ORGANIZING PLAY TIME FOR ME AND MINE

Amy Dunkin

Savita Iyer is a freelance financial journalist who lives with her family in Mysore, India. This is her third guest blog for Working Parents.

Savitaiyer

I’ve never been great at playing with my kids, and I’ve always excused myself because I’m a working parent.

It’s true that running around trying to balance my job with my household duties leaves me with little free time during the week, and with what I do have (this sounds awful, I know), I’d almost rather put my feet up, read a magazine or a book, and let my kids watch TV.

Of course, I have hurriedly squeezed in some play time every now and then, but I’m usually thinking about either dinner or my next assignment, both of which are on the back burner, so my dedication has never been adequate. The fact that my kids have had a good day at
school, that they are relatively happy, clean, and safely tucked into bed usually assuages whatever feelings of guilt I have, though, and gets me going for the next day.

Yet I have always marveled at the way other parents I know play with their children, envying the fact that they actually “do” things with them. Many of these people don’t work, it’s true, but as a working mother, shouldn’t I also be able to find some time to do more than making sure my kids are fed and bathed and their teeth brushed? I fear that if I don’t, I will miss some major moments of their childhood.

I don’t want to approach this as a science or a subject at school, but recently, I decided to formally dedicate an hour each day (well, okay, make that a half hour) to each of my children and focus on doing something completely fun and unrelated to any of the other motherly things I do. Since I work from home, I have the luxury of being able to organize my time as I see fit, and I have made it a point to include “play time” on my daily schedule. During that time, I resist all temptation to check my e-mail or my cell phone, and I let my calls go to voice mail. I do not think about laundry, bill paying, or what to make for lunch tomorrow, and I also make it a point not to talk about food, eating habits or hygiene with my children.

Though at first they looked at me weirdly (I don’t usually play that much, remember?), my kids have happily settled into the new routine, and we have done some cool things together. My six year-old son and I
have written a “book” and we have made a collage of the universe. My three-year-old daughter likes to play dolls and we have put makeup on all of them and given them fancy hair-dos in our home beauty salon.

I am still not the greatest “player,” but I feel I’m doing better than before. Having a slot of time dedicated wholly to play is far better than squeezing something in between other duties. My kids are happier to then watch some TV and having spent some solid quality time with them, I’m much better with that, too.