Any other moms feel like you are constantly around your children, yet they continue asking you to play with them or spend time with them? As a stay-at-home mom during a pandemic, this scenario feels heightened because we are at home so much more. The day I wrote this, I was on the floor with my two youngest building a marble run tower when one of them said, “Mommy, will you play with me?” I’m like, what am I literally doing right now?! Another day, the same child woke us at 7:07am on a Saturday by coming into our room and asking me to play with her. My youngest asks this many times when I enter his bedroom and my oldest expects me to spend my evening me-time in her bedroom until lights out. The “play with me” request is asked daily by my multiple kids. They always desire more mommy time. Part of me can’t resist their tiny voices, but part of me wants to scream, “I already did!”
I usually try to do something with all my kids together to save time. Play a game, color, Mario Kart and read are some common choices. Otherwise, I expect them to play together or do alone time during all the other non-eating, non-sleeping, non-school hours of the day. Unfortunately, when all three play together they bicker, fight, cry and display sibling rivalry or choose favorites with one odd man out. I’m continually interrupted with “Moooooooom!” and loud sounds that can’t go ignored. And then when I check on them, they all start talking at the same time vying for my attention and trying to put any potential blame on someone else before I’ve even asked about anything. With playdates and extracurriculars on pause, the days have seemed a little longer this past year.
So, during the summer I tried a new thing to improve quality time between me and each kid and to improve their one-on-one relationships with each other.
I chose to spend thirty minutes with each kid alone, and the other two had the option to play together. Then when I switched, the other two played together. And then a third transition. While it felt like I was spending a lot of time playing when my to-do list was on repeat in the back of my mind, the ninety minutes saved me time each day responding to frequent “Will you play with me?” requests and feeling like I was regularly trying to get to a point of being available to them, only to reach bedtime and disappoint them because I never got around to playing.
The time I get with each of them alone is so much more enjoyable.
You know what’s more fun than playing a chaotic game of Sorry! with a three-, five- and eight-year-old? Playing a peaceful game of Sorry! with an eight-year-old. Or coloring with a five-year old. Or playing cars with a three-year old. And in the other room where the two other siblings are playing together, there is a calm that happens. Their time together seems more enjoyable. They actually sit across from each other and talk or play a game or make a bracelet or draw a picture. They talk quietly. They get to know each other better. And they build their bonds. And while two siblings are building that bond, the third child and I are building our bond which is so much more enjoyable than having three kids fight over my lap and attention.
Do I do this every day? Of course not! Life calls. It works best during summers, holidays and weekends when every minute isn’t accounted for with daily routines. But the days we are able to get it in, I feel a sense of tranquility, contentment, gratification and satisfaction from my kids. They play better together afterwards, they bother me less and I feel like I aced the mom card that day.
I realize my example is based on being a SAHM with three kids, but it could really be applied in any situation. Working moms can still find time on their off days. If you have two kids, each kid could get alone time with a parent and then switch, or they can better learn how to play by themselves when it’s their sibling’s turn to be with mommy. If you have one child, they obviously will still benefit from any one-on-one time you can give. And if you have ten children, then I have no advice. Good luck.