“I kinda don’t love playing with my baby…..”
Playing vs Entertaining
“I like playing with him – watching him figure things out, and making him smile and laugh. But I get bored. And then I feel guilty. I love him and I enjoy him and so I feel bad that he might sense that I don’t always want to be playing with him.”
To all you parents who don’t like to “play” with your babies/kiddos – IT’S OKAY. You are still an awesome mama/papa/parent/person-in-the-world.
And there are lots of you (us 🙂 ) out there!
We evolved to parent in community, not to parent in the almost solo fashion that our current culture allows. And that means not all of us are programmed to enjoy the role of “master of play”. Your baby will not be developmentally stunted if you do not spend time “playing” with them. (Oh guilt – a whole ‘nother post. 🙂 )
Furthermore, if you’re not enjoying yourself when you’re “playing” with your baby, you’re moving into entertainment. And ask yourself this – do you want to play that role? We do not want to train our babies from the early months to expect that our job is to entertain them.
So let’s reframe.
If you enjoy playing with your baby because it makes your heart happy, go for it.
Furthermore, if you’re not enjoying yourself when you’re “playing” with your baby, you’re moving into entertainment. And ask yourself this – do you really want your kid to see you as an entertainer?
If you’re feeling like it doesn’t come naturally to you, but you want to try some new things, the internet is amazing for new ideas (but don’t get led down the “I am a sucky parent” comparison path, when you see all the things you could-which-quickly-turns-to-“should” be doing with your baby).
But if the reality of your day-to-day is that “playing” just feels like a boring/blah/annoying “task”, let yourself off the hook. It’s so much better than a) beating yourself up or b) pressuring yourself into the role of entertainer.
And the reality is well-connected babies often know what’s the what. If we’re stressed (even when we put on a happy face) they often know it. How often has your babe begun to meltdown and you’ve realized perhaps your own unspoken/unvoiced stress has a role? So not only are we playing “entertainer” when we are pretending to play with our babies, we are modeling for them that we are willing to be stressed by such a role.
So what do you do if you know playing is just not your gig?
Trust your baby will learn about the world if you expose them to the world – take them places that you enjoy (even if it’s the yarn shop, a thrift store, or a walk in the woods), incorporate them into your everyday life (strap them on your body and go have your favorite cup of coffee – even if you have to take it to go because baby just won’t be content at the coffeeshop), and let them see and feel you be joyful.
Let other people “play” with the baby – there will likely be other people in baby’s life who DO think playing is the bee’s knees. Your co-parent perhaps – not to mention aunts, uncles, child-less friends, friends with big kids who don’t play anymore – there is no shortage of people in the world who are lonely for baby/young kid contact.
And if there isn’t someone like that, one of the most inexpensive and sweet options I’ve found is to hire a mother’s helper. Seek out parents of school aged kids in your area, and find a 8-12yo kiddo who wants experience with kids. They are generally happy to get paid very minimally to come hang out with you and your baby/kid for a couple hours. It’s a win-win-win: someone happily plays with baby, a big kid has fun/gets good experience, and without much out-of-pocket expense you get some breathing room without needing to leave the baby/house.
And finally, consider a music/movement/yoga/dance class meant for parent-babe interaction (these can make great grandparent gifts!) or attending free parent-kiddo events at libraries and museums.
Long story short, don’t feel like a bad parent if playing isn’t your thing. Your kid will not be behind in life for the lack of “playtime” with you. Promise.