Mama, It’s Okay if You Don’t Play


“Mommy, will you play with me?”

This feels like the millionth time my children have asked this so far today, and I just poured my coffee.

When this question comes up, I’m usually in the middle of something. I’m either doing something around the house, getting ready to go somewhere, or working (I work remotely). It’s always a hard question for me. On the one hand, I know these other tasks need to get done at some point. On the other hand, those guilty voices pop into my head saying, “They won’t be young forever” or “They just want to spend time with you.”

I typically have three different responses to this question:

Suggest Playing Something You Both Enjoy

The first response is to play with them for a little bit. If I can take a break from what I am doing, I will suggest that we do something we all enjoy doing. I’m not going to lie, I really don’t like playing with toy people or animals. It’s a never-ending cycle of my four year old attacking the rest of the toys with a dinosaur. It also ends up with me dozing off after about five minutes. I often give suggestions like making something with play dough, coloring, constructing a puzzle, or building with blocks together. Doing something we all like teaches them about listening and finding common ground when playing with others.

Mama, It's Okay if You Don't PlayInvite Them to Join You

My second type of response is given when I’m doing something that is time-sensitive. If I really can’t take a break, I will instead invite my children to help me. This works best if I am doing something around the house or cooking. When I am working on my computer, I’ll ask if they want to play, color, or read next to me. Often, just being in a close vicinity helps them to get that closeness they want. Even when I want to stop what I’m doing to play or take a break, that is not always possible. I feel better knowing that my kids see me following through with responsibilities and modeling accountability in this response.

Mama, It's Okay if You Don't PlayAllow Yourself to Say “No”

However, there are just some (okay, many) times when I have nothing left to give at the moment. My battery is low, and my irritability is high. In these moments, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to say, “Sorry, mommy can’t play right now. I need to recharge.” If you need to say this, don’t feel guilty. You are actually showing your kids the importance of self-care and rest. So, if you are exhausted and have nothing left to give, it’s okay to say “no.” Take that nap, read, or eat a bag of skittles in the closet. Do whatever it is you need to do at that moment to relax. This might even give you the energy you need to say “yes” the next time your kids ask to play.

Check out these games to play with your kids when you’re tired or learn about the best board games for every age for more activity ideas that your whole family can enjoy!

Originally published September 2021.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.


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