I Hate Playing With My Children


Six little words that strike fear into your heart.

Six little words that can bring you to your knees, take you down to the ground, break your back, and muddle your mind.

“Mum, will you play with me?”

Curly Mop, newly four, had just started kindergarten, and we were suffering through a slew of half-days.

I had picked her up at noon and we now had three hours before we had to return to collect the Bombshell. After a sandwich, she peered up at me through her lashes and uttered those six words.

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Some of you will hate me and call me a bad mother, but I’m just being honest when I say I cringe when I hear those words. I hate playing with my children. Give me a Barbie doll and I will dress it and undress it happily for hours. Give me a book and I will read it to whomever is listening. Give me some Legos and I will build you something amazing. Give me a board game and I’m happy to roll the dice. But don’t ask me to ‘play’ because there is nothing fun about playing.

“Pretend it’s the circus now, but I’m not a clown. Pretend I’m a butterfly. Okay, Mum?” said the Mop.

“Okay,” I replied.

“You have to say, ‘Here comes the butterfly,'” she told me.

“Okay,” I said enthusiastically. “You’re a butterfly. I love your sparkly wings. Can you teach me how to fly?”

“No Mum, you don’t say that. You can only say, ‘Here comes the butterfly.’ Okay?” she said crossly.

“Okay. Sorry. Here comes the butterfly,” I said, feeling chastised.

“I’m not ready yet, Mum. You can’t say it yet.” She dashed into the next room and I heard the contents of the dress-up box being emptied onto the floor. “I’m ready,” she called.

“Here comes the butterfly,” I called. Out she danced, wearing some wings. She did a whirl and promptly went back into the playroom.

“Okay, now pretend this is a show, and I’m a Barbie bride girl, and this is my wedding.”

“Okay,” I replied.

‘You have to say “here comes Barbie bride girl,'” she told me.

“Okay,” I said. “Here comes Barbie bride girl.”

“I’m not ready yet, Mum. You can’t say it yet.”

I was beginning to detect a theme.

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“Playing” with my daughter basically consists of her telling me to “pretend” something. We don’t actually get to do whatever she is pretending, it’s strictly a verbal thing. Pretend I’m a mermaid. Pretend this is my home. Pretend you’re a shark. But I don’t get to be a shark. I just have to say I’m a shark.

So I find myself doing the most horrendous things to get out of “playing.”

I need to go to the toilet. I need to make a cup of coffee. Is that the phone ringing? I think I hear the mailman. And the worst: I’m just going to check my email, which is just slightly better than ‘would you like to watch TV instead?’

I know that it won’t be long before all my girls are too old to want to play with me anymore. I am sure that I will feel bad that I didn’t play with them more when they were little. I feel bad about lots of other things, what’s a little more mother guilt piled on top?

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I relish the “shows” the girls put on, where they dance and twirl and sing. I love them because they’re cute but also because I know my place. I am the appreciative audience. I ooh, I ahh, I clap and I take pictures. I am not expected to be involved and that is fine. I will genuinely be sad when the shows finish, when they grow into self-consciousness, and no longer want to be the centre of attention.

But imaginative play where there is no opportunity to use my imagination drives me nutty. Being barked orders by a four year old is no fun, and so I will continue to live in fear of those six little words, “Mum, will you play with me?”

Related post: 10 Reasons Not To Play Board Games With Your Kids

About the writer

Shannon Meyerkort is a writer, blogger and mother of three girls under seven. Her love of writing isn’t simply because you get to do it sitting down. When she isn't doing the school-run or making vegemite sandwiches, you can probably find her writing at the kitchen table. Follow her blog Relentless or find her on Facebook. You can also buy her book, The Brutal Truth About the Third Child, on Amazon. If you want to know the truth, that is.


Erica 4 days ago

Its hard sometimes you just go with the flow and sometimes you semi-ignore them while trying to watch anything besides dora the explorer! Thats why we had two I cannot play with you all day! ok maybe for a little bit and i dont want to ruin his imagination but it is ok to say no mommy cant play right now as awful as you will feel for saying it, you will get replaced by a sibling a dog or teddy bear

Monica 3 months ago

I hate playing with my kids. No matter what. Period.

Adora Infantino 4 months ago

I don’t know what planet this mother is from who cringes when her little girl asks her to play pretend. Is she nuts? She does not deserve to be a mother & is a disgrace to Motherhood. Playing pretend was the best part of my childhood.

Amanda 6 months ago

OMG, this is my life. You’ve described exactly what playing with my almost four-year old is like. It’s made worse by the fact that he is an only child, so we are subjected to this form of “playing” on a daily routine. I agree – give me anything to do – build with legos! Let’s bake some cookies! Play outside! And I will happily oblige. But this constant “Pretend” thing drives me batty.

Kris 11 months ago

I’m not proud of it, but yeah, I don’t like playing kiddie games as well. My mom and dad and grandparents never played with me as a kid. I think being there for your children is important but it is also important to let them learn how to amuse themselves. After all, they are not the center of the universe and they should know that. My little one is 6 and I think she’s ready to learn that, so I let her play by herself. When she asks me if I want to play, I sometimes say I don’t feel like playing, and she totally understands and does her own thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with her – we go on mommy and baby dates, I do her nails, watch movies with her, talk to her, eat with her and everything else, I’m just not down with playing kid games sometimes. I do make home made playdoh with her and do other creative stuff, just really not into dolls.

Darrah 12 months ago

Oh my God! I googled, I hate playing with my children, and up came your blog in the search engine. I’m NOT alone! I LOVE my children. I couldn’t wait for the day I would become a mother. It was what I dreamed of my whole entire life! Then they came along. I loved nursing, cuddling, bathing them….I loved the baby days. Then something happened and those sweet little babies began growing into toddlers. Damn, why didn’t someone warn me! haha! Then as they began to put sentences together words formed, Mom, will you play with us? Oh hell no! Not those words! I’ll happily prepare snacks, cook from scratch, help with homework, take walks, take them to the pool or park, I’ll even play games or read but please, just please DO NOT ask me to “play”. I don’t feel quite so horrible now….to know I’m not alone.

jacqui 12 months ago

Nope, I hate the barbies and the shows too.

Toni 1 year ago

I am so relieved to hear this is not just me. We have it pounded into our heads so often that we’re not appreciating our children if we don’t spend every second catering to their every whim…it’s nice to know I’m not the only mom who is no good at, and does not enjoy, “playing.”

Jackie Bixby 1 year ago

I love playing with my young children, some activities I definitely enjoy more than others. Sometimes it is difficult to play certain things because my daughter 2 or son 3.5 do not want to play by the rules and yes that does make some games & play that much less enjoyable for me as an adult which is totally normal. We as women need to stop being so judgemental about our differences in parenting techniques and styles, we are not better than the next person because we choose to do something differently, or because we enjoy some activities more than others. We are all just mothers who love our children just the same and we should be sticking together and supporting one another as life is already full of enough obstacles against us.

Heidi Coggins 1 year ago

Sad. I miss playing with my guys.

Chris Cottone 1 year ago

Enjoy these precious moments. It will mean the world to your child, for one day they will not ask you “to play” with them. Then one day they will not want anything to do with you, and you will wish and long for the day that they asked you to play with them.

Summer Cox Embler 1 year ago

I do not understand the level of, well, it seems like anger directed at this. I also don’t understand why other parents (especially mothers) feel that they need to judge other parents for how they parent. The other thing I don’t understand is how such a large portion of these commenters have little or no reading comprehension. If you go around and say that everything about being a parent is the best ever, you’re obviously lying. As long as a parent isn’t abusing or neglecting their kids, who cares how they parent? I fucking hated playing pretend with my kids and I’m glad I don’t have to do it anymore. There are many things I genuinely do not enjoy doing but do anyway. How does that make me a terrible person, exace? I think some people need to unlike this page…

Jill Hill 1 year ago

I always feel guilty, thought I was the only one…playing with my 5yr old is him bossing me around, telling me what to do and how to do it but never actually doing anything. Id read a million books or chase him around the park, anything other than ‘ free playing’ but I still do it everytime! Someday I know he will stop asking and I will miss it.

Tara Topper Bentz 1 year ago

Ladies, to all the perfect mommies that have all day to hang out with your little monsters thumbs up to you. Get a grip on reality. The author is being sarcastic. If you had children so you could play all day then you should have gone to never never land because clearly you never wanna grow up!!!!! It is a parents job to teach them right from wrong and to teach them to become civilized members of society. Not to entertain them at every waking minute of the day. What will your teenager do for entertainment when your not around to do so?? These kids grow up to be needy little show offs because they need the attention that they will be deprived of.

Lindsey Obremski Wertman 1 year ago

Omg i love you! This is so me!!!!

Crystal Strickland 1 year ago

I have a time limit of course, but the truth is that I adore playing with my son. He brings out my inner three year old and it’s comforting knowing I still possess that innocence.

Lauren 1 year ago

Verbatim what I deal with daily. Thank you!!

Marie Sanders 1 year ago

I’m a big kid and LOVE playing! But of course, I appreciate the time I have with my daughter (she’s sick) and don’t take it for granted. Any time I get to spend with her is precious to me.

Eileen Teresa Laurent 1 year ago

I hate dolls and girly stuff. So glad I had boys.

Kelly Fosdick Forsyth 1 year ago

I guess this makes me lucky, because I love playing with toys and love playing with my kids.


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