Did you know that, statistically, it’s quite unusual for an only child to go on to have more than one child of their own? As an only child, I can kind of understand it. People with siblings imagine that only children are lonely, but if you’ve been one, you know that being an only child is really pretty great. Despite all of that, I have two children and the reason for that is actually related to my only child status. The reason I wanted two children was because, I hate playing. I remember my Mum spending hours playing with me as a child. I was very lucky, she was utterly selfless and more than willing to spend her time joining in with my made up games. I, however, couldn’t bear the thought of it. I figured if I had two children, they would play with each other and at least let me off the hook some of the time. Does that make me a bad parent?
Why do I Hate Playing?
So, why do I hate playing so much? There are actually a few reasons. Firstly, I’m really not good at being unproductive. As much as I know that playing with my kids isn’t a waste of time, I will always feel like there are other things I could be doing.
Secondly, my children are bossy (and I have only myself to blame for it). When I try to play with them it seems like they are constantly telling me off because I’m doing it wrong. The trouble is, I rarely know what “it” is let alone how I’m supposed to do “it”.
Finally, I just find it really bloody boring. I know that some adults are playful by nature and enjoy the chance to relive their childhoods but I’m definitely not one of them. For me, pretending I’m a train driver or brushing Barbie’s hair are incredibly tedious and I’d rather be doing just about anything else (including cleaning the oven).
What it’s like playing with my Kids
One of my kid’s favourite things to do is role play. Many of their games start with the phrase “let’s pretend” at which point my heart always sinks. Even if I take them to the playground, we still have to pretend to be something. A ninja, a superhero, a dog, a soldier. God forbid we just be regular folk.
Now that Boy Child is older, he’s very into football. The minute poor Chris walks in from work he gets dragged into a match. This would be fine, Chris loves football, except that Boy Child is not the best loser. Most of these matches end with Boy Child storming off because Chris is playing by the rules and he isn’t.
Girl Child is still rather fond of small world play. Not the traditional small world toys like farms and dolls houses you understand. Her preferences are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and figures based on Minecraft. These figures are then pitted against each other in a battle. Somehow I always end up on the losing side (usually after having been shouted at multiple times for doing it wrong).
The other major pastime in our house is Lego. Now left to my own devices, I could probably get quite into Lego. Unfortunately, the children are having none of it. When they ask me to “Play Lego” with them, what they actually mean is “Spend the whole time looking for the specific pieces we need in the bottom of the endless Lego tubs.” Really not as much fun as building something myself but is at least better than being made to pretend I am Cat Boy.
When you look at the evidence, is it any wonder I hate playing?
What do I like doing with my Kids?
Quite a lot actually. I love talking to them, ideally one to one. I’ve found we have our best chats when we’re out doing errands so will often drag one of them along with me while the other stays at home with Chris. In fact, I like going out with them in general. I’ve always enjoyed taking them to new places and now they’re older and starting to enjoy things I get something out of, like museums and zoos, it’s even better.
I love reading with them. I don’t mind if they read to me or I read to them, I just like sharing stories. I don’t even mind reading the same book 672 times. As long as I can do it one to one, I like it when we bake together. I’ve also discovered they are now old enough to enjoy board games and card games. I find this type of play much less boring.
Am I a Bad Mum?
I don’t think so. I used to have a lot of guilt about not playing with them as much as I should but I still couldn’t bring myself to do. These days I’m feeling more ok with it. I have one day a week after school where I am one to one with each child. If they really want me to play in those times, I do it. I spend plenty of quality time with them doing other things. They also have other members of the family, that they see regularly, who are happy to play with them. Being bored and finding your own entertainment is a life skill in my opinion. Plenty of child development experts have highlighted the importance of independent play without adult interference so in some ways I’ve probably done them a favour.
If you too hate play, check out my play alternatives, ways to spend time with your child that don’t involve role play.
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Jacqui Bester says
Gosh, I love this post! I am obsessed with my children, but do I want to play barbie and keep getting yelled at because I am not doing it right? Or grab the cricket bat and get told I can’t play anymore because I don’t know how to throw a ball? I’m more of an observer, to be frank! and #itsok
Tracey Carr says
I totally agree, I really don’t like playing either. And I have often sat down and debated this to myself because of the guilt that I feel at times over it. But then I look at them playing by themselves and they are completely content. So I am happy to leave them. I also love doing other things like baking and reading, even watching cartoons with them but I can’t bear the playing. But you know what it is of no detriment.They are not going to turn around as adults and say to us ‘I wish you had played with me more when I was a child!’. So I don’t feel bad about it anymore! #itsok
Shelley Whittaker says
Allowing your child to be bored sparks creativity and therefore I think it is good to let them entertain themselves and not always play with them. I feel like we are living in a world where fellow parents are seeking to constantly entertain their children and to be honest I am not sure I agree with it.
I don’t enjoy playing either! (Though from reading the comments not many people do…) and I think it’s perfectly fine! My daughter is 2 and she can already entertain herself a bit, not for very long, but she can, and I don’t feel any guilt about that whatsoever. I don’t remember either of my parents ever playing with us… unless it was ‘let’s pretend to do dusting’ but I think that was probably a bit of a con 😉 #itsOK
What a great post. You sound exactly like my wife in a lot of ways and she always feels guilty about not enjoying play. I may show her this to prove she’s not alone. I’ve always been the play parent but I can appreciate and understand it’s not for everyone. #ItsOK
Sophie Holmes says
That’s the reason I wanted more than child, so that they would keep each other entertained. Before I had children I thought that I would love playing with them but I don’t. It’s boring. Haha! #ItsOk
Helen Copson says
Amen to this! I’m totally with you. I’m happy to do jigsaws or an actual activity (though no messy play!) but the whole role play thing – which is basically fighting with dinosaurs at the moment – is SO DULL! Thanks for linking up to #ItsOK
“The reason I wanted two children was because, I hate playing.”
Oh boy can I relate!
I wanted FOUR (I know, I’m crazy because 2 is enough!) for the same reason and they’d each have their own partner to play with.
I do still enjoy playing with them occasionally because I love their imaginations, especially my eldest. His is wild and full of crazy ideas, much like me!
But I relate to the ‘doing something more productive’ thing. Kids can be demanding and we do enjoy other activities together; memories are made from more than just the play time we share.
Nicole - Tales from Mamaville says
You have literally written down my thoughts and feelings on this subject! I feel the SAME way (it is boring, role play can get tedious after the first 10 minutes and we never seem to know what ‘it’ is that the kids want us to do or we just end up losing whatever game we play/ pretend battle we fight!). I do feel terribly guilty about this and often make a conscious effort to sit down and play whatever my son wants (I deliberately leave my phone in the other room so I’m not tempted to look at it), but I’m also a great believer in self-play for developing their imagination. And then there’s always the TV!!!
And yes, this is absolutely #ok!!!
Brilliant post, thanks so much for sharing with us at #itsok
Oh I can relate to this post! When my kids were infants and todlers I found it so challenging to play with them for a longer period of time. I loved spending time with them when we went to the park, for a walk, or even to a grocery store. But sitting down and playing with toys for longer than 30 minutes… not so much. Now that they are a bit older and we can play board games, color, or play outside a lot more – it’s the best. And I also love reading to them.
It’s hard not to dissect our lives as mums. Are we doing the right thing? Are we playing enough? Reading enough? Teaching enough? Blah blah. I’m an only child and sometimes I feel like playing and sometimes I don’t. Doesn’t help Facebook keeps telling me I should let my kids get bored. Problem is when they get bored, they bother me! But we also have some great times. I’ve been the scariest dragon, a Lego master and the most ferocious cookie monster ever (don’t ask) 😁
Anita Faulkner - Brazen Mummy Writes says
This is a fascinating post. I was an only child for ten years until my sister came along, and I’ve been wondering if my love for writing stories and using my imagination came from years of playing Barbies solo. My games would go on for days and I loved it! But as you didn’t enjoy playing, maybe it’s not strictly an only child thing. Can’t believe Turtles are still around by the way! And don’t worry if you don’t like playing. Can’t remember my mum getting involved in Barbies nor wanting her to! Xx
Oh it’s like you’ve written the secret thoughts in my head and made them seem logical.
My boy was an only child for 10 years and I spent a lot of time feeling terribly guilty for not dedicating every free non working minute playing with him.
Thankfully he’s adapted well to having 2 younger sisters to play with so I can drop the guilt a bit now.
Great post, thank you for being so honest and open x
Yes! This is me! I absolutely suck at using my imagination and as much as my daughter wants me to play, I find it so hard to do!
My husband has absolutely no problem with playing with her and being all imaginative. I just feel like a massive tit and get embarrassed and awkward.
So glad I’m not the only one! Thank you for sharing, I feel a bit less crappy now. X
A really interesting and honest read. I enjoy playing with my little lady, but there are times when I think I have so much to do, which always makes me feel guilty.
Jo | My Anxious Life says
I love your honesty. There’s so much we’re expected to do, and be good at, and enjoy as parents… It’s exhausting! Find what you’re good at, run with that, and leave the other bits to grandparents! 😂
Am sooo thankful for grandparents!
Sarah-Marie Collins says
Some people are definitely a bit more naturally inclined to play. I’m a bit rubbish at role playing games I must admit but thankfully neither of mine have been too much into dressing up.
Ahhh, not the dressing up! Thank god the dressing up clothes don’t fit me or they’d have me in them too!
Viv Simone says
I really enjoyed this very honest account of parenting. Playing can be a chore! My daughter is 9 months old and I love spending time with her but I can’t say I enjoy playing inside. I’d rather go for a walk or push her on the swings.
I love your blogposts, I don’t know if it’s intentional but they are funny!
Thanks Viv, glad you find them funny, it is my aim! X
Sarah Bones says
I could have written this myself! I have only recently begun to feel it’s ok to actually admit that I hate playing. My heart sinks when my six year old asks me to play cars with him, or when my four year old asks me to build a train track. I’ve felt like a bad mum for feeling this way, but I’ve recently spoken to my mum about this and it turns out she felt the same way too! She had three girls to look after and didn’t work or drive so it must have been very hard for her. I think more mums than you’d imagine feel this way and we just need to be more open about it.
I must ask my Mum if she actually liked it, she certainly spent a lot of time doing it but then I’m not sure I gave her much choice!