We all need some time each day to decompress and unwind. I knew when I became a mother I wasn’t going to be able to entertain my kids all the time. It’s just not in me. I get irritated and stressed when I am trying to be “on” for someone else every moment. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my children, or I don’t treasure our special moments together. I just treasure them a lot more when they are able to entertain themselves, especially while I do things which require my full attention, like frying bacon, or when I am in the middle of a long texting session with my best friend.
Enjoying the moments from afar really is a thing. I am full of love and contentment when my kids are playing nicely, and I am baking or reading and can listen to them enjoying themselves on their own. Even if it only lasts for a few minutes, to me, those moments are priceless. Even if they aren’t playing nicely, I refuse to entertain them all the time. They don’t need to be overscheduled and micromanaged. They are kids, but also…
1. I believe in free time.
I need to squeeze in a bit of free time for myself every day. It rejuvenates me and makes it easier to tackle the relentless schedule of stuff we all have to do. Kids are no different. They need time and space of their own to daydream and use their imagination. They get irritated and overstimulated just as much as adults do.
2. The more I entertain, the less my kids entertain themselves.
When my first was born, I spent a lot of time entertaining him, and because of that, he grew to expect it from me. I don’t regret the special time or the special energy I had for him, but I did notice he required different attention than my other two (slightly more neglected) children. It was a hard transition for him when I had his sister and brother.
3. It teaches them to live in the moment.
Kids (and adults) always seem to remember the times they were living in the moment above anything else. There is nothing like having an unexpected, wonderful afternoon when nothing was planned. We set our expectations very high when we are relying on someone else to entertain us all the time.
If I was hovering over my children all day and had my hands in every activity they did, they wouldn’t grow, evolve, and learn as they should. They would be very comfortable with me always being there, instructing, managing, and correcting them. Then they would miss so many important lessons, like expert candy sneaking, building extravagant boobie traps, and getting into my makeup to make a tutorial for their new YouTube channel.
4. All of the toys they get SHOULD serve a purpose.
What’s the point of all the toys they are gifted or bribed with if they aren’t going to play with them? I realize I could play with them, and every once in a while I do, until things stop going my way. Like the time I played Barbies with my daughter, and she wanted them to get dressed up and go to a party, which they did, but when I wanted them to dance on my back (this almost counts as a massage), she wasn’t having it. Sorry, but if Mama doesn’t get a Barbie foot massage out of this, I am out.
Letting kids play alone lets them explore and be in charge of their own world for a while. It also lets the parent recharge or take a kid-free piss.
5. I am their mother, not a one-woman circus.
I drive to and fro, bake, cook, and clean, as well as make sure they have a sack lunch for the field trip, costumes for the play, and a gift for all the birthday parties. And while I do quite a bit with/for my kids, I do not do everything with/for them. We had more than one child for a few reasons; a big one was so they could entertain and help each other.
6. I do have a life outside of them.
I need them to busy themselves because I have a job. I have friends and sisters that need me sometimes. Of course, they come first, and they know that. But just because they come first does not mean they don’t take a backseat sometimes. That’s life.
7. They have more fun without me.
I can be bossy. I don’t like playing made-up games with made up rules. Also, I am not really good at losing, especially to a 10-year-old who kicks my ass in a game of Pig. Really, they have more fun if I am not involved.
8. I am too damn tired.
Let’s be very clear, this is the biggest reason of all. I understand that their positive brain development should be my number one reason, but it’s not. I do feel super pleased with myself when I use that as an excuse though, because it sounds better than “I am too tired to play Risk after dinner,” so I use it often.
Free time — it is worth quite a lot to kids and their parents. And the last time I checked, moms had a thousand other things to do each day. And while entertaining our kids is included in that, it’s not our sole purpose. So you bet your ass I am the mom over there on my phone, or chatting it up with a friend while we are at the park, because when my kids are lost in their own world, I get to be lost in mine — guilt-freaking-free.