Enjoying Play With Your Children: A Simple System To Break Free From Motherhood Guilt


January 5, 2024

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Finding joy in play with your children can be transformative amid the challenges of motherhood. There’s an overwhelming pressure to conform to the image of the perfect mom. I’ve been there, grappling with the ideals of a flawless family and the expectation to do everything perfectly. Today, I’m excited to open up about a system I created, one that has been instrumental in helping me break free from the chains of perfectionism. My hope is that, by the end of this blogpost, you’ll discover a legitimate system that empowers you to navigate guilt, shed shame, and find joy in playing with your kids.

Listen below for the entire episode on The Systemize Your Life Podcast

Navigating The Challenges Of Playing With Our Children

Before we dive into the straightforward tips I have for you today, let’s first have an honest conversation about the underlying challenges we encounter in our hearts and minds as mothers. Many of you have reached out, curious about how I manage to play with my children, engage in tea parties, and create those seemingly perfect moments. The reality is, it hasn’t always been effortless, and I empathize with the struggles you may be facing. I want to explore the origins of these challenges and gain insights into why playing with our children can sometimes feel like a daunting task.

Playing with my children is not my thing. Even Blaine has mentioned numerous times that while he’ll happily throw a football, playing with Barbie dolls is not his cup of tea. I completely understand, and I want to be unequivocally honest—I don’t enjoy playing with my children. When you admit this aloud, the weight of guilt can make you feel like the worst parent in the world. I’ve experienced significant personal shame around this for a long time.

A Unique Journey Of Enjoying Your Children And Redefining Expectations

Being a natural people pleaser, I’ve constantly sought to make everyone happy, particularly my mom, who has specific expectations about motherhood and various aspects of life. As we mature, especially those of us inclined to please others, the desire to earn our parents’ pride intensifies. However, I swiftly recognized that I was the black sheep and wasn’t going to achieve that in the conventional way. This realization led to an internal struggle, and I approached the situation in a unique manner.

While I’ve always been self-assured in my ideas and identity, my journey into motherhood took an unexpected and broken path. It wasn’t the entrance I had envisioned, and for the majority of my life, throughout adolescence and my twenties, I adamantly declared, “I don’t want to be a mom.” Initially, it was driven by vanity, not wanting my body to undergo the changes associated with motherhood. Later, it became about preserving my career as an interpreter that I was deeply committed to. I believed I had to choose between pursuing my passions and becoming a mother. However, fate had different plans for me. God instilled a powerful and fervent desire within me to nurture a passionate individual and become an extraordinary mother.

Embracing Joy In Being A Different Kind Of Mom

Embracing motherhood has been a source of joy for me, especially because it isn’t my sole calling. I take pride in being a different kind of mother than societal expectations dictated or what I was told I should be. This blogpost is a mission to reshape the culture of motherhood, recognizing that everyone reading has faced some form of pressure to conform to a specific maternal role. I want to dissect one of these societal expectations, shedding light on a small, yet significant, aspect of the broader narrative.

Let’s delve into a crucial conversation about the reality of motherhood, a discussion that is often overlooked but needs to be addressed. Many find themselves reluctantly spending time with their children without openly acknowledging their likes and dislikes. It’s time to embrace honesty and create a home that aligns with the unique design God intended for your family. Remember, your home is meant to be distinctive, reflecting your values and preferences, setting it apart from others around you.

Navigating Individual Paths In A World Of Unique Families

Every family is unique, and your home and systems won’t mirror mine or anyone else’s. While we share the common ground of being work-from-home moms striving to excel in various areas, the nuances in our lives require us to listen to the specific calling guiding us in our motherhood journey. It’s crucial to be attuned to the voice that directs you to fulfill what is uniquely essential in your role as a mother. Recognizing and being confident in this individual path is the primary key to navigating the complexities of your motherhood journey.

When faced with challenging situations with your kids, it’s essential to identify the underlying conflict and recognize the voices influencing your decisions. Ask yourself what the source of pressure is and whose expectations are driving your actions. Trust your instincts to discern whether the pressure is stemming from genuine reasons aligned with your values or if it’s imposed by external influences. Reflect on whether your hesitation to engage in certain activities with your children is rooted in a misalignment with your priorities or an attempt to meet someone else’s expectations. This self-awareness will guide you in making authentic choices that resonate with your unique vision of motherhood.

Unleashing The Power Of Effective Communication For Genuine Connections While Playing With Your Children

To create a rich and fulfilling relationship with your children, it’s crucial to assess how you want to invest in them and ensure you have dedicated time and space for that purpose. There is such importance in confidently understanding and embracing your unique approach to pouring into your children. By identifying and dismissing the voices that trigger guilt, shame, and blame, you can free yourself from unnecessary burdens and focus on leading your children with authenticity and abundance.

By identifying and dismissing the voices that trigger guilt, shame, and blame, you can free yourself from unnecessary burdens and focus on leading your children with authenticity and abundance.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of building a meaningful relationship with your unique children. In today’s system, we emphasize the vital role of communication in understanding and connecting with your kids. Throughout the different tiers of my teachings, communication takes center stage, particularly in the fourth tier dedicated to communication in marriage. By honing your communication skills, you can navigate the complexities of your relationship with your children and foster a strong and genuine connection.

It’s interesting how life comes full circle; my college major in communication has seamlessly woven into my current endeavors. Communication is indeed indispensable, especially in addressing the guilt and shame associated with not wanting to play with your kids. To eradicate these feelings, effective communication is key—understanding your children’s desires and expressing your own. Now, let’s delve into the breakdown of the system.

Daily Conversations With Your Kids For Joyful Playtime

Step one is a simple yet impactful action—engage with your kids daily by asking them what they want to do with you. Pose the question to your children, as I do with Franki Jo and Bailey every day. Even though Bailey is just three, I’ve been doing this for a while. The key is to have a conversation about their desires and collaboratively plan your day together. This straightforward practice fosters communication and helps align your activities with their preferences.

In this step, allow your child to express their desires and engage in a conversation with them. Listen to their expectations, share your responsibilities and plans, and find a compromise that satisfies both parties. Demonstrating leadership as a mom involves prioritizing your child’s preferences and participating in activities that align with their wishes for playtime.

Creating Dedicated Moments For Playing With Your Kids

In the second step, designate a specific timeframe during your day solely for playful interaction with your children. This should be distinct from educational or household activities and solely focused on fostering joy and connection between you and your kids. Keep this time short and enjoyable, emphasizing the importance of creating a positive and fun atmosphere.

When I initially implemented this step, I started with a modest duration of 10 minutes, setting a timer to reassure myself that it was a manageable commitment. Over time, as I became more accustomed to and appreciative of the playful interaction with my children, I gradually extended the duration. The key is to find a balance that works for you and allows you to genuinely enjoy the experience.

Harmonizing Playing With Your Kids

If your child suggests an activity that you find unappealing on a particular day, it’s perfectly acceptable to express that while acknowledging their idea. Politely let them know that their suggestion sounds like a fun idea, but you’re not entirely in the mood for it that day. Take the opportunity to suggest an alternative or share your own ideas, fostering a collaborative approach. In my experience, working together with my daughter, Franki Jo, has consistently resulted in finding activities that we both look forward to doing.

Occasionally, I choose to indulge in the activities my daughter requests simply because I love her. It’s a part of parenting to fulfill some of their desires even if it involves playing a game that I might not particularly enjoy, like playing with Barbies. Striking a balance and compromising with your children, perhaps engaging in activities you find less enjoyable only once or twice a week, can turn these moments into delightful experiences.

On days when my daughter suggests activities that I might not feel like doing, I find alternative options that align with both our interests. Sometimes, I invite her to join me in a specific project or suggest activities that I genuinely enjoy, like playing board games. Additionally, we’ve identified a few activities that we both love, becoming our go-to choices. For instance, while I may not share her enthusiasm for playing pretend with baby dolls and Barbies, I’m more than willing to engage with the more life-sized babies, which we both find enjoyable. This approach helps us strike a balance between our preferences.

Navigating Playing With Your Children With Open Communication

Identifying activities that we both enjoy, such as playing in a pretend kitchen or having tea parties, has been crucial in building a positive relationship with my daughter. I’ve embraced open communication about my preferences, ensuring that there’s no guilt or shame attached to being authentically myself in our interactions. This approach lays the foundation for a mutual respect and a strong relationship that I believe will continue to thrive through challenging phases and transitions, fostering a lasting connection as my daughter grows and becomes more independent.

For Bailey, who is three, the approach is slightly different. Given her limited understanding of time references, I wait until we reach the designated timeframe and ensure that I have a dedicated moment for her each day. At that point, I either ask her what she wants to do or join in on an activity she’s naturally engaged in. Alternatively, I initiate play when she’s doing something that aligns with what I enjoy, creating a balanced and enjoyable interaction tailored to her developmental stage.

Bailey has her unique preferences, such as loving to wrestle, a favorite activity of her father. While it may not be my favorite, I engage in wrestling with her. She enjoys playing pretend, and sometimes I participate in that as well. Alternatively, we share activities we both enjoy, like coloring or doing puzzles. Although Bailey loves playing mom and baby, something I don’t particularly enjoy, I compromise by doing it occasionally, emphasizing the importance of enjoyable and balanced interaction. I don’t force myself to do it every day, ensuring that the time spent with my kids is genuinely enjoyable for both of us.

Tailoring Playing With Your Children For Unique Parent-Child Relationships

Engaging in this open and honest dialogue with my kids about what activities we want to do together is not just about play but about imparting valuable life lessons. It’s a practical way to demonstrate healthy communication, compromise, and setting boundaries. By acknowledging their desires and expressing my preferences, we navigate a path that satisfies both parties, fostering a relationship built on mutual understanding and respect. It’s more than play; it’s a lesson in how to navigate relationships with open communication and compromise.

To manage the challenge of ending playtime, especially with Bailey, I’ve strategically scheduled our play session right before I start cooking dinner. This time slot is carefully chosen as it aligns with their hunger and tiredness, making it the most effective period for meaningful engagement. By incorporating this intentional timing, I not only maximize the quality of our play but also find a practical solution to gracefully conclude our interaction before transitioning into other responsibilities. It’s a hack that works well for us and contributes to a smoother flow in our daily routine.

Navigating The End of Playing With Your Children With Grace and Excitement

Exiting playtime smoothly is a breeze for me, and there are two key reasons for that. Firstly, like I wrote above, I’ve strategically planned our play session right before I start cooking dinner. As their hunger kicks in, they’re more than eager for me to transition into the kitchen and whip up a meal. Secondly, my tip for you is to intentionally have an enticing activity planned on the other side of this playtime window. Regardless of when you choose to engage in this interaction, having a planned task or event after playtime ensures a seamless transition. Take my example – even if it’s just 10 to 30 minutes, or even an hour, having a set endpoint allows you to gracefully move on while maintaining a positive atmosphere.

Ensure that the activity awaiting them on the other side is something they’re genuinely excited about. For example, I often ask, “Do you want to come and cook dinner with me?” If they’re not interested and prefer to keep playing, that’s fine too. The key is to make the transition smooth and appealing for them. Experiment with different post-playtime activities until you find what works best for you and your children.

Another effective approach is to strategically structure the playtime so that they’re having so much fun that you can inform them, “Hey, I’ll play with you for a bit, and then I’ll head to cook dinner so you can continue playing.” This works especially well when creating a fun environment, such as with painting, playdough, or any engaging activity. Allowing them to keep playing after your initial involvement can make the transition smoother for both you and your children.

Finding Joy In Childlike Innocence And Building Lasting Bonds With Your Child

Concentrate on the joy your child brings you during these moments. Despite the challenges, put aside distractions like your phone during this dedicated time. Look your children in the eye and immerse yourself, even if just for a moment, in the innocence and joy they radiate. It’s a deliberate effort to focus on the positive aspects of your child’s presence and the joy they bring into your life during these shared moments.

Create a routine where you and your child anticipate an enjoyable activity most days of the week, allotting a set timeframe for this dedicated interaction. Shift your perspective during these moments, focusing on the gift and gratitude for having a healthy, vibrant child who actively engages with you. Embrace the opportunity to connect with their innocence, appreciating the small details like their little fingers and freckles. Recognize that this phase is fleeting, and fostering these brief moments of togetherness contributes to building a strong bond before they grow into more independent stages.

Embracing The Blessing Of Playing With Your Children

Shift your focus during these moments of play, deliberately tuning into the blessing of having your child—whether they’re eight or three. Acknowledge the fleeting nature of this season, realizing that your little one will never be a baby again. As you navigate this unique phase, accept that while you may not love every aspect of playing with your children, you’re intentional about not wishing away the precious moments and recognizing the incredible gift and blessing your child represents. Dedicate just five minutes a day to embrace this profound experience.

Look into your child’s eyes, embrace the scent, and share a hug—immersing yourself in the love and presence without the distraction of your phone or the weight of pending tasks. Allow this time to be a sanctuary, free from judgment about productivity, deadlines, or unchecked to-dos. Focus solely on nurturing and preserving that precious spirit of innocence in those fleeting moments with your child.

The 3 Simple Steps To Break Free From Perfection And Enjoy Playing with Your Children

To summarize, the three key steps to break free from the pressure of being the perfect mom and genuinely enjoy playing with your kids are:

1. Daily Inquiry: Ask your kids every day what they would love to do with you. For younger children, pose this question right before engaging in the activity.

2. Set Timeframe: Allocate a specific time block in your day for playful interaction with your kids. Establish both when and for how long this dedicated time will occur.

3. Joyful Focus: During this dedicated time, concentrate on what brings you joy in your child. Let go of external distractions, immerse yourself in the present moment, and foster a genuine connection with their innocent spirit.

Thank you to everyone who prompted and encouraged this discussion. Feel free to share this blogpost with fellow moms who may be grappling with similar feelings of judgment and guilt. If you want to dig in further, check out this blogpost: Connecting With Your Kids: 15 Quick Tips For Busy Parents.

I challenge you to embrace imperfection and break free from the pressures of being the perfect mom by applying this straightforward system.


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