-demanding about time with me. I felt no need to hover over what they did in school or visit the teacher several times a month and I know my children would not have wanted me to do so. Maybe my ignorance in having children when I was 21 ans 22 years old was bliss. My kids taught me how to raise them and there wasn’t a lot of thinking or struggling with what I was doing about it. Not to suggest that I was a complete dunce, I did graduate from college with 2 degrees; as I said, it simply never occurred to me to question what I was doing, Interestingly, I continued to be a stay home Mom until they graduated from high school, something else I never planned or didn’t plan to do. that’s just the way it happened. My daughter is now married with 3 children and is an interior designer, my son is an attorney and married with 2 children. My husband and I enjoy terrifc relationships with our kids and kids-in-law and the grandchildren are icing. Do I over indulge my grandkids? You bet I do!

  2. Cassia August 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    I realize that this conversation happened a while ago, but I read an article today that might helps moms answer questions like yours…


    I think Kristin is right on when she says that family can totally become an idol in our hearts. I don’t have children yet, but when I do, I know I will struggle between the desire to play with them and the desire to do other things (which may or may not also be important). And I think that when I do have children, I will constantly need to ask myself, “WHY am I doing this for/with my children?” Is it because it will make other women think I’m a good mom? Is it because it will make my children like me more? Is it because I want to avoid a guilt trip? Is it because that’s what “good moms” do? Or is it because it is what will honor the Lord the most right now?

    Anyway, I just wanted to add that to the conversation. Thanks for being so vulnerable and sharing your thoughts and struggles.

  3. Susan August 19, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    I think this is the dilemma of all mommies – especially in this day of the do it all mommy (work, socialize, charitable contribution, family, church, etc.). It is comforting to read all the other posts to feel that I am maybe not doing such a wonky job at this parenting gig. Our family has implemented four things: 1) twice a day we have set mommy time (once during the day for an uninterrupted hour to craft, play, bounce, run etc. and once at night for stories and songs), 2) every day we have set daddy time (after dinner for about 45 minutes when he “rough plays” with my VERY energetic boys), 3) Saturday mornings are mommy’s “alone time”, and – this is the big one – 4) I have given up having a picture perfect clean house. I tidy once a day and clean every other day. This is a big one for me because my natural tendency is to be a neat freak. But you know, jumble berry pancakes on Sunday morning taste just as good in a clean kitchen as they do in a messy one…who knew?!?!? I know that my kids see me and my husband working to find balance, working on our marriage by spending time with each other, working to show them that they are priceless to us, and working to help them be independent. I am satisfied with that.

  4. Denise August 17, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    THANK YOU so much for writing this! So true. I love my daughter, and we have tried to bring her up to know she is valued, but not the center of the universe.

    Unfortunately, we have seen up close and personal, the parents who do become their kids playmate, who let their children interrupt, and who take over EVERYTHING!!
    When those kids are over, they don’t want to just play with the kids, they want the adults involved too…..ugh.

    I appreciate this post!

  5. Catherine Liedtke August 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Love your parenting posts, Emily. Your creativity inspires me daily, and I love seeing your latest projects. Reading your blog, it seems you HAVE achieved that balance — you write often of cool things you’ve done with the kids as well as the artistic side of your life. You inspire me to keep up my artistic side even as I play with my daugter. Thank you and please don’t stop!

  6. Kate August 9, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    I thought of your post when I read this blog post today. I thought it might be helpful to pass along to you and your other readers.


  7. Meghan August 7, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    I love this! I can so relate to your need to find a healthy and God centered BALANCE with life with kids. I totally feel like it’s valuable to take little (and big) moments of “you time” without guilt. Your kids know you love them because you do play with them!

  8. CK August 7, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Thank you for the honest blog post. I am right in the thick of this battle of heart-mind-time-focus-energy and your post was exactly the empathy I needed. Praying peace for all of us moms as we give it our best, and that we will be gracious to ourselves, too.

  9. Mary Elizabeth August 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    I am a new mother and already I can feel myself going round and round about this. My sisters and I have a blog and sometimes I don’t always do that post I have been wanting to write because I need to spend time with my little girl. Other times I say No, mama needs to get some things done….I suppose the balance is different for every mother…

  10. Abby August 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    I know how you feel. It is important to find balance. Not only for you, but for them too. If we play with them all day long, we are not giving them a chance to play on their own. But we do want to build memories and be present with them too. I think that balance is something we will always strive to achieve and just doing so is enough. I think it is important for our children to see us as a mommy and a woman so they know that we are people too. Not perfect people, but ones love them unconditionally.

  11. Stacie August 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    I struggle with this balance all the time but I mostly think the struggle comes from the lies that each element of our life has to get equal billing. Balance is not the key – equilibrium is! Some seasons in life certain aspects of life demand (and rightfully so) more from us. The trick is not believing the lies. Just because I must give more to this one thing now doesn’t mean I am abandoning or neglecting the other things.

    I do love to play with my kiddos but I do need breaks. Not breaks from them because I don’t enjoy them but we need breaks from each other. I do bring my kiddos with me most places and they help out around the house but I didn’t give up myself entirely when I birthed my babes. I just didn’t. I don’t believe God asks me to. I am told I must give myself up entirely for Christ and HIS kingdom. I am constantly learning to die to myself and my selfishness in all aspects of my life.

    I am thankful that you shared your struggle. Your view. Today is my one day out. My one day of space this summer and I am not feeling the least bit guilty. I have reminded myself regularly this summer to enter in, to engage, to enjoy these little miss treasures that God has graciously given me. To be perfectly honest, a day away (complete with a haircut and pedi) is lovely and necessary. But obviously, nothing compares to a day with my girlies!

    Enjoy your kiddos and your space!

  12. Jessica August 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    I battle with this subject often… I work full-time, so when I come home, I don’t want to play and what not. Or I don’t feel like cooking dinner. Sometimes I can be very short with them and I don’t like that.. I hope to one day stay home again and be able to spent time with them.. I can’t quit my job right now, but someday. Thanks for posting this. :)

  13. Heather August 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    I have been so blessed to be able to spend each and every day with my four children, homeschooling them and raising them to be strong, independent, God loving adults. They are within my reach practically every moment, but they are quite often doing their own thing. They know I am here for them if they need me, but I have noticed as they grow older, they do not “need” me as much. They have also grown up learning to wait their turn, as each one requires time learning with me on his/her own.
    My kids range in age from 8 to 17. When the kids were young (under 3) I certainly spent more time “playing”, but really it was teaching life skills; we played house by washing dishes, sorting laundry, dusting, etc. (Sometimes we would pretend we were different people, different fairies, different animals, etc.) When the kids reached 5 or 6, they started “playing” house on their own, continuing to clean for Mommy as I looked on. Now they find tiding up to be part of their daily routine. I have also always included them in projects in the house: painting fences, planting flowers, cooking holiday meals. I have basically included them in my daily work, giving them time to play on their own while I took time to “play” (pay bills!) on my own. Now, I will say, I never played dolls/action figures with them, although I will drop everything for a good card game or board game. I never built Lego constructions, but I would ooh and aah at each imaginative construction they would show me. Also, I ALWAYS sit with them and read, wether we are each reading independently, or I am reading to them, or they are reading to me; and every night we say our prayers as a family before saying good night.
    Each day is a balancing act, but I can honestly say that at the end of each day, I rarely feel off balanced :)

  14. Grace August 7, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this! I do love your blog, that you write about real stuff, have awesome stuff to buy and great tutorials! I love that you are real and vulnerable and that you encourage me to do the same! I have a 3 year old and 8 month old and I often have this dilemma and I feel like I succeed and fail often! Many times that I choose me instead of them I feel guilty, but like I am trying to teach them to play alone. Often when I choose them I feel guilty that my husband is coming home to a dirty house and will have to wait an extra 30 minutes for dinner but am thankful that my boys know that I love them so much and they know they are more important than laundry and having dinner on the table at 5:30 sharp every day! I know I will continue to have that inner struggle, I know that I won’t always make the right decisions and that I will fail…but I also know that my boys will always know that they are important, I will pick up frogs even though my inside is turning over and over at their squishiness, I will read the book that is falling apart even though we got it 5 days ago, and I will let them jump on me and rough house even though it is hard on me! I love being a mom but I also love some down time

  15. Karena August 7, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Love, love, love the honesty in this post! (and I’m not even a mom yet!)

  16. Marissa August 7, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    I am so thankful that I’m not the only one that feels this way I often feel so selfish when I take two minutes to rest. I want to keep my identity. But still help my daughter and son grow into their own. Balance is such a huge part of life in everything there needs to be balance but how? I guess I need to keep praying to be super mom!! Thanks for your blog I always really enjoy knowing that I’m not the only one going through this life like this :)

  17. Amanda M. August 7, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    First of all, not to start a controversy, but WOW some people are seriously judgmental. When you pour your HONEST heart out in a blog post, it’s pretty crappy that someone would make a comment like one I just read above. Sheesh.
    Second, I think this is a daily struggle. Some moms I know take a LOT of ‘me’ time – it’s taken to the extreme and obviously that’s not awesome. Some I know are just naturally excellent playmates for their kids and that’s really cool. Most of my friends are the in-between (like me!). I definitely like to hang out with my kids and do fun stuff, but I also want them to be able to occupy themselves on their own (reading, artwork, etc.) and during that time, I can catch up on email, etc.. But it’s a daily struggle because I while I want them to be self-sufficient, I also don’t want them to think I am ignoring them for an email or a magazine. It’s a real struggle. Thanks for posting about it, because it’s nice to have a conversation with other moms who are going through the same thing.

  18. Kim @ Plumberry Pie August 7, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    just had to say thank you for this post. i have same thoughts rerun through mind all the time. great to know i’m not alone and see everyone’s perspective.

  19. Stephanie August 7, 2012 at 5:44 am #

    Your honesty is refreshing! This topic is one that comes up a lot in our home, and my husband and I struggle as well. We sort of thought the kids (we have 3) would enjoy playing ‘together’ more than they do. There are so many things to feel guilty about as a mom. I don’t think we ever feel we are doing a super job. Much of the time, I think to myself “I survived another day!”. I agree with Kim. I think that it is our job as parents to prepare our children for real life. They need to learn to entertain themselves, be able to be alone, work out problems amongst themselves. There is no doubt in my mind that your kids feel so loved by you and your husband and that is what matters most.

  20. Jessica August 7, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    My mom very rarely, if ever, played with us when were young. Now, she did read to us, sing to us, and so on. She also homeschooled us until middle school. But she never played Barbies, or colored with us. She did make us playdough and bring us to the pool. And I never expected her to play with us. We played – that was our “job.” She was always baking, and cooking wonderful meals, reading and studying the Word of God, praying with other mothers on the phone, cleaning…so on – that was her “job.” We are best friends now by the way. Just my experience. You are right – we are not their playmates. Do what you feel to do, play with them when you can, but don’t stress about it.

  21. Deanna August 7, 2012 at 5:06 am #

    i know how you feel darling! even though im only a 16 year old and i dont plan on having kids anytime soon, im the sort of person who thinks about the future all the time.so when i think about my kids i always wonder where the line is and where the restrictions are. its kind of frustrating because i know that they will need to be cared and loved for but i dont want them growing up always getting what they want-they need to learn that mum or dad cant always be there playing with them

  22. Heather August 7, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    Very insightful post. I only have one child so I deal with this issue on a daily basis. It is nice to know that I am not alone. Thank you ;)

  23. Kristin Smith August 6, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Interesting article about letting our kids be kids:

  24. Sarah W August 6, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    I also struggle with this, and note some of the exact same things you did. I want to be an attentive mom, and capitalize on every fleeting moment I have with my daughter (and I have another daughter on the way!), but I also want them to grow up knowing that the world does not revolve around them and that there are going to be times when I just can’t do things for/with them, and that they can be okay entertaining themselves. I feel a little better about this after reading the book Bringing Up Bebe and realizing it is good for kids to hear no and have to entertain themselves. I didn’t read all the comments so I could be repeating what others said, but I wanted to post so you know you are not alone!

  25. Audrey August 6, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    I will be sending my baby off to college in a few weeks…the youngest of 4 (in 5 years). I have worked outside of the home full time (for insurance and Christian education) for most of my children’s lives, but have been fortunate to work for a company willing to work around my family. My favorite way to relax was to spend time in my garden, but as our family became busier with sports and school activities I chose to put my garden aside a bit…it would always be there but my children wouldn’t. I have no regrets now that I will soon have an empty nest … my husband and I both recognized that we need alone time to be better parents and spouses. He would relax by surfing and I would spend time at a nursery looking at plants, walking the beach or spending time with my sister. Our children learned that all of us need alone time to spend relaxing so we can be a better family. Our motto is “God First” and the rest just falls in to place…sometimes that’s a family room full of wild kids and sometimes it’s a cup of coffee alone at the local Starbucks. There are no right or wrong ways as long as God is first.

  26. Meg August 6, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    I think that this is one of life’s big questions. I have, particularly in the past, done the “they are little once & be gone all too quickly” thing and neglected what I probably should have been doing. Now that my 4 are getting older (12, 8,7,3), I have tried this summer, the theory of “if you help me a little bit, I will have more time to have fun with you”. Guess what? Hmmm, although they want me to do the fun stuff with them, they are unwilling to help out – and I am just talking about unloading the dishwasher & bringing dinner dishes to the sink twice a day. Although I have not completely thrown out the playing with them, I have not done it as much, either. I may be selfish, but I am beginning to use more and more the philosophy of “if you are not willing to do for me, I am not willing to do for you”.

  27. Ada in Coastal Cali August 6, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    wow. this has hit home to a lot of us.
    Here’s the thing-being a mom is wonderful, exhausting, all consuming, and each of us struggles with balance. That’s just real. Yes, play with your kids. Play can be lots of things and doesn’t involve building legos for 6 hours….it can be finding a specific letter through the grocery store, playing “beauty shop” letting them comb and fancy up your hair, cooking together etc. But there of course needs to be time spent on things you love, things that encourage, inspire, enlighten you. Maybe you don’t get a day at the spa-but throwing the ball at the park then let them play while reading a magazine, sitting with your feet in the pool while they swim. Don’t be so hard on yourself like it has to always time to play or always time devoted to your things-ignoring them. Keeping our homes, our lives running is part of “life” and eventually will be part of theirs. Teaching them to play solitaire, how to swim, build a fort- that is invaluable because its why we set out on this role in the first place!

    Somedays I have better perspective than other days. Remind yourself- not to be so hard on yourself…… and just find the reasons you love being mom-do more of that!

  28. Erin August 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    Emily, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I find it difficult to find the balance myself.

    I telecommute full time. This summer I have two kids who are old enough to keep themselves occupied at home. While my 7 year old can occupy herself, I have tried to put my 4.5 year old in daycare at least three days a week for some sanity, but it’s been so difficult. I find myself making concessions like candy and gum at 9 am so I can complete a conference call with a customer when both kids are home.

    And while they argue one minute and play nice another, driving me mad, I am looking forward to spending the next two weeks with them, playing in the pool, taking a road trip, and waking up next to two sweet girls.

    And then they go back to school! Routine is my sanity and summer is lacking that routine, therefore that balance and sanity.

  29. Wendy August 6, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    I am a single mom and my children are mostly grown….ages 25, 21 and 17. Every once in a while, I yearn for those days when my children were small and would ask me to play with them. I tried to indulge them when they asked, if I could. Today they are all very busy and don’t have too much time for me. I wish they would ask me to do something with them now!
    Raising children is a very demanding job. I think every mom deserves a little “me” time. It is not selfish in the least. I see it as preserving your sanity! You will be a much better mommy if you are happy and have some creative outlets.
    From reading your blog, you sound like a fantastic mom. From my perspective, I think you are doing a great job!

  30. Kim August 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    I believe the parents who revolve their lives around their kids all the time are not preparing them for the real world. The real world says no a lot! The real world is full of rejection. Plus nobody is the center of the universe in the real world. If children learn how to divert from a no and find their “happy place” with some other activity alone or with another child it will teach them how to react to rejection. It teaches them how to move forward and be independent. It is also important for kids to observe their parents doing things they enjoy. Kids are happy when their parents are happy. Relaxing by a pool, watering plants, cleaning and not repeating games are all healthy choices for your kids to see and they won’t remember that they will remember that one time you danced with them in the middle of your living room for no reason. I love my kids, they know they are loved and that is what it all comes down to – love. When I read what my kids write in their school journals it talks about all the stuff we do together and how much fun they had. And I say no as often as I say yes. I don’t think of the best parent as being one to do everything with their kids I think the best parents are people who try to balance between being a mom and being their own person. BTW balance is never perfect because nobody is perfect. Good post Emily. You are a good mom.

  31. Lorie Moynihan-Broedel August 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    My son is 16 now and I enjoy talking with him about every subject imaginable and watching him play sports: football, indoor and outdoor track. He also goes Letterboxing with me!! When he was little I would read to him and take him with me everywhere I needed to go (I still take him with me, telling him we are making more memories that he will tell his children when I am gone!) I didn’t play “pretend” with him. He had many neighborhood children to play with and he was good playing on his own as well, which I think is something children need. In my salon, my clients sometimes bring their children or grandchildren with them. I have noticed as the years go on that more often than not the children run the show, having all the attention on them. To the point that my client can’t even have 45 minutes of “me time” that they deserve. It wasn’t like that when I was young, we learned that our parents had other things in their lives that didn’t involve us. Don’t feel guilty, treasure the time you spend with them, but have time for yourself as well!

  32. Nan Tee August 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    I totally understand your situation. I love playing with my daughter, but as we’ve moved on to online educational games, I just cannot be as enthusiastic. I love that she’s learning something new, but I also just wish she would read a book to me or herself, without asking! The best of luck as you do your balancing act ;)

  33. Jenny Prouse-Lewis August 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Yes….tho , just like you, its a conscience balance.

    I have four kids 19, 16, 15 & 6. I used to find it hard to have physical energy to play running tumbling games when the eldest 3 where young, maybe because with three littlies we’re always running around anyway.

    I did it anyway, also, for all the reasons you listed. Yip its worth it, as they do remember.

    As the kids grew the “playing” changed. It began to involve discussions, hanging at shops (not my favourite thing) more discussions, occasional card game, and even more discussions.

    These discussions are more like debates, and I love to challenge my kids minds and here their perspective on any given subject. BUT sometimes I’ve just had enough, I can’t match a teenagers passion.

    So, you know what I do instead?

    I go and play running and tumbling with our 6 year old. LOL!

    Life really is a balancing act.

    Jenn xoxo

  34. Emily August 6, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    I feel the same way. I feel like I don’t know how to play with my 3-year-old, like I don’t have the right personality for it. I even got a book to help me find activities to do with her, but each activity only lasts a few minutes. I do like reading to her, and we play with blocks sometimes. My husband is good at imaginary play, and baby brother is growing up…I hope that I will be able to connect more with my girl as she gets older.

  35. april August 6, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Of course I play with my kids. I don’t read books or magazines or indulge in “me” time while they are awake. I don’t find a babysitter to go to the grocery store or Target or the mall. I take them with me. I include them all in the job chart-even my 2 year old helps. I let them plan the weekly menu and cook with me. Everything I need to do around the house, in the kitchen or running errands they do with me. They learn from watching me. I gave up the luxury of alone time when they were born-and I was very happy to do so. I have 8 kids, ages 18 to 2. They all know how to do their own laundry, load and empty the dishwasher and cook meals that don’t go in the microwave or come out of a box (well not the 2 year old, but you get what I’m saying). I graduated from college and I haven’t “worked” a day since I walked to receive my diploma. My work begins when the first child wakes up for the day and ends when I close my eyes at night. My paycheck is filled with proud moments everyday when my kids are kind to one another, say please and thank you, wash their hands after using the bathroom and can keep calm and quiet for the entire meal when we go out to eat. I’ll have plenty of time to sit around and read books or magazines during the day, answer emails that are so important, and maybe even indulge in a nap when they have all grown and left the house-well maybe not, I’ll be too busy with my grandbabies. I’m a mom, I’m happy and I wouldn’t change any of what I do for some silly book.

    • Maria August 7, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

      Wow, I’m a homeschooling, attachment parenting mom and I am exhausted by how you have just explained your life. What youi have given to your chldren is wonderful but hopefully you will not expect the same of your daughters when and if they become mothers. They may choose to mother differently.

    • doris August 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

      Wow! You sound so busy. I just wonder where you find the time to read Emily’s blog AND leave such a mean spirited comment in the midst of being present for your children every possible second.

      Hang in there Emily. The majority of people think just like you.

    • Carol September 10, 2014 at 7:19 am #

      Two years later, I just read this post. I can so relate to Emily’s balancing act and internal struggle between adult life/work and our kids. To read this comment above was very disappointing. So bitter and rude! A perfectly selfless (ha!) mom of eight, refers to reading a grownup book as “some silly book” and communicating with other adults via email as sarcastically “so important”? THAT is how you want to model life for your children? Methinks there is a tone of jealousy here. Rock on, Emily – most of us out here are right there with you!

      • emily September 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

        Thanks Carol :)

  36. Robin August 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Emily, do not despair! I am the mother of three; 21, 18 and 12. Recently we went through the mammoth job of taking all of those little video movie cassettes and transferring them to digital/hard drive formats. So, over the summer when we were all together for 3 weeks – we started watching them. After A LOT of laughs (and some tears because I couldn’t believe they were once so little), what became totally apparent, was that my husband and I are good parents. We have hours and hours of film showing everything from camping, golfing, swimming, bowling, decorating cookies, beach days, halloweens, building them a play center in our back yard and playing endless games of Barney, Candyland etc, etc, etc. I struggled with the same feelings as you are going through now, but let me just put your mind at rest. Your children will one day look back on your home movies too and think “whoa, we had an amazing childhood.” There is never enough time for a mother – it’s actually on line 4 of the mother code – did you miss it??? It’s summer – enjoy the carefree days and remember that what ever you can fit into a day – is the very best you can do. The rest is just not worth worrying about because your children are only insisting you share their time with them incessantly because they feel completely loved, adored and want you all to themselves. Not a bad problem to have – believe me when I say it’s hard when they become teenagers and all of a sudden you aren’t so amazing and they want to keep their doors closed. Love this stage, set limits that you can live with and your children will love you back no matter what – you’re AWESOME! Happy Summer :)

  37. Jennine August 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    My daughter is 13 now and doesn’t play anymore – only organized sports. My son is 12 and this is probably our last summer of play. When they were young, we had so much fun hiking, letter boxing, crafting, reading and cooking together but being a teacher – I was very good at scheduling and staying on schedule and they were kids that responded well to that. By 1:30 each day whether it was nap time as toddlers or quiet time as kids; I was able to get ‘me’ time in until a good 4:00. But I had only two where you have four. I cherish those memories because now I can’t believe those days are gone. So my advice = schedule that play time in and honor it, no phone, no distractions from your children. Maybe if they get that undivided attention consistently they will be more cooperative during your self block and you won’t feel guilty. Maybe use one of the weekly organizers so kids can see when their play time is scheduled for?

  38. Laura August 6, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    I echo everyone else’s comments…you are definitely not alone! You’ve done a great job of capturing every mom’s internal dilemma! I have 4 kids close to your kids’ ages and I feel the same. One thing that has helped me is trying to give them little blurbs of mommy playtime (or reading/coloring, etc) throughout the day. Usually, if I take the time to sit down with them for even just 10 minutes, they don’t even notice or mind when I slip away from the play. Also, don’t feel guilty about not playing with them or about letting the time pass (have you read Momastery’s “Don’t Carpe Diem?'” :)! You are an amazing mom and most kids remember the good, fun things you do with them much more than the times you can’t play.

  39. Danielle August 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    I remember my oldest (now 8) always wanting me to play with him, and I would when I could. When his twin brothers (now 5) were born, of course things were crazy and hectic and I just didn’t have much time to devote to him. Now that everyone is older, they all play together (all boys) and with the neighborhood kids in the evening. The twins have NEVER asked me to play with them – I guess that’s because they have always had each other. I will still get the “can we do a madlib together” or “will you crash legos with me” from my oldest, but that’s about it. We all do a craft together once a week, go somewhere together once a week (zoo, picnic, etc), and I am usually on the deck if they are outside. I always try to be available to them.

  40. Michelle Webster August 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    I run a children’s boutique from our home. There are certain times of the year that are busier then others, summer and Christmas. My kids have learned that there are days that Mommy has to work to meet a deadline or get ready for a show. I love to get them involved in what I am doing so they can still be with me and I can still get things done. They know when Mommy is off, that I am theirs for the day and we can do whatever they want to do. Finding that balance is not easy and I find myself slipping from one side to the other often but it is still nice to know that I am not alone!!

  41. Noelle August 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Thanks for putting this into words. I struggle with the same feelings almost every day. On one hand, you want them to be able to entertain themselves on the other, you want to spend quality time with them.

    All I can say is you’re not alone. Here’s to finding that balance!

  42. Katy August 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Oh my goodness this struggle has just started for me! I have a 3 month old, and I spend hours and hours and HOURS just sitting and looking at him, talking and making faces. While I absolutely love to do this, there are other things I need to get done (put away the dishes, laundry, work, SHOWER haha!), but I feel so bad leaving him in his bouncer seat while he’s awake. I try to wait till naptimes to do anything….but I feel like doesn’t provide enough time. I work from home, so sometimes I just have to leave him alone. I can only imagine what it’s like when they are older! Thanks for posting this, it makes me feel normal. :)

  43. Christie Ortman August 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    I feel exactly the same and haven’t figured out the perfect balance either. Sometimes I think its not the big moments they’ll remember, its how things were everyday that makes the most lasting impact and other times I think – no, its the intentional time when you have purposely set time aside for them. Whatever the balance is, the key is that your kids KNOW that you love them, realize that there are many demands on your time and that in a perfect world we could just sit and play with them all day long and read our magazines, answer emails and fulfill our responsibilities while they are in bed at night. Supermoms don’t need sleep either right? While we can’t be their everything all the time, the most important thing is that they know that whenever they really need us – we will be there!

  44. LaDonna Nice August 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    I so struggle with this….

  45. SJ@SweeterStill August 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Thank you for a beautifully honest post. I can’t imagine there are many parents out there who haven’t had this internal monologue at least once, more likely once a day. Finding the balance is one of the hardest jobs for a parent in my opinion. Lately I’ve been feeling like instead of a vacation away from home, it would be great if I could stay here and play catch up while everyone else went somewhere. The truth is if that we all worry about the time that we invest in our kids and the fact that we are concerned is a sign that we care. Clearly you’re not alone! If you do discover the trick to finding the perfect balance, please write a post about it haha :)

  46. Rachel Hall August 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    amen! amen! amen! You summed up all my feelings EXACTLY. thank you!

  47. Mary August 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    Play with them. Not all the time of course but do play with them. I have 4 kids, the youngest just turned 20! I was lucky to be a stay-at-home mom. My own Mom raised 6 kids by herself and never had time to play but we understood that.
    I had kids to be with them. I used to play alot with them, especially in the morning, but also expected them to help out with picking up and cleaning, etc. After lunch naptime turned into after lunch rest time when everyone napped or read or kept themselves quiet to let me do what I needed or wanted to do for a bit.
    The best part of the time spent is that they all learned to play well together and often did without any involvement on my part, inventing games and plays, etc.
    Also my husband played with them when he got home from work and on weekends so that we have great family memories and stories and neighbor kids who would come to our house and play for hours.
    When you have time, take time with them. When you don’t, tell them that simply and eventually they will understand. When you need them to do something for you, ask them. Guilt is always there but trust yourself. Whining isn’t fun but when they ask to play with you isn’t that the best compliment?

  48. Beth August 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Yes, thank you so much for putting this into words. I work full-time Monday through Friday, and struggle with the same thing every day with my children. I can’t say that I’ve figured out the perfect balance either, but you are not alone. Sometimes I do drop things and play with my children, because I know they will not be this small forever (almost 3 years, and 7 months), but sometimes I can’t do that because I am the chef and I can’t let my family starve! Thankfully, most times their wonderful Daddy comes to the rescue and plays with them while I’m preparing dinner!

  49. Stacy August 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    You must be in my head. I think your exact words twirl around in my head every day. I love my kids so much, but I go crazy if I can’t have time for what I love to do too. It is a daily struggle to try and balance it all. You are definitely not alone! Thanks for making the rest of us feel ok about feeling that way too.

  50. Melanie August 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Completely understand!! I do the same thing….#momguilt.
    You are right, it’s a balance for sure.
    I also remember my childhood…the thing I remember most is my mom always cleaning, never playing. I don’t want my kids to have that memory!
    Thankful for husbands that are kids at heart and will wrestle and play right on their level too.

  51. Rebekah August 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    You are not alone. Thank you for your honesty in struggling with this delicate balancing act. I have found myself between this “rock and hard place” all summer. Sadly, I think I have been choosing email/blogs/my to-list over my children too often this summer. But after days of frustration with my 4 year old and still not getting my list accomplished, I have come to realize that I am greatly out of balance. Trying to find the “happy medium.” Thanks again for your post and a gentle reminder that I will NOT miss my list in the future, but the time I didn’t not spend with my children.

  52. Marie August 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Wow! What a great post and you put what I am thinking into words beautifully! I just do my best play when my daughter would like (not every time) and when she goes off on her own to play that is when I try to pick toys up, email…whatever. I also have young children so they still take naps and I really try to take advantage of naptime and when they go to bed. It isn’t always that easy and it doesn’t always work out how I would like but I try and I think kids see that.

  53. Laurel@chippingwithcharm August 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Oh my, I have been going through this exact same thing…”mommy, you be the baby, mommy pretend I’m the panda and you’re at the zoo, mommy play a game with me, mommy, mommy, mommy…” It wears me out…but like you said the guilt just envelopes me some days too. I’m looking forward to reading what others have to say.
    Last summer I did a “home schedule”. Both for their benefit and mine…complete with chores, meals, screen time, “mommy time” and “alone time”…etc. I think I need to do that again…it really helped. Then they knew what to expect…and so did I. Of course, we switched it up here and there…it was never “rigid”…but it was a great way to make sure we all got what we “needed”. Better late than never I guess :) Thanks for the reminder!!! Blessings, Laurel

  54. Cassandra Pettigrew August 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    Pheew… big important post today!!!
    My kids are still little… 3 and 4 months, but i struggle to stay balanced every day. I feel guilty after doing things all day with my 3 year old when I sit on my porch swing and read while he plays in the yard. I feel bad saying sorry mommy needs a break, but i agree, it’s so important that they realize that we need our time as well. I will NOT raise a selfish son who grows up to treat his wife like a slave because he was catered to by me his whole life! My husband and I are trying very hard to stick to a schedule where i get my me time during the week, weather it’s going to the gym or hanging out with the girls… it’s so desperately needed!!

  55. joanie August 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Wow I don’t think I was this thoughtful when my kids (3) were little. I probably said, “This is why you have two sisters – go play with them.” Ha. Sounds like you are doing just fine!

  56. Susan August 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    Yes! I have this same conversation with myself each day. I have a precious 3, 2 and 1 year old (yep, that’s right!) and the balance between play and, well, running my home is so challenging. Right there with ya, mama!

  57. Kelsey Eberth August 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    Did you read, “Bringing up Bebe”?

  58. Haydee @ {how sweet life is} August 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I hear you, Emily! I have very active preschool twin girls and I’m away at work all day, so when I get home, they are like little magnets. I can’t get enough of their infectious laugh, but also long for some quiet time when I get home. Not to mention, bonding time with my four-month old little boy. I find that the win-win way to keep them entertained is to let them help me with anything I’m doing. The moment I step into the kitchen, they beg me for their aprons and they are my mini sous chefs. We bake together, unload dishes, set and clear the table, etc. At bedtime, I relish in the few minutes of story time when I’m putting them down. I wish we had more real play time but they are almost too young for most of the good and fun stuff, so we spend lots of our ‘free’ time reading books and doing flash cards. They love going out for walks in our neighborhood, but too often it’s too hot here in South Florida, and/or raining! Good luck and keep the mommy tips coming. We could all use a bit more inspiration. xo {haydee}

  59. Maureen August 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Okay, the first thing I have to say is that I am no longer married and I have no kids. Why are you responding to this post, you might ask? Well, I related because I live with, and care for, my elderly mom and believe it or not, I have many of the same dilemmas you Moms have. My mom wants my attention ALL of the time, like sit on the couch with me all day and watch tv with me, all of the time. I have chores to do and things I want to do and yet, I feel guilty. I don’t know how much time we have left together, it could be years, it could be tomorrow. Do I want her to think I preferred reading blogs to spending time with her (even if in some days it is true!)? Could I forgive myself if she passed tomorrow and I had spent the day creating in my room instead of being present with her?

    I don’t have answers, only more questions. I feel for you moms because it is a tough job, and I know many of you are caregivers in addition to being moms. I don’t now how ou do it!

    God bless us all,

  60. {darlene} August 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    EVERY day I struggle with this.
    My goal: say “yes” more AND stop beating myself up for “no.”

    I think about Ma. That lady had to make her own cheese for pete’s sake. I am guessing her kids were out tending the hogs instead of jumping on the trampoline. That solitary thought often relieves me of guilt. Also, Ma’s kids were lovely kids.

    One exception: I have tried to make more structured computer time for my job- which includes a sitter or their 1 hour of screen time. When I am not in that structured time, I never tell my kids to wait more than 1 minute while I am on the computer. They do understand that I often have to finish my sentence, but then, I am theirs. Computer closed. I need tremendous discipline in this area of my life!

  61. Kischa August 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Emily! You could not have hit the head on the nail ANY more SQUARE! Whoa! Today is the first day back at school for our oldest (who’s 5 and starts Kindergarten). Tomorrow it’ll be our 4 year old’s first day! Our 2 year old and 1 year old will go back to keeping each other company until the “olders” get home. I can’t believe how fast summer has slipped away… AND I can’t help but have this guilt cloud hanging over head! I KNOW I played with them, but was it enough? I know I had to tend to chores instead of read a book, I know I sacrificed my Newspaper reading time to help find a dolly or two… STILL, I can’t help but think about the juggling act and if it were lop sided. Thank you SO much!!!! For what? For making me realize that it isn’t just me. I need time to be Kischa… not mommy or wife. BUT ME! And sometimes I do take a moment. I too will wish they weren’t so big… or that they’d still need my help and or want to play. I think what I’ve learned is that we do need to play. No, you’re not selfish for wanting Emily time… But I can’t help but think of the future. I would HATE to say I wish I played more. So, after today I’m going to make it a point to carve out time to play. AND now incorporate play into chores! Ha!!! BEAT THAT you stinky balancing guilt cloud! Ha ha!!! You are an amazing mom and person in general. This is all completely normal. Give it to God and know He’ll take care of you in His way and not yours!!! Cheers to play time!!!

  62. Lisa August 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Wowza…you hit the nail on the head! I am like a merry-go-round everyday with this topic. So glad I’m not alone in this craziness we call life ;-) I always wondered why so many people have cleaning ladies (men), yard guys (women), but now I know.

  63. Rosemary Watson August 6, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate this post. I have 5 (soon to be 6 kids) and I have this struggle all day, every single day. I love them fiercely, but I do not play with them. Since there are so many of them I expect them to play with each other. My husband and I both work from home so we constantly get bombarded with needs and wants while we are trying to provide income for our family so although I don’t want my kids to feel like I don’t care about them and work is more important, it is not my job to entertain them all day. They have to figure it out for themselves. My own mother raised us this way- she was a stay at home mom, but she had her own interest and identity that made her more than just a mom and I have the utmost respect for her for that. Her and my dad raised us to be independent and creative and a lot less needy than a whole lot of other people I know. So while sometimes I feel guilty and panic that it’s not going to last forever, I know that I am not neglecting them and am doing the right thing. That being said, I did just instate a Family Game Night where my husband and I stop doing whatever we are doing and play a board game or something with our kids WITHOUT our iphones or tv or anything else to give them undivided attention for 30-45 minutes. It’s a small step, but hopefully it will grow into more time and more activites where we spend quality time instead of being half-present with them most of the day.

  64. Tori August 6, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Echoing what everyone else has said, this is SO comforting! I never knew motherhood would come with so much guilt. I feel guilty if I’m playing with the kids and not cleaning house, and I feel guilty if I do the opposite. It’s so important to create a home with a good rhythm to it, so that there is both play time and work time. Something I’ve done is use the timer. If my 2.5 year-old asks me to play with her, I’ll set the timer for 15-20 minutes, and completely focus on playing. When the timer goes off, it’s time for mommy to move on to something else. (However, it is still never easy to go back to dishes and laundry after snuggling in bed reading books!)

  65. Nan August 6, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Play, play, play and play some more. You will never regret one minute that you spent with your children! You WILL regret that you unloaded the dishwasher, did one more load of laundry, answered some e-mails, ran the vacuum and cleaned the toilets when all they wanted was more one on one time with you! You really don’t have 18 summers with your children. When they reach 13 or so, they don’t want to spend that much time with you. So, today…. PLAY!!!

  66. Jen @ altogether persuaded August 6, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    Thanks for this post! Those thoughts often drift through my mind as well and I’ve loved reading the tips from the other comments – especially the one about involving yourself for 10 minutes or so and then moving on. I’ll tell my daughter “sure I’ll play with you, but I’m only going to play one round/color one picture/do one race and then I have to continue getting supper ready”. Once I’m done and off to do whatever I need to do, she’s satisfied I played and into it enough to keep going for awhile.

  67. Bethany August 6, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    You just wrote the story of my life. I don’t have any answers, but you certainly aren’t alone. The fact that you care and consider speaks volumes I think. Bad moms just don’t care, period.

  68. Laura Bradford Kirch August 6, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    I feel exactly the same way, you took the words right out of my mouth. Thank you for this post, it’s nice to know other moms have the same internal struggle.

  69. Meg Smith August 6, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Great post, Em! Agreed! What a balancing act? And your head conversation sonds just like mine! The only conclusion I have made of it all is this…what is my heart issue – am I being selfish or do I really need to clean up the kitchen so that I can make dinner in a little later? What is my heart intention? Personally, I do not enjoy an upkept home, though sometimes you CANNOT tell by the children’s toys strewn from one end to the other. But how clean/neat is also the question. We need to function and since my husband is a pastor have a semi ready home for visitors, but not at the expense of my children. May He grant you great wisdom…

  70. Brooke August 6, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    Yes! I have the exact coversation in my head every day as well! I even go so far as to feel guilty when they play quietly in their rooms because I feel like I have neglected them so much that they learned to play alone out of necessity :-( I have a hard time playing because I have forgotten the “skill”/fun of pretending! Thank you for allowing us to see that everyone has the same worries!

  71. crafty grandma August 6, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    To all you wonderful super moms – it had always been a struggle for me to see my husband playing with the kids (now 37 and 31) on Saturday morning or taking them camping while I was at work or cleaning or doing the wash or cooking. I had my daughter and two weeks later was back at work while my bf took care of her and her daughter (1 yr difference in age). There was no time to play with her but my husband who was unemployed at the time, took care of her. When my son came along, this time I allowed myself to take a year off before returning to work. My daughter often kept her brother busy or they both would get into trouble, my daughter being the instigator of course. When grand-children come around on the days that there is no more day camp, or ped days when there is no after school care, I find it enjoyable to spend time with them as they are growing so fast – 11-6 and 4! When they do come, they love to craft, we dig out the old Nintendo (OMG! no WII) or do a puzzle (how old fashion can we get!) or we take them hiking in the woods or kayaking on the river – (the boys favorite!) When the kids talk about how dad used to take them to the Aqua park, yes, I feel very left out because I was working but then they wouldn’t of had the Nintendo game or the car at graduation! They will always remember the camping trips, the ‘fun’ things they did, going to the park…we always had one of their friends along and they still talk about it today, telling their kids how much fun they used to have at the ‘public’ pool (something that is non-existent today!) So I would say mothers, give them some times to remember but teach them to play with their friends – I realize the younger ones this is not always possible but they must be taught young to let mommy have ‘some mommy time’….where are their fathers??? or was my husband just a father ahead of his time who now spoils me (we are both retired) by making my breakfast, lunch and supper! I, on the other hand, get to clean the house and take care of my plants! Don’t feel guilty, moms you deserve some ‘you’ time!!

  72. Hayden August 6, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    I feel like this is my internal conversation with myself everyday! I want to play with them and enjoy that time, but then I think of all the things that have to be done. I will say, some of the things that I think ‘have’ to be done I’ve had to just say, “I’ll do it later and play with my kids now.” But it sure is hard sometime! SO glad that I’m not alone in this thinking!

  73. Jill August 6, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    I struggle with this daily too!! I recently had another baby (6 weeks old now) and am adjusting to life with a baby again plus my 3 year old who constantly needs lots of mommy’s attention, and my 10 year old step-daughter who needs to find her place in all of this too. I think that being able to play or entertain themselves is an important trait that each child will find helpful in life, but they need to know that mommy is there too, and I don’t want to always say no – I can’t play with you right now. It’s a never ending battle with myself I think! Why can’t they hand out a “How to be a Perfect Parent” manual in the hospital when you have a baby? That is what I want to be :)

  74. nicole August 6, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    So happy i read this post, I feel like this everyday. I hear myself say ‘in a minute’ more then i want to hear it. Im not sure ill ever be able to get the balance right between play time and the things i need to do (and sometimes want to do), im just hoping that when they look back on their childhood they can say that i was always there for them.

  75. Christine August 6, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Again, you write what I think in my head. It’s definitely a struggle. My solution is to give in to a puzzle/game, etc. for about 10 minutes and it really satisfies them for a LONG time. I think of it like an investment. It gives me time later then.

  76. Danielle August 6, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    You have no idea how comforting this post is to me! I have had these exact same conversations with myself pretty frequently lately. My son is 5 and I know letting (forcing) him to play by himself will foster his creativity but I have this internal guilt from the moment I say no. There has to be a balance but, like you, I’ve yet to find it. However, knowing I’m not alone makes it that much easier. At least I know I’m not the only parent in this parenting struggle. Every day presents a new challenge and I think we’re taking a step in the right direction for the fact that we actually care enough to think about it and discuss it. Hang in there and when you find the magic solution, do share (:

  77. Carly August 6, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    You are absolutely not alone! I am so thankful for alll the times I was asked to play quietly in my room. I learned independence, I gained an imagination and I saw my Mom working, which I picked up for myself as an adult.

    If I had viewed my parents as my playmate, who knows how I would have turned out. Surely not as well rounded.

    I too struggle with this(especially with my step-son who goes from a house where the parent is really just a friend, to our home where he has two parent figures).

    Yes, they will only be little for such a short period of time, but it’s our duty to be their mentor, leader, example on how to grow up.

    A few bounces on the trampoline and dunks in the water and them back to being Mommy. :-)

  78. Tiffany August 6, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    I love your “internal” struggle!! I can totally relate–although my kids are young (11 months and almost 3) so it seems they are at my ankles all.the.time. whether I’m playing with them, changing them, dressing them, feeding them, etc. But there are those times when I’m blogging or pinteresting or facebooking or reading your blog ;) and they’re watching sesame street that I go back and forth about whether an hour of TV will kill them and can I just do what I want for a short 60 minutes?! Thanks for sharing! I love the “real life” posts!

  79. Shelley Pennington August 6, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    Thank you for vocalizing what I feel every day. I have always been ashamed to say any of this. I feel like a bad mom if I’m working on something that HAS to get done. And inevitably that is when my miss want me to play with them. If i were sitting on my behind, like I am now…they are perfectly happy without my attention, like now. But if I get up to go do a load if laundry, or put the dishes away, they will surely be at my heals asking for my attention. It gives me so much guilt to ever tell them I can’t play with them. Just reading this helps me know that its not just me.

  80. Alini August 6, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    I can relate entirely! I play and play and play and she wants to play some more. I go through the same head dialog all the time. I feel guilty if I want to do something for myself. Thank you for posting this. I am glad I am not the only one.

  81. Nicole H August 6, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    I like to think modern society has brought this on us. In the old days kids would all play outside together. Once moms started working there weren’t as many kids to play outside together. So the lucky ones who have a mom to stay home with them are significantly low on playmates (lots of people also have fewer kids) and thus parenting becomes even more time consuming when you need to be a playmate too. I like to figure out how to say yes to my three girls as often as possible – but it is always a priority juggle. And prayer helps too!

  82. Jessica @ Dear Emmeline August 6, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Bingo! You hit the nail on the head. This internal dialogue runs through my head day after day. My 3 year old would like me to “play”/be with her evfery minute of every day and she is whiney and down right irritating if I don’t. whew. I want her to know I love her and want to spend time with her but I also want and NEED her to realize she can not have ME 24/7 and that she needs to learn to play happily alone or with her younger brother. Here’s hoping this is just a phase and that she will soon understand that mommy needs time to do other things too!

  83. marybeth August 6, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    Last week my sister left her 14 yr old son with me. He swam in the pool every day with cousins, we went to dinner, we watched movies late into the night, we went for ice cream and on the 3rd day he texted his father he was bored. I lost it and had a total meltdown. What more could I have done. It was the worst week possible, something I will never do again.

  84. Annie August 6, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    I have been a nanny for 10 years working with 4 different families and I will say that one big thing each of my mothers had in common was worrying about exactly this challenge. Though I am not a mother (yet!) I just wanted to say that I think the very fact that you are thinking about the balance between playtime and your time really makes all the difference. Just being aware enough to know that playtime with your kids is precious but also knowing that they need to develop a bit of independence is HUGE!
    I love your blog and you are an inspiration to me for when those kiddos do come along.

  85. Dianne August 6, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Great post. Of course there are so many of us that feel this same way! My mom was a work full time at home mom (ran a custom drapery business out of our 4th bedroom for 27 years). She worked ALL THE TIME! Of course while we were at school, but then in the afternoons, on weekends, etc…she’d squeeze in the hours. But…she was ALWAYS at the important things too (performances, games, pep rallys, etc.) I never remember feeling like she wasn’t available. Now, actually, I look back and admire that she did it all SO SUCCESSFULLY! We even had fresh after school snacks every day ready for us! I’m sure that we as moms are always our worst critics, and our kids just love everything that we do!

  86. Jessi August 6, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Thank you for this post! I can totally relate!

  87. Gabby August 6, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    I love this post!! I always feel like I don’t do enough … My typical playing it taking them somewhere to hang out and engage them. My oldest {9} doesn’t want to play anymore. He seems to want to be all grown up or something ;) Sigh. My youngest {7} is very independent but likes to read and snuggle. So we do plenty of that.

    But here we are starting a new school year on Thursday and I am left with that feeling that I did not do enough this summer. My bucket list is unchecked yet our days and nights flew by and no one was lacking for any kind of fun.

  88. Holly Abston August 6, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    I love this post so much. Thank you for putting into words what I struggle with every day. I have this very conversation with myself! It’s hard to relax without feeling guilty, or play non-stop without feeling resentful. It’s a tough balance.

  89. Claudia August 6, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Lots of people commenting today! Love your blog & your work:) As a mother of 4 kids 10, 8, 4, & 4 I have never been that Mom that plays with her kids all day or even part of the day. At one point in my mothering career I might have felt some guilt about it but I am in survival mode right now as far as time is concerned. I have a wonderful husband that works a demanding job which means he works long days and travels so my days are full of keeping the house & kids going forward. By the time I prepare 3 meals (these aren’t fancy either) a day & do all the work involved in shopping, preparing, and cleaning up the meals there isn’t a whole lot of time. Plus throw in the laundry for a family of 6 and a little exercise for me oh and a shower:) God only gave us 24 hours in a day. Playing…that is why I had more than one kid…that is what the siblings are for…to play with each other (and we have some fighting too). I do make sure we get to go to the pool, the lake, the zoo, but when we are home. They are on their own to play, practice piano, read, or they can help with chores. I do try to take a few minutes each day to focus on a game or a book with the little ones. I try to make sure we always have quiet time with each kid at the end of the day at bed time. I try to never skip on that time.

  90. Catherine August 6, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Like a lot of others here, I struggle with this daily. I was brought up in a family of six with a busy Mum who never played with us. Yes, never! But we never expected her too. She was running the household (she was a stay at home Mum) and we all loved her to bits but it never occurred to us to ask her to play. No adults we knew did that. I guess we all had each other plus we lived in a small town and pretty much ran wild (in a nice way). So, I guess my struggle comes from ‘why do they keep expecting me to entertain them all the live long day??’. Maybe it was a different time back then and I do spend a reasonable amount of time playing with my kids now but, honestly, I don’t want them to think our lives revolve around their entertainment so they get great gobs of time to themselves to work out what to do. But I still struggle with how much and when and so on every day. One rule of thumb I try to stick to is something I heard from a counsellor one day – don’t do it if you are feeling resentful or ‘put upon’ as they will pick up on that feeling and it isn’t fair to you. play when you can do it cheerfully.

  91. Melissa August 6, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Thank you for your honesty! My husband and I are both elementary school teachers and we have five year old twins. Last year, I noticed that they didn’t need or want me much. That’s more true this year. Sure they need me to snap things together, or “Mama, take a video!” “Mommy, watch this!” so I’ve actually needed to find things for me like reading and Pinterest, which peaks their curiosity just as much as mine…. and with that I leave you so I can finish my angry bird finger puppets and Star Wars finger puppets!

  92. kasey August 6, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    I have 3 boys and they play so well together. They also have moments where they are all doing their own thing, playing alone. But I do think it’s important to do things with them when they are young so that when they are older they still like me. I don’t think it’s the quantity of time you spend with your kids but the quality of that time. When they want to play with me, I will usually suggest something I enjoy doing (reading, swimming, painting, games) because I know the quality of that time will be better. I think it’s not so much that they want me for a playmate at that moment but that they just want a little one on one time with me.

  93. Daphne August 6, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    I can relate with this. I have three wonderful daughters. I’m sort of like a stay at home mom with a cool job that only takes 4 hours a week. Most of the time I’m home with the kids. And I love it that way. It’s the life I’ve always wanted. I juggle my business and mothering duties at home.

    I think most moms who have home offices can relate to this. My 3 year old always begs with the cutest eyes – Mom, play with me. Read to me. And it just breaks my heart that I can’t be at her beck and call. I usually do 5 minutes of it then I make an excuse to disappear. It helps that I have nannies at home.

    I’ve set limits during the day. There are 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon where no one can come to my home office, unless it’s an emergency. Then when it’s family time, I make sure I don’t have my phone or computer on me. I give them quality time then. I also want them to be able to play with each other and be close sisters.

    Guilt sucks. But I believe, happy mom, happy kids.

    Love your blog. I’m based in Manila.

  94. Charlotte August 6, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    Here is my suggestion from my family of 4 kids ages 4 and under.

    Have a designated, pre-planned play time everyday. Tell yourself and your kids when it will be. ie: this morning after breakfast, Mommy wants to play you you guys. What do you think we should do with that time? After playing we will have snack at 11am and then Mommy will get some of her things done while you play outside/upstairs and so on.

    Kids get SOO excited about this. They know where they should be and where your heart is too. Use the time to play well and concentrate on concentrating on the kids. Then have your time and let them learn good skills of playing independently!

  95. aja August 6, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    I feel like that everyday. Even though we have 4 amazing kids, my older three are 13 and the twins are 11. They run all over the subdivision playing with their friends. We have them check in every two hours or so, or I call them to see how they are doing. Than we have our 2 year old…and he LOVES to play with them, and they do all play well together, but I can’t expect them to play all the time with him. I do find myself not wanting to play either, I’m 27 weeks pregnant. I’m hot, I can’t breathe or sit down on the ground. I have no energy for this little guy, and I feel awful about it. I take him out to the swing set and let him run around, but than it’s soooo hot here in NC I can’t stay out for long. It’s rough, and I don’t want to miss out on any of these moments. So during his naps is when I jump on the computer, or when he is down for the night. I do try to take him places and do LOTS of play dates.

  96. Jessica August 6, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    THANK YOU!!! Oh my goodness can I relate!!!! Thank you for being honest and transparent enough to post this. I feel better just knowing that I am not alone. I feel like motherhood is definitely a huge sacrifice, and also a huge balancing act, and the latter I most definitely have not figured out. I’m glad we fellow moms can be honest and support one another. We weren’t meant to go on the joureny alone. I’m thankful for your post!

  97. Lynn August 6, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    I am just at the beginning of this journey and have decided to be a stay at home mama. My baby boy is 3 months old. Its encouraging to hear everyone’s comments and suggestions and I am encouraged to be a mom that plays which right now means sitting or laying on the floor just talking to him. Thanks for your honesty and transparency.

  98. Amanda August 6, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Wow, I completely struggle with this daily! My girls are 3 and 1, and we have a new baby boy due in 2 months. I often hve so much guilt that I should be doing more with them, but also can relate to your feeling that I want them to know that my personal time is valuable too. But I don’t want them to think that anything else I’m doing is more important then them. Creating a balance is SO hard, but I guess, as a previous poster said, if we’re thinking about this, than maybe we’re doing something right?! Thanks for posting, it’s pretty cleaer that we aren’t the only ones!!

  99. Laura E August 6, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    It’s like you got into my brain and pulled out my daily thoughts. I work at a small Christian school in Eastern Washington. One thing I love about my job is that I get to take all the breaks with my kids (who are 3 year-old twins). So I really struggle with this stay-at-home mommy thing during the summer. I’m not used to playing with my kids all the time, and by the summer, I’m craving alone time where I can do something productive! I go through this battle you described almost hourly. So thank you for addressing it and making me feel like I’m not alone!!

  100. Lauren Fortney August 6, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    you’re so not alone! it’s like you’re reading my mind! i have struggled with this a lot this summer. i haven’t figured out the way to balance. or maybe, like a lot of things in parenting, it will ebb and flow. i know my kids need to get bored, use their imaginations, be creative, etc…but, like you said, they grow up so fast and i don’t want to miss really playing with them. ahhhh, the struggles of motherhood!

  101. Amanda August 6, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Yes, I’m in this same boat. My boys are 6 and 4 and the young one starts pre-k in 3 weeks. I have always struggled with guilt about not playing enough. But when is enough enough? I was an only child and remember begging my mother to play barbies and games. Sometimes she would even when she didn’t want to. But other times she said no. And I just knew I had to entertain myself. I did not die from boredom or feel unloved, mostly I would play outside for hours or color or go find my 3 cousins next door.
    I just told my oldest “no I would not like to set up another rube goldberg machine in the house (youtube this). But he has enlisted his younger brother in the project and they are happily constructing for hours on these projects together. So I think children are capable of finding things to do on their own but it is definitely a balance. I try to find things I do enjoy doing with them and give them my time in those areas.

  102. Elizabeth August 6, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    I work out of my home, and have a 2yr old that always wants me to play! I didn’t balance things very well for a long time and I just recently started “scheduling” what I call mommy time. He plays close to me for a better part of the morning and we both take a break to color or paint together and have some good quality time. It’s been working very well, but he still has a hard time understanding that mommy has responsibilities she must take care of. And I do think it is important to teach our children that we love them and do enjoy spending time with them – but their “wants” can’t consume ours.

  103. Stefanie August 6, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    I think most moms can relate to this…I certainly can! I have an only child, a 5 year old boy, who is often content to play by himself. However, then I feel guilty that he’s on the floor in his playroom playing trains by himself while I’m in the kitchen (and we can see each other from our respective rooms)…but…I’m also glad that he’s fostering creativity and imagination. It’s a constant battle for me too. Not sure if that makes it right or wrong, but at least you’re not alone! :)

  104. Cindy August 6, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Yes, they grow so fast. Yes, be the mommy that plays. And by all means, set time for yourself. I firmly believe that children need to respect the appropriate time for things. It isn’t about them all day long. They will be more responsible kids and young adults, if they learn this at an early age. BUT, do find time for just the joy of BEING.

  105. Nancy August 6, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    I can totally relate! I just had a conversation with a friend about this very thing last week! I have 2 kids (3 and 10 mo.) and as hard as it is, they have to be TAUGHT how to play independently. When my oldest turned 3 we bought her a doll house and wondered why she hardly ever played with it. Then one night daddy sat for an hour playing pretend “house” with her and sure enough the next day she played with it by herself for 45 minutes. They just don’t have the skills at a young age to make things up until they are shown. I also found that the key for me is to bounce out of bed and BEGIN the day by playing on the floor with them (again, VERY hard for me since they usually wake up at 6)! I think it sets a tone and a pattern for the entire day. Of course I have my very strong cup of coffee within reach! If she wakes up and immediately watches a cartoon, even if it’s only one, she is whining and complaining all morning asking for another show! If I play for an hour or so, she usually continues on and is happily playing until we have our morning outing:)

  106. amanda August 6, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    You are so right. I do not just play with my kids enough. I feel like I need to be cleaning my house which is also ironically a task i do not enjoy. Thank you for reminding me to forget the house (which doesn’t matter) and just play with my kids. Worth and Caitlin (4 and 2) send their thanks to Miss Emily too!

  107. Vickie Tucker August 6, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Now that I am almost 60 with grand children I regret not talking with them more. I understand all the Mommy duties and time. It just that my G. Babies tell me the funniest stories! While your doing Mommy duties ask them questions and you both win! It’s not about playing it is about time together and seeing the world through their eyes. A six year old has most of the world’s problems solved…………..just ask them!

  108. Katie August 6, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Oh, thank you for this post! I struggle with it always. While I do spend too much time on selfish things (email, reading, crafting) what I feel the most guilty about is the housework. If I stop and play, the mess stays on the counter or on the floor or in the bathroom…and then I see it over and over. I work a few days a week so once that starts up for the week it is hard to get to household chores. So the struggle continues…spend the week with a dirty house or spend more time with my kids? I doubt many moms feel that they ever get it quite right!

  109. Jean August 6, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    My 17 year old daughter has often told me that she remembers me always playing with her. With her quickly approaching adulthood, I am so very happy to know that I made the right choice between playing with my beautiful child and reading a magazine. I decided that my “me” time would be when the kids were in bed or napping. My son is a few years behind his sister and still asks me to play basketball….sometimes I have to silently tell myself to go play with him because it won’t be long before he’s off on his own. Although we do typically have 18 years with our kids, it’ll feel shorter than that because in their teens they are off and running in all directions with their friends who will “play” with them all the time! So, yeah….I’m the sacrificing mom-type but looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. In just a few short years, I’ll have all the time I want to do what I want to do.

  110. Claudia August 6, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Emily, thank you so much for this post. I feel like you got in my head and typed up my thoughts exactly. I don’t know the answer for creating balance but it sure is good to know you are not alone.

  111. Kim R August 6, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    I don’t play much with my kids because the youngest is 20, although I do find myself watching lots of sporting events on TV even though I have minimal interest. I pay attention well enough to be able to talk about what’s happening with him. :)

    I had some thoughts I wanted to share, though..

    You have given your children the gift of siblings which is a huge benefit to them growing into mature responsible adults. Give yourself a break just for doing that.

    I wonder, too, if you ever have your own time where you’re not struggling with this question. Do you get 2-3 hours/week that is not work, or errands, or caring for your children or home? I think you need that and should have it if you don’t.

  112. Elizabeth August 6, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    YES! That little battle is ever present for me too. Let me know when you figure out the perfect balance! lol

    As a parent coach and family counselor I have to say that as uncomfortable as it is, the fact that you feel that conflict means you are being a great mommy! I work with too many parents who stare blankly at me when I ask what they play with their kids. Yes you should feel compelled to PLAY with your kids!

  113. Becca August 6, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    I have four children and three sisters who all have children and we ALL struggle with this!! It’s so hard!!
    As a mother of seven my mother was not a ‘play with us’ mom. She was a worker. She showed us her love by working hard and having family dinner every night and giving us a chore free day on our birthday. She was our cheerleader and our organizer. She reveled in our accomplishments, her pride was tangible and her love was deep but we were to play on our own. She had a playful, joyful spirit but she did not play/pretend with us. I can still hear her voice saying ‘you have each other to play with’. She raised seven independent, successful children who love her dearly and consider family the most important aspect of any life. We are all close to each other emotionally and still live close to each other physically. So whenever I feel that tug of guilt and worry I think of my mom and how well we all turned out and how close I am now to my brothers and sisters. And I am sure it is because we were loved and we played together. :)

  114. Dana August 6, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    wow. you wrote EXACTLY what goes through my mind ALL.THE.TIME. Here’s what I always end up realizing – if my kids are happy doing whatever they’re doing, I am SOOOOO not going to throw them for a loop and ask, “are y’all doing okay?” when it’s clear that they are engaged and sufficiently happy. If they ask me to play and I can’t (or don’t want to) at that moment, I’m modeling the fact that being a mommy (stay at home or not) is a role requiring more than just playing at the child’s time of asking…if I’m not able to play at that moment, I’m also fulfilling my role of *facilitating* creativity, problem solving, and realization that sometimes, boredom is going to happen. And that’s OKAY. When I AM able to play, it is more appreciated, more special, and it’s not always in response to their asking/begging/whining/etc., b/c were I to play in response to those things, I’m potentially setting us up for that pattern…

    Whew! Anyway, those are my thoughts! Now, must read everyone else’s!!!! Thanks for a great post that I can definitely relate to!!!

  115. Matina August 6, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    Ah the internal struggle mommies face! I’m just the mommy of one precious girl, but I’ve noticed an underlying theme with myself too-GUILT! Am I feeding her enough fruit & veggies, do I read to her enough..my list goes on & on. But Emily your so wise and when I read your posts about your kids your love for them is so apparent, that only a mom who really cares would struggle with your thoughts.

    I am guilty as they come by putting things in front of my daughter that YIKES are purely selfish, but one thing the Lord leads me to do is fast. And nothing works faster to get my perspective back in balance when i’ve tipped a little too far. You are def not alone!

  116. Virginia N August 6, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    I can certainly relate to this. I work at home too, and it´s taken me years to make my little one understand that when mom is home working, she is working and therefore not available to play. The counterpart is, if I am not working, I try to make time for us to play. She sits quietly and waits untill my work day is over, and when it is, the question comes… “Mom, will you play with me?” You just gotta say yes. In a few years time, she won´t even ask, so why miss it now? :)

  117. Keri August 6, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    I struggle through the same thing. We currently live in a house that is so very small for us and so a few toys, a small mess, or a basket of laundry really makes it look like an explosion of epic proportions. I have to constantly struggle and toe a road that I don’t ignore and waste the time that we have together as they are tiny, but also not become their entertainment and help them learn how to entertain themselves. It is so hard not to judge yourself harshly when you see mamas and read blogs and it seems that you are falling short. There is good news though… Ask the Father how your are doing. he is more than capable of correcting use in our parenting abilities. I know at least for me, I value His input so much more than that of another mama. He made me for the job and He knows exactly what my babies need. If we ask He’ll show us.

  118. lemonademakinmama August 6, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Oh girl..i struggle with this!!!! I hate playing things like legos….ill brush dolky hair and read stories and bike ride but i neverd really played with my kiddos….dont want to miss the good stuff though either. I just pray for that balance and trust God to nudge me when i need to put something down and give them my time….

  119. Tabitha August 6, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    Oh I can so relate! I was just talking about how difficult it is to be a parent. I wonder if it’s our generation that’s very productive. We like to get things done. Whereas in the past people weren’t in a rush to cross things off their checklist. I am the most guilty of this but what I try to tell myself when I am feeling overwhelmed by my two amazing little girls is, I need to focus on them. I will never regret that. Spending time with them will never be something I wish I hadn’t done…..

  120. Sheri russo August 6, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    Well, I can say though I have no children of my own, my parents made time for to play with us when we were young. Silly games. But mostly what we did was we had a large room with no furniture in it yet and the stereo. After homework and dinner, Mom and dad would put on rock music and we would dance like little wild disco minions. Then it was time for bed. When I became a nanny, I did the same thing with the older brother who was four at the time while we were expecting his new twin siblings. As a nanny, I was required to play with…not really, but I did. We danced to rock music after day care and lunch. I did the same with my niece and nephew. Each child wants you do something different…and there are arguments on who will get you. So, dancing was universal. We could all do it at the same time, it was great fun and maybe after a half hour of dancing, the house work could be completed or homework done. I recommend DANCING time. — Sheri R.

  121. Lindsay Lee August 6, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    This spoke to me in so many ways. As a work at home momma I have this struggle everyday. I am right in the middle on the whole thing. Im off to read everyones comments :)

  122. Karen August 6, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    I felt like I was reading words in my head that I just don’t know how to write down as I read this. I have 6 girls asking me the same questions every day and I get overwhelmed with it some days. Although I don’t do this every day and strive to make it a habit, I want to have my knees hit the floor before my feet do to ask my Heavenly Father to help me prioritize in the way He wants me to and to help my lips and actions to speak and do His will with the most important people in my life.

  123. Meg August 6, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    I have a friend who is a great mom to three boys and a girl. The boy is about to head to college. She is beautiful, fun, and peaceful. When talking about her with another friend, I was asking what she did that fostered such good, fun, and open relationships with each of her children? The answer: she plays with her kids. When they get home from school, she really enjoys playing with them. That’s such a sweet reminder to me.

    Another lady in my church, mother to 9, spoke to some of us moms. She was highly encouraging-told us naps were a necessity, she needed breaks everyday, & how prayer changed her as a mother. She also said that being a mother to young children was the most challenging times. It just gets better as they get older.

    As I want to engage and enjoy my kids, I also remind myself that I need to cut myself some slack. It’s my morning time-my baby naps and my son watches TV for 30 minutes. It’s not always like this, but today it is.

    When I struggle, my husband gently asks me, “are you praying about it?” Prayer helps me with laying out my heart in front of the Lord.

  124. Elizabeth August 6, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    You have no idea how much I struggle with this also! The last thing I want to do is look back and have regrets about not enjoying and cherishing moments at each age, but…I have a stressful job that requires constant communication by phone calls and emails and I don’t want the kids to think that the whole revolves around them…but they’re only young once. HELP!

  125. Alicia August 6, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    I also have four children (6-12) and struggle with this all the time. I sincerely believe that it is not my job to continually entertain my children but I also feel selfish that I don’t want to play with them all the time. I want them to be able to find things to do on their own and to play with each other but I also want to be a fun mom and to engage with them. I wish I had the answer to this. I guess we all just have to do our best to balance it out.

    Thank you for letting me know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

  126. Jennifer August 6, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    This was so well written! I, like you and many others (my friends have admitted these same feelings) struggle with this daily. We all seem to figure it out in our own ways, but it’s always nice to know you aren’t alone!!

  127. elissa August 6, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    It was so funny when I read this how much it sounded like me! I have the same arguments all the time with myself. I haven’t figured out a balance yet either. It is so hard because if I don’t clean or do the laundry then it doesn’t get done but I also know that my kids won’t be little forever. I appreciate the fact that you brought this conversation up, it is nice to know there is someone else out there like me:)

  128. Rachel August 6, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    These thoughts are totally my own, day in and day out. It used to consume me with guilt. I like being productive and getting stuff done but I like just “being” too. It’s hard to figure out how much time to devote to everything in a given day. When my son was first born, I pictured us filling our days making rice krispie treats and going to the pool, but the reality is, with my kids being so young and close together (6 months and 2.5 yrs) those things are not the norm.

    I talked to some Christian friends about it and they told me to chill out. I think I was thinking too hard and Satan was trying to steal my joy. I want to be a mom that plays with her kids but I also don’t want to obsess.

    It helps me to be have a reasonable amount of time in my head each day that I plan on just hanging out and being silly with the kiddos. It’s probably less than an hour of fully devoted play time each day. But that’s how I do it. I have a toddler and a baby so life is very busy busy busy right now and it’s hard to factor in play time or anything else.

    Chances are, if you are even thinking about this, you are on the right track. I think the woman who doesn’t care wouldn’t ever ponder your thoughts. Your children will remember you for being a well-rounded mom. For keeping the house clean, feeding the family, blogging AND playing with them. They will be more secure because you are a mix of those things and they will learn quality skills as you continue to go forward being a wonderful mom who pours into her kids but also herself and her husband. It’s a difficult feat though, isn’t it??

    Anyway, all that to say, I know how you and most of the commenters feel. It’s hard and it sucks out the joy. I don’t have all the answers but I’m just trying to live in peace and know by God’s grace, my kids will know I loved them…. whether we play Monopoly or not ;)

  129. amanda August 6, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    oh my. this is me. every.single.day.

    on top of all those things being thought, i also think “what does everyone else do? i bet all of my friends are on the floor right now playing with their kids and not commenting on other peoples blogs about playing with their kids…..”

    it IS a hard balance. i’ll keep checking back here for your brilliant answer! :)

    thanks for making me feel not so alone this morning/

  130. Bopha August 6, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    Wow, thank you so much for your honesty. I think it’s a struggle that we all deal with but I am definitely with you, sometimes we just need time to do our own thing. I feel bad because I do sometimes use “play” as a leveraging tool. If you just let mommy finish what she’s doing, I’ll play one game with you. But, it’s still exhausting. As a working mom, I think the stress is even harder. You are already apart from them during the day, but that means you only have so much time to get your other duties done. I could go on and on, thanks again for a great post, let me know when you get it figured out :)

  131. Amanda August 6, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    I don’t have children, but I am a teacher and every day I see children who have parents who play with them TOO much, and it can turn into a very bad thing. Like you said, kids need to know that not every adults’ life revolves around them, and independent play is actually a skill that kids need to learn – it’s not something that comes naturally!

    Of course, I’m not saying to never play with your kids – it’s obviously very important that you do, but don’t feel guilty for saying “no” sometimes – you are building their independence which I find isn’t valued quite as highly as it should be by some people!

  132. Lindsay Wagner August 6, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    I have 3 daughters ages 5,3 and 4 months. I struggle with this hourly! ;). And the guilt really sets in when I realize my oldest will be in kindergarten in 3 weeks! I started doing “quiet toy time” with my girls. For an hour, sometimes longer, they have quiet play time in their room with the door shut. They can do whatever they want, but it’s quiet play time, and I get to do whatever I want! ;). It took awhile to get into a good routine with it, but it’s worth it. I started it young due to the advice from a wise friend who is a few years ahead of me in mommy hood. It’s been a lifesaver, and it’s good for the girls to have some down time in the afternoon. It’s still a struggle to balance the playtime but knowing I Have a break coming makes it a little easier! ;). Now that I have a 4 month old I have to time quiet toy time with her naps!!!

    • Laura E August 6, 2012 at 8:40 am #

      Thanks, Amanda, for giving your advice from more of an outsiders look. It’s good to hear that we can encourage our kids to play alone and not feel badly about it.

    • Danielle August 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      Did you ever experience any resistance from your children when they were supposed to play quietly in their room? My son comes out every 2 minutes and asks if his time is up. I’ve tried the timer and some other tactics but he still comes out. Any tips that you found successful? Thanks!

  133. Christy August 6, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    I imagine this is something you’ve thought more about after reading the Pamela Druckerman book. (I”m not reading it after seeing your blog about it.) I’m not comfortable either with the thought of always letting/making my children play by themselves all the time either. However, I can see the value in letting them learn how to combat boredom on their own. I want my children to problem solve, learn self-sufficiency, and be content on their own. But, I also want to give them childhood memories of us doing things together – even if it is just playing a game. So, I’m with you – how much time do you spend playing, and when do you say no?

    • Christy August 6, 2012 at 4:58 am #

      Oops…that’s supposed to say – I am reading the Druckerman book. Right now actually!

  134. BekaM August 6, 2012 at 4:42 am #

    This is a struggle for me everyday too! My girls play well together but the oldest constantly wants me to play too. I have her tag along with me to start laundry, make dinner, water the plants, giving her a little task to do. Then it’s time for us to play. I get what I need to done and she gets what she wants. Mommy time and play time. It doesn’t make her stop asking all day long to play with her tho. :)

  135. Kristin Smith August 6, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    I struggle with this too. I will play playdoh with my 4 year old, or read him a story when he asks, or kick the ball. But pretend play is really not my thing. I’ve found that if I let my children be (I’ve got 3 boys) my 8 year old and 4 year old will eventually start playing together – it usually some elaborate game of spy or ninja. I’ve been hearing a lot of “I’m bored” lately, but I don’t want to raise children that constantly need to be entertained. I want them to learn to use their imaginations, create things.

    • Jean August 6, 2012 at 8:21 am #

      Kristin – I can totally relate to the pretend play. I wasn’t good at it and was so amazed at how my kids would just run away with it! Ha ha – glad it’s not just me!

      • Kristin Smith August 6, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

        I just feel like they need to do their own thing – I really have to restrain myself from overparenting – I remember my childhood (70s kid) and the amount of unstructured time we had. I would be gone all day and my mom had no idea where I was – no cell phone. We would be writing plays – running around in the woods – without adult supervision. I really have to check myself and “make” my boys go out and play and entertain themselves! :)

  136. jody August 6, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    I also have four kids (ages 8-2) and they all want me to do things with them. Which is hard, especially with the age spread sometimes – the 2 year old can’t do what the older two can, etc. I have struggled with this all summer also. This week my two oldest are up north with their Grandparents and we are spending the time doing what my 4 year old wants to do and it is so nice.
    You are not in this alone!

  137. Sarah August 6, 2012 at 4:20 am #

    I know just how you feel. I want to be sure I spend all the time I can with them. They aren’t always gonna want me to play legos or slip and slide with them. It’s such a short time and I want to savor every minute I have with them. But, sometimes I just want to look at my Southern Living. :-)
    I hope you have fun enjoying the rest of your summer.

  138. Kim August 6, 2012 at 3:37 am #

    Holy cow do I relate to this!! I completely agree that it’s a matter of balance, but it’s so hard to feel like you’re getting it right! My kids are still little (3 and 1) so I should probably be playing with them even more than I do. But sometimes I fell like if I don’t just sit down and take a breather I might lose it! Good luck and know that you’re not alone in this :)

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