“Mommy, will you play with me?”


Left to their own devices, they doused themselves in heavily perfumed room spray. 

Here comes a huge confession… I have mentioned it a number of times here in passing, but this is just eating away at me, and I feel like I’m completely alone in this from what I have seen…

I do not have time towant tohave the energy to, know how to play with my children.

I cannot begin to explain how much guilt I carry around about this on a daily basis.  I mean, what kind of mother doesn’t play with her children?  Parker comes up to me constantly and asks me to play with her, and so I try to… I try to play pretend, but I don’t have the mental capacity or focus left after a long day to “play mommy”.  I’ve been “playing” mommy all day!  She comes up with scenarios and I have apparently no creativity or imagination to take things beyond their most basic parameters.  Let’s go to sleep, let’s eat dinner, let’s go to the park.  Her favorite pretend play now happens to be pretending she’s a baby and wailing at the very top of her lungs.  Unfortunately, that’s usually what I’ve been hearing her do for the preceding hour or so if she’s had to leave a play date, has been rejected after asking for dessert at 4pm, or any other infinite number of “wrongs” that have come upon her poor four year-old soul…

I find myself too drained to participate, or I’m not even sure where to begin.  I had a conversation yesterday with my dearest friend, confessing my horrendous parenting to her, and she admitted to me that while she’s a full-time working mother who gets only an hour or so with her daughters each day, she occasionally hides in her bathroom with her Blackberry for a decent portion of that hour.

That’s why she’s my best friend – because she’s just as much of a delinquent as I am so honest.

I wonder how many of “us” there are out there in proportion to those who genuinely-cherish-each-and-every-moment-they-get-to-spend-in-the -presence-of -their-little-cherub-faced-darlings.

When I’m supposed to be playing with my kids, I find myself in something of fight-or-flight mode.  I’m looking for excuses to do other things – running through the laundry list of stuff that needs to get done around the house, errands I need to run, phone calls that need to be made, paperwork that needs to be completed, that package I should have dropped off at the UPS store a week ago, the 46 emails I never answered, etc. etc. etc.

I know that it’s wrong, but I also think I know why I’m where I am…

When Owen was born, Parker was only sixteen months old.  At that point, playtime with her was easy – usually her repertoire consisted of making me “soup” in her kitchen, scribbling on a piece of paper with a crayon, playing with her dolly by rocking it back and forth or giving it a bottle, or running around outside.  She wasn’t yet into the intricate imaginative scenes she now sets up and acts out.  After he was born, our whole world was turned upside down.  My life as a stay-at-home-mom was no longer focused on just keeping my children clean, well-rounded, well-fed and entertained; it was on keeping them alive, making sure their medical care was where it needed to be, fighting with insurance companies, and getting them into the best specialists as soon as possible.  I say “them” because Parker’s medical issues started soon after Owen was born. We figured out that she had Sensory Processing Disorder when she was 26 months old, a few months later she was having unexplained fevers as high as 105.3 and that horrendous night she had to be rushed to the hospital as I documented here, and then about a year ago we found out that she has Psoriatic Arthritis (which had been causing all of those fevers). This is all the parenting I have known.  This is what I am good at, but it;s no longer enough.

Both of my children needed me, which always needs to be addressed more urgently than how much someone wants you.

I know how to be their advocate, their Chief Medical Officer, their warrior – but I don’t know how to be their mommy.

I just don’t have the practice.  I feel like I missed all of that time where we would have gotten to develop our co-play skills together.  I was too busy organizing, and fighting, and working the past three years.  I know it was for them, and I know it was necessary, but it doesn’t make me feel any better, or break my heart any less now that we are here, and Parker’s big blue-green eyes are looking up longingly at me  and I just want to run away, to do anything else, because I know my heart isn’t in it.  It kills me even more, because I remember missing my mother when I was little, even if she was only in the next room.  I don’t want my children to feel like I don’t want to be with them, like I’m not interested in them – because I do, and I am.  I’m just really bad at it right now.

Can someone be “out of practice” in a position they currently hold?  Does that even make sense?

I cannot wait for the hammer to come down on me for this post.  All of you out there who have been so supportive and keep telling me what an “amazing” parent I have been, will see the truth for what it is.  See me for who I really am.

I am a mother, but not yet a mommy.  At least that’s what it feels like.

Where is the Dr. Spock book that tells us how to deal with this stuff?  Where’s the chapter on pretending you have a headache so you can go lie down instead of sitting knee-deep in the weird salty stench of play doh for an hour?  Or the one that helps you deal with the guilt of actually getting a headache when you try to wrack your brain for things to do with your kids that don’t make you want to gauge your eyes out?

G-d, I’m a horrible person.

I love my kids, I really do.  With all of my heart.  I just don’t know how to have fun with them, how to play with them.

I want to learn.

I want to enjoy it, to enjoy them…

I just don’t know how and it’s killing me.


  1. Bree says

    you are a mother AND a mommy … you just don’t have the “play” gene (and therefore, even if you weren’t dealing with all that you are, you still wouldn’t like to play). i lack that gene as well. i consider myself a pretty damn good parent — i love my kids more than i ever could have imagined, and show me a dance floor and i will spin my kids around it until they puke … but put some legos in front of me and tell me to pretend we are space explorers discovering planet zearth? eh, fuck off. i’m pretty sure that is why the powers that be (and by that, i mean my fertility doctor) gave me twins…

  2. says

    I seriously love you, Bree. Thank you for this. You are not just my long-distance running coach, you are truly a friend. It’s funny how someone you’ve known since you were twelve can be considered a new friend…? I can’t believe we wasted all of that time in high school in Murph’s class, and at Miss Sue’s feet away from each other when we could have been friends, and now you’re ten hours away?! WTF??

  3. says

    Wait… I’m supposed to PLAY with them too? Can’t I count all the therapy and homework time as play time? What about the time I let them watch tv? Does it count if I sit in the same room? You ARE NOT alone, and my opinion of you has NOT changed. Honestly, I play with my kids rarely. I love them, and my main job is to keep them alive. My house is a disaster, and I’ve bounced the occasional check due to my sloppy book keeping. I’m carrying around too much weight, and I’ve been keeping those good people at Nutella in business. But, hey, I’m a good friend, a good wife, and even though I’m not as playful as I was when I babysit decades ago, I’m still a good mommy. Guess what: you are too!!!

  4. says

    You are NOT alone… we’ve all been there for various lengths of time. I have an only child so the request to play together was constant when she was younger (she’s 10 now). When she got old enough to appreciate my snarkiness, I used to say to her “my mother never played with ME and look how good I turned out!”. Now I bribe her so instead of playing Lego together, I convince her to huddle up with me while we both read. And if by “reading” she decides to interpret it as “playing Minecraft on the iPad”, I ignore it as only a wonderfully bad (but loving) mother could. We play footsie as we both do our own things and that’s just fine. You are WAY too hard on yourself.

  5. Corey Sheehan says

    Hello: I enjoy your blog alot. I also struggle with my guilt over my inability to “play” like a child. I have a daughter who wants me to play with her and her dollhouse, something I find so tedious at the end of a stressful day. I always avoided it and made excuses, and it broke her heart. One thing I have found that makes it do-able for me is to come up with some sort of storyline at the beginning of the game. It’s amazing how simple the story can be, then the play just sort of rolls out. For example, the dolls in the dollhouse find a giant mouse (one of her stuffed animals) in their yard! First they’re afraid, then they decide to keep him! But where will he sleep? How will they feed him? What do they name him? (ask the kids) etc. etc. Good Luck!

  6. says

    Holy crap, I have to play with my kids too? Isn’t enough that I feed, clothe, wash and sometimes remember to pack their lunch. And let not forget I remembered picture day this year. I mean, that was a huge accomplishment.

    Sorry no hammer for you! I am totally in this boat. I have a friend who plays with her son. Leggos, draw, you name it. I don’t know how we are best friends, with her being a saint and all! I am in constant amazement that she has the patience and will to play.

    The other day I gave Boo her IPAD and let her watch hours of disney channel so I wouldn’t have to. I even told Allie one day to play with her sister and to let me cook dinner (aka play words with friends) since she was the one that wanted a little sister!

    Found you via Love that Max link-up

  7. says

    Thank you guys so much for making me feel – well, not as though I’m not that bad of a mother, but that so many of you out there are just AS bad (which is just as comforting)!

    Though many of the responses I’ve received haven’t inspired me to do specific things with them – with the exception of you, Corey – great idea to come into the dollhouse situation with a game plan and armed with a prefab plot line – I HAVE been given plenty more excuses to hold up my sleeve (Kerri, “Mommy’s making dinner” so you can play on your iPad is awesome. Don’t want the kids to go hungry, right?!).

    That’s what true mom-bonding (“monding”?) is… If we can’t help each other be better at this parenting thing, at least we stand in solidarity as enablers!

  8. says

    I can relate to this! I can play cards or games or read or what have you, but my mind is no longer capable of playing pretend. I know I did it when I was little. What happened?
    Don’t beat yourself up. I think we lose the imagination we once had as we age. I think we’re all in the same boat on this.

    • says

      Thanks, Kim! Maybe a lot of us have trouble “playing pretend” because we’re forced to be so deeply steeped in reality so much of the time and it’s so, so difficult to switch gears from one to the other…?

  9. AC says

    Found this blog post belatedly, through a friend who linked to your blog this week, and wow — finally, finally a mom blog that resonates. As an autism mom who works outside the home, I’ve found that while I’m a great researcher, advocate and amateur therapist — and I’m fantastic at earning money to pay for all of this awesome treatment — I suck at play. I don’t know how to “do” downtime. Sometimes — most of the time — I don’t know how to be “just a mom.”

    It kills me to say this, but the problem I think I have with play is that it feels like doing nothing. I’m not moving the ball forward; I’m not helping her “grow out of” her diagnosis. I’m accepting and living with it. And that’s scary. But necessary, obviously, and I’m working — er, playing? — on it. Thanks again.

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