I recently had a Saturday play date with a working mom. Our girls are buddies at school and when she rolled her eyes at “Back to School” night, I knew I liked her. As a stay at home mom, Saturday is just like any other day except my husband is around to divide and conquer.
I arrived at a playdate with my trademark Starbucks and exasperated expression to find the other mom looked genuinely happy. She had as much wide-eyed excitement as did the kids.
When we got into the play area she climbed through the jungle gym and actively engaged with the kids. This was in stark contrast to my usual approach to these places. I had a knack for finding the most engaging activity requiring the least amount of my effort. Without a fellow mom to sit with, I followed her lead. I climbed, danced, and made silly faces. We had a great time.
After giving it some thought I realized my working mom friend doesn’t get to play with her kids as much as she’d like, so she was making the most of her time. I have all the time in the world with my kids. In fact, I quit a job I liked to be with them more. For these reasons I often felt justified about phoning it in at the indoor playground with an “I’m here aren’t I?” mentality. What I needed was perspective.
For the following week I put extra effort into the quality of my interactions with my kids. Falling far short of Mary Poppins, I compiled a brief list of quality-improving activities we will continue to incorporate in our routine:
- Dinner table games. At mealtimes we started playing our version of “20 Questions.” The kids think of a cartoon character and my husband and I have to ask questions until we think of the same character. I rule at this game.
- Car talks. During car rides we started to play “Two Truths and a Lie”. The kids love this one because it gives them insight into my pre-mom life which up until this game has been non-existent to them.
- Mommy makeover. This one is my favorite. It produces the most squeals and giggles and all I have to do is sit still and close my eyes. I get out my least expensive makeup products, brushes, hair accessories and the kids have a ball. Then they go through my closet and pick an equally fabulous outfit to complete my new “look.”
We’re a real family, not a perfect family. Our days don’t always allow for Hallmark moments. Often I’ve had five interrupted hours of sleep and I’m stumbling from one monotonous task to the next. That’s when these activities come in handy. I think of them as simple day brighteners for the kids and for me. After all, it’s not their fault they’re exasperating.