Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Eternal Guilt of the Mom

This summer vacation has me thinking a lot more about an issue I have considered for years. It is the new trend of spending every waking moment entertaining your child(ren). Since my children are not in any sort of daycare, they are with one of their parents 24 hours per day. We don't even have family close by, so they are literally with us ALL OF THE TIME. Now, I am pretty good about doing stuff with my kids a lot of the time. (See my post of our 60 summer adventures here.) I take them hiking, to the pool, the park, for bike rides, to theaters... I think my girls are blessed to experience a lot of fun activities. My issue comes in down time. The second I am not actively entertaining them, they are giving me a guilt trip as though I am neglecting them. "Mommy, play with me. I am bored. Push me on the swing. Take me to the park." I feel as though it is my job to actively entertain them every second of everyday. And I am not talking about providing them entertainment, I mean being physically connected to them and amusing them. My children are provided a lot of things to entertain themselves: a huge play structure, 2 jeeps, a zip line, 2 slip n slides, a bounce house, 5 sprinklers, crafts, a playroom and 2 bedrooms overflowing with toys, etc. But if I just turn the sprinkler on and do not run through it for an hour, I am somehow less of a mom.

I think back to my childhood and parents were no where near as involved as they are today. As I tell my kids, we would eat breakfast, go out and play until lunch, come in and eat lunch, head back out and play until dinner and then after dinner play outside until dark. And my mom was not holding my hand the whole time.

While I enjoy the time when I am playing with the girls, I also want them to learn independence and to be able to stand alone and amuse themselves. Am I being selfish? Should I expect to be their constant playmate?


  1. I know the feeling. Carsen is great if I'm not in the room with him he'll play by himself the whole time but as soon as he sees me he says "Mama, play trains with me". Then it's like he can't do it by himself anymore the only way the trains work is if I push them around the track.

  2. ah the guilt. It is the worst.

    We make Jake play a little on his own each day. We make a big deal about it like he is so mature that he has earned downtime, and he can do whatever he wants as long as he is by himself (within reason, of course). He can play in his room or in the yard (remember our "yards" are basically just boxes out back!) or in the living room, but he has to stick to himself.

    He feels like it's an earned right, so he is okay with it.

    Good luck!

  3. Isn't that why people get 2 dogs instead of 1? The dog will always have a playmate! Kids don't need Mommy to play with them everyday. You are in the clear to send them off to play on their own....without the side of guilt! On the otherhand, you can enjoy this time because in a few years they will think you stink and not want you around. Oh the irony!

  4. I always loved the fact that my kids liked to play on their own----imagination abounds in our family!

    But it is hard to know where to draw a line with how much----I was more on the side of not spending enough time with them---so I ended up feeling guilty anyway...sigh...