Do you ever feel guilty for not having enough energy for your kids?
I know this is one of my biggest sources of mom guilt – I want my daughter to experience a happy and exciting life but sometimes I just don’t have the wherewithal to have fun.
Or, at least engage in activities that she considers fun. A glass of wine and Netflix is fun enough for me!
I learned early on as a full-time single mom that the key to avoiding burnout and overwhelm is to create a sense of balance.
Yes, we go to playgrounds, make slime and have pillow fights – but I can’t sustain that level of energy all of the time.
Instead, I focus on encouraging her to find ways to entertain herself and make her own fun. Being an only child, this is a struggle but one that pays off when I can have moments to breathe throughout the day.
So when you reach those moments where you don’t have an ounce of fun left in your system, here are some ways you can fake it ’til you make it (and your kids won’t know the difference):
Let Your Kids Be Bored
That’s right, let your kiddos be bored.
Boredom encourages imagination and creativity and nurtures their sense of discovery and curiosity. It also helps them develop “grit”, which is the fortitude to make mistakes and not fear failure.
Unfortunately, today’s technology has created a world where children can just default to screen-time instead of coming up with their own activities and games.
But the thought of confronting a whiney child because you took away their phone and told them to go play can be unbearable.
Stimulating your child’s creativity in these instances may take a little leg work, such as setting up open-ended activities (think obstacle courses, treasure hunts, etc.) or providing them with raw materials to create free-play opportunities (such as paper towel roll marble runs).
It may take awhile to get your child’s creative juices flowing, especially if they are accustomed to jumping on YouTube when there’s nothing else to do, but after a while you’ll find them finding their own fun and leaving you the hell alone.
Encourage Independent Play
Encouraging independent play is a little different than encouraging boredom. When you encourage boredom, you are forcing your child to come up with their own play scenarios.
When you encourage independent play, you just want them to be able to go off and play anything on their own.
Welcome to the hell of a single mom with one child. :/
I spent 7 years of my life working with Autistic preschoolers, so my days were filled with “playing”. Even in these years after leaving that field, I’m kind of played out.
So when my daughter asks me if I want to play Barbies, I really don’t.
But I feel bad because she doesn’t have a built-in playmate (i.e. sibling) to engage with so if it’s not me, she’s playing alone.
Which really isn’t a bad thing.
Independent play helps children develop social independence. As they get older, they won’t rely on “others” to fulfill their needs – they’ll be able to find happiness within themselves.
That may seem like a deep-seeded concept when it comes to a child, but encouraging independent play is going to circumvent many social difficulties in the future, such as co-dependence and introversion.
Plus, there are many pretend play scenarios you can participate in with your child without actually participating – which I’ll cover in the next point.
Take playing restaurant, for example. Your child has to cook and serve the meals while all you have to do is sit and wait to be served. They’re playing independently because you are not directly involved in the play aspect of the scenario.
Play Without Playing
For kids, fun is not always synonymous with exciting – so it’s easy to get away with setting up activities in which you can participate in without actually playing.
Playing doctor is a good one. Get your kiddo to grab their instruments while you play the sick patient. All that is required of a sick patient, of course, is laying down and acting comatose.
And the “sicker” you are, the longer your child will have to be the doctor. Win-win.
You can also let your child pretend to be a tattoo artist by drawing on your legs with washable markers. You just have to sit there while you get inked.
(Please make sure the markers are 100% washable!)
Think of activities your child can engage in that requires no actual movement from you. Your kid won’t know the difference – they’ll be having fun!
Find Common Ground
As your child ages, they will begin to develop defined interests. If there’s something they enjoying doing that you enjoy too, jump on that bandwagon!
For instance, my daughter loves playing video games – and so do I! So we can spend a significant amount of time having fun that involves: A. Me not having to expend any energy, and, B. Me doing something I enjoy too.
If you enjoy drawing, grab some markers and paper. Get your kiddo to “teach” an art class and draw according to their instructions.
For those who like to bake and cook, have your child measure, pour and stir. You may be getting them to do the legwork, but they think they’re having fun.
When you’re doing something you enjoy, and your child joins you, it feels less like you’re making an effort to be fun.
Include Your Child in Your Self Care
One of the best remedies to exhaust and overwhelm for moms is investing in self care. Easier said than done, it’s usually the first task that gets yeeted off a mom’s to-do list.
To incorporate self care into your daily routine, start including your child.
My daughter and I love spa nights, so I get to enjoy my warm bath plus some additional pampering without worrying about keeping her entertained. To her, being involved is fun!
You can use tea parties as an excuse to sip your herbal comfort or set up a book-nook for some quiet reading time.
Self care time doesn’t necessarily have to be alone time – it can involve whatever activities pushes worry from your mind and relieves stress.
Plus, the more you include your child, the more they will grow to learn the importance of taking care of themselves! 🙂
Make Everything a Game
When I ask moms what the number one thing that takes up most of their time, the answer is usually unanimous:
Who has time for fun when the dishes need to be done?
Well, why not have both?
Get your little one involved in everyday chores by turning absolutely everything into a game!
Playing a matching game while sorting socks? Fun! Broom races? Sign me up! Let’s see who can clean their room the fastest? Awesome times!
The benefits here are obvious – You can get your shit done, your kids learn responsibility and they have fun all at the same time.
Just don’t rack your brain trying to come up with novel and unique ideas when it comes to housework. Just blurt out the first thing that pops into your mind that would make the task more fun.
Your kids won’t care.
Give Yourself a Break
The role of “mom” is a 24-7 job and, with any job, you’re allowed to take a break.
That doesn’t mean sitting dead-eyed in the corner and ignoring your child. It means allowing yourself to say, “Not right now,” or “I’ll play with you later,” when you just really don’t feel like being fun.
I want to instill in my daughter the value of taking care of responsibilities, so I never do housework when she’s at school. I want her to learn that there is a balance between fun and work.
But I would never discourage her from playing. In fact, 99.9% of the times she goes to clean her room, she ends up playing with toys. And this is perfectly okay.
I just want her to understand that being an adult means having responsibilities but also needing downtime to decompress. I also want her to understand compromise and the fact that we can’t do what she wants to do all the time.
Is she a pouty, misaligned and troubled child? Absolutely not.
There are actually times when she says, “Mama, do you need some alone time?” God bless my wee child and her understanding of my needs. 🙂
So allow yourself to take a break from being the “fun mom”. As long as you’re not running your household like a military school, you are fun enough in your child’s eyes.
How do you fake your fun as a mother? Any activities or tips you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments below!