So I tried playing all weekend long, a feat that is actually tough for me because I’m a pretty serious person. I have nothing at all against play; I understand the benefits of it, it’s just that I have a good bit of shit to get done on the daily. Then I realized that as a time management expert, what was I creating all of this time for if not to play?
Having this thought made me realize that my analytical ridged self categorizes play; adult play which is full of all kinds of fun things like fine liquor, motorcycles, jet skis, and tropical islands…and kid play where you exercise your imagination…of which I have none.
A little backstory: my Barbie dolls had to climb up the stairs in the Barbie playhouse because in real life you can’t just jump to the third story.
I’m not kidding you. There’s more…
When we built forts as kids, there was an entrance, a kitchen, a living room and all the comforts of home such as mud pies…made in an oven. There were rules of the house and I swept the floor with a pine tree branch.
My best friend Krista is my witness.
I just happen to be a person who likes adulting. Even on vacation you can find me straightening the clothes in my suitcase at least once. My name is Jenna, and I leverage my OCD to keep the world safe with procedures.
Despite the above, I am all for moving out of my comfort zone. I am willing to try on another way of being and so when I got the invite to take Dylan down to the river with another family, we went. We got down there fully clothed ready to feed ducks and collect rocks and spontaneously decided to jump in! It was a blast and a complete unexpected joy. A ton of fun. Only I did it wrong…
I decided to go all the way with the play thing and completely ignore household responsibilities. I ignored dishes, I forgot about the laundry in the washer, and the load that had to be folded in the dryer. I didn’t clean up after lunch, I took out my laptop and all of my binders to go over things with my coffee, and then didn’t. With piles on the dining room table, I just wandered around the house all day doing nothing. Playing with Dylan, watching some YouTube and stuffing my face, because since I lack a motorcycle…and a tropical island, that’s my kind of play. While doing nothing felt pretty good, there was a small nagging feeling for me to do at least something, but I wrote it off as discomfort from being out of my “routine”.
Routine has been my pattern since 2015 when my JMP Equestrian Management Services company landed it’s first (large) equine property to manage. In order to service my property, horses, boarders, property owners, my family, my marriage, my house, my law firm, and our clients, I’ve come up with awesome time management. There have been no problems, and everything gets done…but play. Something that I’ve sort of written off since the motorcycle days are long gone and kid play isn’t something I’m good at – reference the Barbie doll story.
As such, I don’t really play with Dylan, HE plays. He plays constantly and all of the time. He plays in the barn, he plays in the riding ring with all of his tractors, he plays in his room, he plays in the living room, he plays with his grandparents, he plays with his daddy. We talk, we laugh, we joke, we get ice cream. We stand in the field after a cooling rain and watched the rainbow disappear, we ride in the gator together, we sit on large rocks and dip our feet in the creek. But I don’t roll his matchbox cars around the tiny plastic tracks with him.
On this particular day, Dylan and I were attached at the hip all day. Once evening hit, we were both tired, and also a irritable. He and I are very much alike in that we both need daily quiet time alone. No matter how engaged or outgoing we are, leave us alone at some point so our introvert can be exercised. As he set off to have his alone time playing in his room, I looked around at the chaos, I wanted to cry.
It was late and I had a full and early day the next day, and yet the dishes were everywhere, the beds had barely been made, the bathroom lacked it’s fresh scrub and if you walked barefoot in the kitchen you would collect thousands of crumbs on the soles of your feet. There were splatters on the counter from lunch, the dining room table had crap stacked on it, and art supplies were all over the living room.
I hated every second of it.
I know that many moms would say that it was worth it. That the chaos meant that they had a great time making memories. I’m just not one of those moms. Instead, I felt dirty, overwhelmed and like I’d never get to bed. I was pissed off and there was no end in sight which negated any benefits that I had gained from playing all day.
This experience taught me that there must be a balance. Yes, play but also clean. Both are pretty important for mental health. When Dylan was a baby, I would forsake everything just to hold him. We never put him down as he was either in our arms, in a baby carrier on my chest, or in a hiker’s backpack on my back. But now he is older and making observations of his own about the world. If Dylan sees his parents mopping, cutting grass, and hammering repairs, by osmosis he learns that homes need care. He learns that being a good steward is good citizenship and if we are joyful while doing it, he may think it a joy to do as well.
On the other end of things, I never want him to feel that a clean house is more important than him. Balance is always something that we are striving for in life isn’t it? If it isn’t work/life balance, then it’s some other chase for the glory. The true definition of balance is “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” That’s way too rigid of a definition to apply to play vs. responsibility…even for me. The best that one can hope for is that eventually it equals out. Less play and more responsibility for a few weeks, and then back the other way a few weeks later. Every now and again you just might hit that perfect split of the two.
I may not be the kind of mom that builds pillow forts with my kid, but I am the kind of mom that he’ll watch build an empire. I may not be the kind of mom that fakes dinosaur noises or pretends that the living room floor is lava, but I play a mean game of hide and seek on occasion.
Kids are super absorbent spongi and they watch whatever we do even when we don’t know it. I want him to see me paying bills so that he grows up fiscally responsible. I want him to see his parents take care of their home, environment, street, neighborhood, city. Because at the end of the day I am his parent, not his playmate. I have a different role in his life than another child in his age range would have.
I’m going to put down the guilt of not constantly being on the floor playing dinotrux or farming imaginary fields with his tractors. The kid has a nice roof over his head and he has a front row seat to the entrepreneurship show that his mother is putting on. One day he’ll have the option of taking over my LLC, or starting his own. Or he may chose to travel the world learning through experience. No matter what, he’ll have options. Options that I created for him while he played with matchbox cars.
With love and light in parenting,