Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

Don’t You Just Want To Play With Them All Day?

Five-month-old girls.

When my babies were about 7 or 8 months old I guess, my mother-in-law came by for a visit, and while she was here enjoying playing with the babies on their little play mat, she said, “How do you get anything done? If I were you, I’d just want to play with babies all day!” It was an affectionate comment…with an unintended consequence. I immediately had lots of doubts: “I don’t want to play with them all day. Does that mean I am too detached? Selfish? Would a normal parent want to play with their babies all day?

Well, the answer is no. Turns out, most parents struggle with wanting to want to play with their baby (or babies) more. In other words, most of us will think some version of these thoughts, especially in the early months, “Why don’t I actually want to play with them more often?” or “Why does my mind wander so quickly when I sit down to give them some “quality” time?” or “Why does spending time with the babies feel a lot like watching paint dry?” And we don’t readily share those thoughts because we feel ashamed, like we are coming up short in the “job” of parenting. But actually ask around and you’ll find relieved-to-hear-it consensus all around you.

“One new mom admitted to feeling bored at home all day, since she was used to being surrounded by activity and other adults at her former job. Another described rushing out to the grocery store as soon as her husband got home, just to have an outing and some time to herself. Do not feel ashamed or guilty if you’ve had the same feelings.” — excerpt from Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, by Jane Nelson, Ed.D., Cheryl Erwin, M.A., and Roslyn Duffy.

I found this hardest at the pre-walking phase. I mean, they were adorable, of course, and full of fun smiles and giggles, but spending hours on the floor, just watching them or showing them how to do things was at times more difficult than I could have imagined.

In the early days, I thought it so important that I try to have more presence with them that I actually set a timer for 30 minutes at a time and did not let myself go look at my email, or refill my coffee cup. I treated it like meditation: when my mind would start to wander, I’d just gently bring my attention back to the girls. Over and over again.

I know it sounds forced and unromantic, but it worked. Now that the girls are older, they actually play together very well, and spending time with them is easier to enjoy because they are starting to talk, they love books read to them, and they are very, very affectionate! But I still don’t spend all day watching them! I want them to know that mom’s tasks can be important too. It’s part of my desire to teach them that in our family, everyone’s pursuits are to be honored.

I still make sure to spend a little more time just hanging out with them than I’m naturally inclined to, because I know these days will be gone so soon, and I always see something amazing or charming when I just sit and watch. And act as their vaulting board.