Moms Are Gamers Too, And It's Part Of Our Self-Care
We all know the stereotypical mom types out there. The helicopter moms, the tiger moms, the soccer moms, the wine moms, the free-range moms, the granola moms—the list goes on ad nauseum. There’s one cadre you may not have heard of, though, and that’s the gamer moms. And, they’re not exactly new in town.
Gamer moms is a phrase that seems at odds with the word gamer itself. In my mind, my sons fit the gamer bill. They gear up with energy drinks and a couple family-sized bags of Lay’s and head for the basement. There, they immerse themselves in Valorant or Roblox or Fifa–and probably a lot of other games I know nothing about. (My mantra: if you get good grades, stay out of trouble, and participate adequately in family events, I stay out of your hair.) When it’s time for dinner, I have to call them seven or 36 times to come up and inhale whatever slop I’ve made, and then they retreat back to their on-the-cusp-of-being-a-man cave and once again take care of business.
The odd thing is that, while I have easily pegged my sons as gamers, I have never thought of myself as a gamer mom. In my mind, I can’t possibly be one since I only go to the basement (where the Xbox lives) to do laundry, and I’m a middle-aged crone. I think of myself as “playing on my phone” when I whizz through a few rounds of whatever when I hit my afternoon wish-I-had-a-nap slump. But gamers aren’t just about the Nintendo Wii or Playstation (or some other console that’s probably en vogue now); we are playing across mobile, tablet, and PC platforms too. And, since my phone is “mobile” and I have sired two sons, I actually fit in quite nicely with the other gamer moms.
There is a sort of stigma attached to the idea of a gamer mom. Maybe it’s a judgment on our use of time, when we should obviously be feather-dusting the mantle or plucking a chicken to fricassee for dinner. Maybe we’re expected to “act our age” and start crocheting or clipping coupons. Maybe gaming is not considered “lady-like” enough. Whatever the reason, while 71% of moms report that they play video games, less than 50% describe themselves as “gamers,” according to a global research study. “This lack of self-identification has led to the perception of gaming as an activity enjoyed solely by men, which is both outdated and inaccurate,” the report concludes. So true.
With nearly three-quarters of all moms gaming across the globe, the fact is that gamer moms are not mythological, mysterious, or rare. In the U.S. alone, 77% of gamer moms partake daily, and 29% clock in more than 10 hours per week. Many, many would label these 10 plus hours as a less than productive pursuit, and “Techstory” writer Priyansh Sidhwani sums up their feelings: “Online video games are also a waste of time and very harmful, as their play takes precedence over real life….”
Well, if that is the conclusion of the masses, that is fine. I would argue, however, that gamer moms have tapped into a long-overlooked–and erroneously distrusted–resource.
Gamer Moms Know How To Unwind
As we all know, self-care can look like many things. Yours might be a midday power nap and a bubble bath; mine might be a pint of Cherry Garcia and a little old school Mario. And since I’m not going to knock your lilac bath bomb, don’t you dare knock the time I devote to pouncing on those toadstools.
Verywell writer and blogger Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D. sums up a study that considered the experience of 1614 gamers. “Results showed,” writes Scott, “that games are indeed used as a coping tool after exposure to stressful situations and strain and that this ‘recovery experience’ is a significant facet of the gaming experience.” And, as we moms know, we can use all the decompression we can get.
The experts don’t lie and real-world gamer moms tell a similar story. Foster mother Kristie Z. confides, “I used to hide out in the bathroom with a book when my kids would fight. As they’ve gotten older, I’m able to take a break from the chaos by sneaking in my bedroom and playing ‘Toon Blast.’” She adds, “I’m not even joking”–and, as a fellow gamer mom and “Toon Blast” enthusiast, I believe her. We moms need to battle the mostly-inescapable stress of errant toddler urine and unfinished homework and teenage mouths—and video gaming can be the elixir that promises relaxation.
Gamer Moms Know How To Connect
Jenn Mac, self-proclaimed Geeky Writer and Professional Geek Parent, writes that the gamer mom is often portrayed as an “emotionally distant recluse who neglects their adulting responsibilities.” In his opinion piece for the New York Times, Peter Suderman uses similar verbiage: “Video games are often thought of as lonely pursuits for socially hobbled recluses.” He then goes on to refute this misconception, arguing that many recent games are designed to “facilitate connection and community.”
Though Suderman is likely looking at the bigger picture (he writes about specific games that foster connection among online players), gamer moms also look at the smaller one. “Our family’s world is pretty hectic since my kids are busy with lots of sports,” says Jenna P., mother of 3 boys, “We are always ‘dividing and conquering’ and running in different directions. Lots of times when we’re all home, the kids head to use the Xbox and me and my husband are right there behind them.”
Lara B., a single mom, says that she seldom gets to sit down with her kids and play video games alongside them, “But I try to play the same games they do, so we have stuff to talk about…. Her daughters might not always tell her how their school days went, but they are always up for talking about Creepers or EnderCon. Like Activision Blizzard Media reports, “For gamer moms, gaming is a connective tissue in their relationships with their kids – the more they game, the more they can relate to their children.”
Gamer Moms Know How To Thrive
While gamer moms, like all moms, grasp at any opportunity to connect with our kids, that is not the only takeaway. For some gamer moms, the benefits of gaming are more self-directed. Kristie Z., while enjoying the escape gaming provides, also sees it as an opportunity for self-growth. “I can’t put my finger on why” she says, “but playing on that phone does more than just calm me. It’s like it like it gets my brain going again…It gets me going again.”
She’s not just imagining this boon, either. Gamer moms report a boost in mood (compared to non-gamer moms), and some describe themselves as feeling “creative, smart, and powerful” when they game. ”Gaming for these moms is more than just a hobby; it is something that enriches and adds value to their lives day-to-day,” say Merrideth Worrilow and Devora Rogers, writers for Reasearchworld.com.
Sometimes it’s hard for the world to remember that once a woman has a child and becomes a mom, they are not only a mom. (Sometimes it’s even hard for us moms to remember.) My guess is that most gamer moms don’t realize that, when they grab that phone or controller or keypad, they are taking steps towards always-necessary self-improvement.
Originally, when I began writing this article, eight gamer moms agreed to be interviewed. In the end, that number dwindled to a conservative three. But that’s unsurprising; like Activision Blizzard Media says, almost a quarter of mom gamers don’t view themselves that way. Is this because they don’t use a joy-stick-y console? Because gaming is their “dirty little secret”? Would they rather present themselves as an imbiber of fine literature (even if it’s not true)? Do they feel guilty?
When the words gamer and mom are attached, this hybrid is not seen as the norm. But, the image of a headset-wearing, basement-dweller teen boy is too narrow and “doesn’t reveal the full spectrum of the gaming audience today.” The helicopter mom, the soccer mom, and all the others are still sprinkled around. But, the fact is, out of all the moms in the world, an impressive majority are gamer moms.
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