Recapturing Play for Moms

RELATIONSHIPS | 6 mins

Moms, you are not the party planner for your kids.

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It bothers me that most moms I know plan and prep play and entertainment in the lives of our children, and then stand on the sidelines and watch. Somewhere in the modern job description of “mom,” we’ve decided it’s mom’s job to stage the fun instead of to have the fun. This dynamic is numbing and stifling real joy in the lives of mothers. And it’s time for a change.

Today we put real, genuine play and pleasure for moms back on the top of the priority list. And guess what? It’ll actually bring more genuine joy to your kids as well.

When I had four little kids at home I ran around town weekly hitting up spots for play and fun throughout the year; indoor playgrounds, toy train stations, outdoor parks, water splash pads, craft events, trampoline parks, storytimes, mall rides, amusement parks even some random place called “Totter’s Otterville” that I never quite understood. Every single one of these places was about play, joy and/or fun for my kids.

Then one day I got tired of it all. I was standing there—yet again—watching my kids play on the indoor playground. I got fed up, tired of being the planner, bored and disinterested in small talk with moms I’d never see again. OK, let’s be honest, I’m always disinterested in small talk. So, I suddenly jumped on a moving, twirling thing-y (the official name of the object in the picture) that a big kid was spinning around. I momentarily forgot about the motion sickness that had set in after having all these babies. And even though I just about threw up after I got off, that moment started my journey of actually having the fun instead of watching the fun.

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I tried to remember what I even liked to do for fun. I had to remember again that I love to be in the woods. I always end up climbing on trees, rocks, etc. while I hike. I love to ride bikes. I like boats, paddleboards, and jet skis. I actually think reading is fun. I like to throw balls and play four square. I have fun baking (who doesn’t like licking the batter?!) and giving away some of what I make. I tried to recall fun and memory of the first time I played Ultimate Frisbee came to mind. I had to reach in there pretty far: there were shamefully few of those memories for years.

Slowly, I began to take notice of what brought me life, joy, laughter, and fun; the things that awakened play in me. Then I just started to bring my kids along.

As soon as everyone was three years old, we canoed (that’s the rule on the river near us). I traded our passes to a little amusement park near us for passes to the Nature Center that was 15 minutes further away. Because, motion sickness, remember?! Near water, I’ll prioritize budget for renting water toys, because there’s nothing like the feel of a jet ski. If the kids want me to come outside, I suggest four square. In the winter, we baked once a week and took some to neighbors. As they’ve gotten older, I get tickets to shows I want to see and take one of them with me or we make it a family thing. Instead of cartoons that I can’t stand, I introduced them to British period drama—though I only won over one kid out of four! Do they always love what I love? Nope. But there’s plenty of time to have fun separately too.

I also started saying no to all the kid places where I ended up standing around, watching, and calling it fun. Or if I said yes (because my kids like trampolines but I pee my pants) at a time for when I could read a book or take a friend to chat with while they play. I’d clearly explain to my kids that I’m going to use the time for that. I tell them I’m happy they’re having fun, but this isn’t fun for mom. And we’re all on the same page.

Before planning anything to do with the kids, I started asking myself one simple question:

“Does this sound fun to me?”

Of course, I would hear a voice in my head tell me that I was selfish. Then that voice told me that my kids needed what entertained them. Sometimes that voice would say the extra bother wasn’t worth it. It told me my kids were missing out. But none of these are true.

Real play and joy for mom preserves it for the entire household. Yes, there are times when we all have different definitions of fun. Knowing what mom (and dad) think is fun is critical to knowing what to prioritize doing as a family. Then you can throw them in the car with your neighbor or let them go with a friend to the other stuff! We have learned to prioritize what mom and dad enjoy doing because it overflows from us and impacts the whole family. Did you catch that word? Overflow. That’s how my kids get the most joy. It comes best from what’s within me. This is the same principle I see many places in the Bible but is evident in one simple verse:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

The God of hope gives hope, and we overflow with his hope. This principle of overflow is true for joy, play, and pleasure too. The God of joy gives joy, and we overflow with his joy. The God of pleasure gives pleasure and we overflow with his pleasure. He gives. We receive. We seek Him for genuine play, pleasure, and joy, and he is happy to give it. We were created to receive from a God who knows who we are. He knows how he made us and what we like. He knows how to awaken play and fun in the life of anyone—even moms who have been party planners so long they can’t remember what they like anymore. Ask him! He gave you life to enjoy his overflow.

Written by Alli Patterson on Sep 18, 2019
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Discussion Questions

  1. What strikes you most about Alli’s article? Why?

  2. What would it take for you to make the switch from staging the fun to having it?

  3. How does it feel to believe God wants this for you? Is it easy to believe? Hard? Why?

  4. Think of three ways you love to have fun that you could do with your kids. Put at least one of them on the calendar this week.

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