Mum will you play with me?

Written by Career Mums

14th February 2022

 

How many times have you heard that phrase only for it to be swiftly followed by a familiar feeling of angst? Your child, that fabulous little human who you love with every inch of your being, wants to play with you. And you don’t have the time. Or the energy. Or the necessary resources to juggle all the challenging daily demands that go hand in hand with being a Mum.

In a recent survey we asked you what your priorities were for the coming year. And, loud and clear, you told us you wanted to spend more quality time with your children. So, just how do we ensure the time with our kids is, indeed, quality? And how do we make sure we effectively build some into our daily routines? You don’t have to spend every waking minute switched on to your kid’s needs – just half an hour of regular quality time to reconnect will do a great job of strengthening those bonds. Below we explore some simple ideas to help you to make the most of your time together.

 

Let your child lead

Allow your child to choose the activity they want to do with you and respect their decision. If this is too much and you think they might suggest something outrageous, create an acceptable list together and let them pick. You are encouraging autonomy and your child will enjoy feeling like the boss.

 

Listen

Don’t try and use this time to question your child about school/life/hobbies/friendship issues. Let them take the lead and just listen. They might not want to talk to you about anything specific in the moment but, if they do, validate their feelings and ask them if they want to explore further.

 

Adapt to the needs of your child

If you have more than one child you are likely aware that children, like adults, are incredibly unique and come with their own set of needs. Quality time for one is not necessarily going to mirror quality time for the other. The child who wants you to play balloon tennis and throw socks at your head needs your energy and laughter. But the child who would prefer to sit and watch a movie with you, without a single solitary word passing their lips the whole time, will love you for your silence.  Don’t force your children to do what you think they should be doing. It might be your idea of quality time but that doesn’t mean it’s theirs.

 

Physical play

This doesn’t have to resemble a WWF match but physical play works wonders for building connections, especially for younger children. Even if you can only manage a thumb war, they will appreciate your playfulness and you are both likely to fall about laughing at some point.

 

Put your own needs aside

This might sound obvious, but we don’t just mean leaving your devices in the other room. We mean leaving your negative emotions at the door too. If you are more comfortable doing colouring but your child wants to dress up, try and understand where your resistance to dressing up comes from and put it to one side. You can reflect on your own feelings later.

 

Get creative

Does that fill you with dread? Are you fed up with glue and sticky paper and can’t bear the thought of another lego activity? Well, getting creative can just mean using your imagination. Most children will be happy if you stick your hand up a slipper sock and pretend it’s a person for half an hour. No sequins required.

 

Build time into your daily routine

Some children really enjoy helping out so ask them to prepare dinner with you, set the table or do jobs in the garden. Be playful in your approach to these activities and let your child know how much you relish their input. Older children might be less willing to help with household chores for “fun” but if 30 minutes before bedtime is achievable make sure you set time aside every night. Your child will benefit from the consistency, knowing they have an opportunity to share regular time with you and making them less likely to demand attention during the day.

 

Put away all your devices

How annoying is it when you try and talk to your teenager and they are staring at their screen? Enough said.

 

Real connection

Authenticity is vital for human connection. Your child wants you, not just your physical presence. If you agree to spend time with them and your heart isn’t in it, you might as well have handed them a note saying, “I don’t want to be here”.

 

And that’s why it’s important to remember that it’s ok to say no sometimes. Imagine if you asked your boss to spend time looking at a recent proposal you’d written, check some figures on a spreadsheet or offer feedback on a display you’d put together. Your boss puts down their pen and, with an enormous sigh, slowly hauls themself over to your desk, flops wearily into a chair and utters, exhausted, “Ok, show me what you’ve done. But make it quick, I have another meeting in 10 minutes and I need a coffee”. How do you feel? Pretty miserable? Rejected? Undervalued?

Well, guess what – if you’re not honest with your kids, they’re going to feel it too. If it’s too difficult to make it work in the moment, it’s ok to tell them. Gently encourage your child to suggest alternatives and agree a new time together. Younger children might enjoy sending you an invitation, giving them the gift of a creative activity to fill the void you were unable to plug in the present moment.

Remember, quality time doesn’t have to mean undertaking a big activity or spending mountains of cash. It’s about being together in the moment; connection takes place just as easily over a shared joke as it does a trip to a theme park. Just be honest, be authentic and enjoy it.

 

For further help and support around juggling life as a busy parent,  check out our Working Parents coaching programme. 

Join our Career-Mums Club free community on Facebook for regular support and inspiration as a working parent.

 

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