I don’t know about you, but I feel this constant pressure of creating this perfect playtime for my kids at home. I think I read in a parenting book once that you should spend at least 5 minutes per child each day to build and solid relationship. This idea stuck. I thought this advice was gold … then I had kids.  

Oh, I have plans alright to accomplish this goal of perfect one-on-one play time! — except when I fail —  

… which happens to be ALWAYS!

Rewind my story a little — I was really feeling a sharp guilt about this issue, this past summer.

I had my little newborn just as summer set to start and she ranked 5th (child) in our house! So I hired in a mother help. But even with the part-time help (my hubby has self-employed working hours)  and my super relaxed attitude 😉 (I knew the summer would be hard) I still couldn’t handle the stress, chaos, the unplanned, or the tantrums on the floor from the toddler, (not me!)  … or the outside playtime that would turn into 2 loads of laundry. Forget completely about one-on-one playtime. Who was I kidding? There was no way I could make it work. So instead I carried around my guilt. 

Besides, in truth, I don’t like getting down in the sandpile to play with my toddler. Not because I don’t like to get dirty (I don’t mind) but more that I have a bazillion other things that are a higher priority. Like cooking that sweet toddler some yummy food he’ll eat for lunch, and washing his sweet dishes, and switching out his sweet laundry.

So many plans for the perfect one-on-one playtime that never happened.

I felt like I was going out of my mind somedays because all I had accomplished was feeding, dressing the kids, and supervising their play. The house was a disaster, the food we ate wasn’t anything I had prepared (M & M Meats!) and no shower again for me. It was a moment by moment summer. (moment by moment in good ways too — enjoying the “first” smiles, kids playing in the swimming pool etc.). But still, there was this persistent idea that I should be making time for perfect play! 

There was so much that I wanted to do with my kids this past summer that we never did. Things I wanted to teach them. Things that “Yeah! That sounds like a great idea. We should really do that!” but never got done.

Yet here I was, fed up, frustrated and ready to let go of the guilty attitude that made up the should have’s  for perfect playtime. 

I’m finding that “YES” it’s definitely possible!

Not perfect, but possible to let go of those higher expectations and mom guilt.

Here are some way’s I’m trying to let go.

1 – Let go of everything else but gratitude and breathe in the moment.

My mom would visit during the summer. Holding the baby at least once a week. She never stops in without something in her hands. While I’m grateful for what she physically brings, I’m even more grateful that she stops in her busy schedule to hold my precious baby.

She is also patient with the other children listening to all their questions and yet takes the time to chat with me. Seeing her take the time to care for us — reminds me of when I was little and how she cared for me as a child. I know from a child’s perspective that childhood goes quickly by. Now as a mother, I see those childhood stages fly by faster than ever!

So — reminding myself, when I’m in the trenches — all this childhood busyness will soon end and I will be like my mother — visiting my grown kids.

I need to try to enjoy these moments now — even though they can be quite intense with little children.

I need to; actually pay full attention to a question, stop the kitchen clean up after supper to sit and listen to my daughter read, or SAY the positive words that float through my mind that I tell my husband at the end of the day, of things that our children did but I didn’t tell my child.

I still don’t do this perfectly, but I’m constantly trying to work on it.

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2 – Let go and release perfect expectations of one-on-one playing.

Play is how children learn, grow and educate themselves. As they are outside my toddler tries to repeat a play action over and over again. He’s learning.

Or when the older children dig a huge hole in the sand pile and work on it every day for the next week, because they want to. They are learning.

I’ve found that the less there is of me in their actual play, or of me trying to control where I want the game to go (because I know “better), or how I think the craft should be done correctly, the more I remove myself from their work —  the more they take on and learn for themselves.

I absolutely believe that parents are still needed (lol) to direct and set up a successful playtime with boundaries. (aka. Make sure they all get out the door to go play in the sand pile). But it’s amazing to step back and watch the kids turn sticks and sand into a freeway. I would never have thought of this.

But I must admit I have a hard time playing with my kids and rarely do it. I supervise, but all the great advise of “getting down to their level and play”.  I have a hard time doing it. I feel like there is such a social pressure to be RIGHT beside my kids playing with them, bonding with them during their playtime. I feel like there is such a social view that the generation before us NEVER spent time with their kids this way. I feel like there is the social pressure to be the generation that spends tons of time with their kids. But the clincher for me is that I’m not living up to this “new” social expectation. Do I really spend 2.5x more with my kids than my mom did with me? I have no idea! I’m just living my life. And yet there is this guilty feeling that I should have done more!

I do, also, imagining most of my mom’s friends enjoying; sand digging, bug finding, water puddle boot stomps, but not me. I can get sucked into this attitude of inadequacy. While none of the above is true! 

So every night before I sleep I grab onto one encouraging thought, one positive connection that I did make with each of my kids. Simple thoughts of; doing their hair, chatting in the quiet moments just before bed, cleaning up their bedroom with them while chatting away. I need to take the expectation of trying to make these perfect “movie moments” with my kids and bury them.

I need to “let go” of what I think social expectations say about the proper amount of playtime I should be spending with my kids playing and what I think my mom friends do and just enjoying my simple reality. I don’t literally play much at all with my kids, but it doesn’t mean I love them any less. 

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Enjoying the little moments.

Enjoying the dirt on my kids as they get ready for their bath in the evenings because that tells me that even though I wasn’t playing one-on-one with them — they had a good and busy day of a child’s work. And that’s satisfying enough for me!

How about you? Do you struggle with the feeling of guilt in long harbored parenting expectations that are unrealistic? Let me know what you are trying to let go of today in the comments below! Love to hear from you.

By: Sharon Schuler