The other day, my son came from school and said, “Mommy, today all I want to do is play with you.” And it broke my heart—because in reality, I knew we had about 30 minutes at home before I’d need to drag him and his sisters out to the store to stock up on fruits and vegetables, and that once we got home, I’d need to start making dinner. I also knew that during those 30 minutes, I’d inevitably need to change a pair of diapers, let the dog out, and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer or risk having it sit in a nasty pile of wetness for the remainder of the afternoon.
The thing is, this sort of scenario plays out in my house almost every day.
I went back to work about three months after my now 4-year-old was born, and I continued to work up until he was almost 3. At that point, I was very pregnant with twins, and very unable to do much other than lie around on the couch and waddle back and forth to the bathroom out of sheer necessity. I remember thinking back then that once I had the babies and adjusted to life with two infants, I’d have more time and energy to hang out with my son.
Well, it’s been just over 18 months since I started the stay-at-home mom routine, and I’ve come to what I consider a pretty depressing conclusion: I don’t play with my kids.
Don’t get me wrong—I play with them here and there. I’ll pick up a toy and wave it in front of my daughters, or sit with my son and quickly help him finish a puzzle. And on weekends, I’m all about playing with the kids on the days we’re home.
But as far as weekdays go, no, I mostly don’t play with my kids, and it’s not because I’m not interested; it’s because I struggle to find the time.
See, although I’m a stay-at-home mom, I do work part-time from home. And some weeks, that means putting in extra hours to wrap up projects and meet deadlines. Between my paying work (as opposed to taking care of my children, which I also consider work, albeit a different kind), housework (someone’s gotta fold laundry and clean up after meals), and the time it takes to feed my kids, change them, dress them, and shuttle them all over town to their various appointments and activities, there just isn’t much wiggle room in my schedule to sit down and play.
I understand how I got here, and realize some of it is my fault (not the laundry part, and the meal prep part, and the driving part—those are essentials, but you could say working part-time is my choice, even though it’s the right thing for us financially). It’s just not how I pictured being a stay-at-home mom. I always imagined I’d somehow have more time to just hang out with my kids, observe them, and interact with them. But there are days when I’m running non-stop from the moment I get up (which is often at 6 a.m., sometimes earlier) till the moment I go to bed, and lately, it seems like there just isn’t any time to stop, sit, and—dare I say it—have a little fun.
These days, I’m that person who can’t schedule playdates because I can’t seem to fit them into my schedule. I go weeks without talking to friends not because I don’t care what they’re up to, but because I can’t find 15 spare minutes in my day. I haven’t exercised at all since having my twins, and while I do have actual interests outside of my kids and my work (I love watching sports and curling up with a good book), I can’t say I’ve really indulged them much over the past year. And I’m OK with the latter. My hobbies can wait.
But my kids can’t. Part of me wonders if it’s me, or if this is just the reality busy stay-at-home moms face. I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles to manage her time. But when I have to tell my son, repeatedly, to go play by himself, I can’t help but contemplate what it is I’m doing wrong.