It’s ok to not enjoy parenting (or playing) all the time
I’m just going to put it out there - I don’t enjoy my children, being with my children, or playing with my children, all of the time. There, I said it.
I absolutely bloody adore them (and God help anyone if they upset them), but sometimes they make me want to lock myself in the shed with enough food and wine to last me a week.
For some people, this is a taboo subject, and I occasionally see mums walking around with a fake smile plastered on their faces whilst they’re slowing dying inside, not daring to admit that they’re about to lose their shit or that they’re close to launching themselves in front of the next bus that comes along. Why? For fear of being perceived as a bad parent, or being deemed undeserving of such a precious gift. I’ve been that mum. It sucks.
The slightest negative comment about motherhood or how hard it is, can sometimes be met with a stern reminder of how grateful we should be. We’re reminded of the people who have not been lucky enough to have children, or those who have experienced loss. I’ve been on the receiving end of this too, and I do get it (I’ve suffered loss myself), but everything’s relative, and we should be allowed to feel (and communicate) the overwhelm sometimes, without being admonished, without being shamed, without being made to feel like the shittest parent that’s ever walked the earth. I’ve witnessed a close friend who suffered from chronic depression bottle it up further, due to someone’s unsolicited comments regarding her ingratitude and callous outlook (she was literally the kindest, sweetest girl around). All because she dared to speak out about the fact that she was finding parenting difficult. It was crippling. Why the heck shouldn’t we be allowed to express what we actually feel?
“I said I was tired… I didn’t say I was going to sell my fucking kids Janet”
On the other side of the fence, the internet is now saturated with mum blogs and social media posts portraying the good, the bad, and the shit stained. So we could say that mums are now daring to break the silence, and are being more open and honest about how it actually is.
Parenting is bloody hard, and it can become really transactional at times. Whether you’re a stay at home mum, a part time working mum, or a full time working mum (I’ve been all three!) nurturing teeny tiny humans that you brought into the world and who wholly depend on you, can drive you to the edge of insanity (or at least drive you into the laundry room to shovel crisps into your mouth when they're not looking). A good number of people (mainly close friends) have openly admitted they don’t enjoy being around their kids all the time. Some say they prefer being at work. Some go and hide in the toilet. Some pretend to play hide and seek and count to 1000, just to get 5 minutes peace while their kid goes and hides (yep, that was me). Mums are increasingly owning up to the fact that they don’t always enjoy parenting - it’s tough, it’s labour intensive and most of the time it’s bloody thankless. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their offspring more than life itself, they’re just done pretending it’s all rainbows and popsicles.
The internet is now saturated with mum blogs and social media posts portraying the good, the bad, and the shit stained.
As a mum to three young boys, life has been pretty chaotic over the last eight years since the first one came along (and that’s putting it mildly). It’s a bit like living in a zoo, with three competitive and over zealous chimpanzees. It’s a chaotic mix of noise, shitty underpants, food splattered walls and piss covered toilet seats. Quite often it resembles actual guerilla warfare! The constant bickering, and the noise - OH MY GOD THE NOISE! The constant feeding, butt wiping, washing, wiping, snacking, placating, refereeing, answering ridiculous questions (Where does poo come from? Do you get packed lunches in heaven? Do snails have willies?). The constant attending to someone's needs (apart from your own). The under appreciation. The 24/7 shift pattern that leaves you sleep deprived and emotionally, physically and psychologically drained.
Where does poo come from? Do you get packed lunches in heaven? Do snails have willies?
The most beautiful and precious moments, the ones you daydreamed about as you stroked your growing bump throughout pregnancy - the bedtimes, the bathtimes, the story reading, the school runs, the playdates - can become less of a joy and more of an arduous task. They can soon become gruelling duties that would most likely test the patience of Mother Teresa herself.
Weekends morph from picnics in the park and trips to the seaside, to weekends of frantically trying to wrap up the chores that you were unable to accomplish in the week because you’re so busy juggling it all (washing, ironing, folding clothes, changing the beds, food shopping, then of course there’s swimming lessons, football, ballet, kids parties). It’s understandable therefore that sometimes you want to be somewhere else, to be doing something else (but then when you are somewhere else you feel guilty about not being with them). With most mums being massively overstretched, I guess it’s no wonder life can become more work and less play, and everything becomes irritating, inconvenient, so damn difficult.
It’s a topic I’ve discussed a thousand times or more over the years with mum friends, and it’s still a hot topic now, although now more so with my working mum friends who are juggling businesses and babies. So I resolved, that on my quest towards BossingIt! (and bossing this parenting lark) I will be frank and unapologetic about how it is sometimes, and I'll accept how I feel. And and if it’s something I’m not satisfied with (i.e. if I feel I’m not being the mum I want to be, used to be, know I can be) then I will do my best to change it. I know if anything happened to any of my babies I would give anything to have those sleepless nights back, I’d long to be able to read them a story or put them to bed, make them dinner (whether they ate it or not), pick their dirty clothes up off the floor, tidy their toys away, wash their clothes. I want to savour my children as much as I can (whilst realising it’s not always going to be perfect) as they deserve to treasure these times and enjoy every moment, and so do I.
So what can make it easier?
It’s ok to not enjoy parenting 100% of the time. You’re not alone, and it doesn’t mean you don’t fiercely love your children. Acknowledging that not every moment is enjoyable allows us to accept ourselves for who we are and validate what we feel without fear of judgment. It also allows us more freedom to find ways to make parenting more authentically enjoyable, and to do things our way, not how other people think we should be doing it.
Know that you’re not alone
These are normal feelings, so don’t feel ashamed or bottle them up. Parenting is hard enough without beating yourself up even more.
It’s ok to not enjoy playing
Play is meant to be fun, and not a duty. We should want to play right? Do you know what - no! Not always! Not all of us enjoy playing with our kids, and that’s fine. All kids are different and some need more attention from their parents, some enjoy playing on their own. I’m glad I have 3 as they make great playmates for each other (and they’re lucky their Dad is a pretty cool playmate too). I can be with my children for hours on end - I can tend to their needs, nurse them, I can tolerate hours of screaming and crying (through the baby days and through illnesses) and I can run on empty for as long as needs be to ensure I’m there for them, but I have a limited amount of energy when it comes to actual playing. I’m being honest, as a 38 year old woman, playing with plastic farm animals or having princess tea parties isn’t the most stimulating of activities for me. I find it boring. I zone out. I’m not present, I just pretend. And then I feel guilty.
It’s normal to count down the hours until they’re in bed
If you’ve reached the point where one more wail, groan or whimper from your descendant makes you want to stick your head in a gas oven and light a match, again you are totally normal.
Individual time / one on one time (if you have multiple kids)
Having three boys is fantastic, but it can be tough. They are all so different in personality and nature, and whilst they adore each other and play amazingly together, they each have very different needs. My amazing hubby commits to weekly one on one time with each child, whether it’s curling up with a book, going to the skatepark or going for a walk and a bag of chips. I’ve recently started doing it too and it’s proving to be really enjoyable, high quality time (rather than just herding cats) and it’s a great way to re-connect.
Find stuff you DO enjoy doing
So I want play to be a joy, and not a duty. I’m crap at faking it. I’ve said before, I can’t sit around playing dinosaurs - I’d only clock watch until I felt I’d done my bit, and that doesn’t benefit anyone. So now I make an effort to do the things or organise activities that ‘I’ enjoy doing with the kids. Sound selfish? Hear me out - it’s things they enjoy too! I’m talking baking, going to the movies, watching a movie at home with popcorn and a blanket, reading, writing stories, colouring, play doh…. It’s win win, and I can leave the dinosaurs, the technical lego, the sword fights and the football to Daddy...
Look for ways to simplify your life
As mum’s, a fair chunk of our time is spent cooking, cleaning, washing, preparing packed lunches, dealing with school admin… a plethora of things! And that’s before we start on the grown up stuff we have to manage. Try and find ways to cut back on chores - invest in a cleaner, send your laundry to the laundrette, get your admin organised, do your food shop online, hire a dog walker - anything that will simplify your life. Limit plans on a weekend and don’t say yes to every social invitation or kids party, so you free up sacred family time. We've implemented ‘Lazy Sundays’ in our house, and have a strict rule where we’re forbidden to make any plans. We don’t do housework, check our emails (ok so I hide in the bog so I can check Instagram and Facebook), cook… we just lol around in our pj’s, watch a movie, maybe go for a walk - whatever takes our fancy.
Don’t look to social media for validation
Don’t compare yourself to others when it comes to your parenting experience- it’s a recipe for disaster. Most often, what you see on social media is all bollocks anyway.
Stop and enjoy the small stuff
The way they say funny words “Look Mummy, a Blackpie!” (Magpie). Or when you hear them quietly singing ‘Old Macdonald’ as they play with their plastic sheep. When they stroke your face at bedtime or tell you you smell beautiful. It’s easy to stop seeing and hearing the small stuff, but if we practise being more present, we can start to enjoy the precious times again.
Dig a bit deeper
If your lack of enjoyment or your struggle is more than ‘just a bit’, or you're an 11 out of 10 on the 'losing-your-shit-scale', it might be worth digging a little deeper. Maybe it’s time to look at life in general, or life as a whole - relationships, work, work / life balance, other pressures. Don’t be afraid to seek help or talk to a professional if you think it could be more serious.
Are your own needs being met?
We often overlook our own needs, and that can have a huge effect on family life, and how much tolerance we have. Do you have your own space? Time out? You time? It’s so important to fill your own cup up so you can continue to look after others.
So to conclude, I’ve been making a concerted effort to implement the advice above (that’s so easy to dish out but hard to actually execute yourself) and to enjoy my whippersnappers more - to engage with them in a way that I can enjoy, rather than just occupying them whilst I get my chores done or clock watch until bedtime. These small changes have really helped me to enjoy my children, to like being with them, to have actual, genuine fun with them as well as just loving them and taking care of them. I haven't mastered it yet - it's going to take continual work and conscious effort, but I'm on the right path.
Accepting that I’m not perfect (and that life isn’t perfect) has allowed me to start being myself in front of my beautiful boys, so they see the real me. I want them to know the real me, my personality, my flaws, my vulnerabilities, instead of being some sort of unreal, fake copy of this fantasy mum that I used to think I should be. And if I'm real, it gives them permission to be real too, and gives them confidence so they don't have to pretend to enjoy everything, all of the time.
In short, I’m keeping it real. And as long as I’m trying my best each day - that’s good enough for me.
Can you relate? What do you find hard? Have you found ways to make parenting (or playing) more enjoyable or easy?
Much love, Fran xxx
ABOUT FRAN GRANT
Wife to a very lucky husband. Mum to 3 beautiful little boys. Gym, yoga and self care enthusiast. Lover of food, coffee, wine and gin. Self confessed bookworm and book hoarder. Advocate for keeping the magic of reading alive for today’s children. And last but not least - Writer (currently trying my hand at kids fiction and rhyming stories). Thanks for visiting my site - expect to see posts mainly related to reading and writing, with occasional musings about family, parenting and life in general. Oh, and plenty of book reviews! Hope you enjoy! Much love, Fran x