You feel like you should be on the floor playing with your kids, providing intellectual stimulation and building their social-emotional intelligence. You also feel like you don’t do this enough and your child’s wellbeing is suffering. As a result, you carry immense guilt that you can’t seem to shake.
But why is it that you don’t play with your kids enough? Here are the top four reasons:
1. You don’t manage your time effectively.
The minute you think of spending focused time with your kid your mind wanders to all the tasks you need to do. Laundry, vacuuming, sorting toys, unloading and then loading the dishwasher, shopping for a birthday gift for your daughter’s friend, buying groceries, figuring out what to make for dinner, and then making it. In all likelihood, you develop such a sense of urgency contemplating these tasks that you rush off to complete one or more of them, leaving your child without the attention you told yourself you were going to give.
Then you say you don’t have enough time.
Your mind is all over the place because your responsibilities feel overwhelming and all over the place. You feel pulled in many different directions and like spending time with your child is one more thing to check off your to-do list.
When you take inventory of your to-dos, group the like ones together, determine how long it will take to do them, and then plug them into your schedule you’re setting yourself up to make efficient use of your time and free up more of it for your kids, which you can also plug right into your schedule.
“Your plan will also allow you to concentrate on just the moment you are in. When you map out where and how you will spend your time, giving each activity a place in your schedule, you no longer have to worry about how you will fit everything in. You’ve already decided that, and you are free to focus on the task at hand.” -Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
2. You don’t manage your energy effectively.
You don’t play with your kids more because you don’t have enough energy. You’re exhausted from all the things you have to do on a daily basis and the shortage of sleep you run on to do them.
Because you haven’t aligned all of your chores and activities with your core values—you may not even know what your core values are—you find them, from your current perspective, life sucking rather than life giving.
When we spend time doing something we enjoy or something that is meaningful or honors our values our exhaustion fades away. Have you ever felt tired but then when you started doing something you love or that feels good your energy increased right away?
Reframing your to-do’s in terms of how they honor your values allows you to shift your energy and have more of it. And for those tasks that aren’t aligned with your values no matter what perspective you take? Reduce, eliminate, or delegate them.
3. It’s not a priority.
In the early days of your relationship with your partner you always had time and energy for sex. Why? Because it was new and exciting and fun. You wanted to do it. It made you feel alive. You craved it and you made it happen. Consciously or not, it was a priority.
You say you want to be on the floor playing with your kids, but if you wanted to do it you’d do it. We as humans love immediate gratification. And our children are immediately accessible, eager, and free. In general, when we want something that’s available we jump on it. We don’t wait another second.
Yet you don’t jump on the chance to engage with your kids.
Because you choose not to. You don’t want to. It’s not as interesting or fulfilling to you as other things are. It’s not a priority for you.
And that’s ok.
If your interests don’t include gumming up Sophie the Giraffe, building Lego towers, wrestling, or playing board games it’s understandable that you wouldn’t be eager to do those things—even with the people you love most.
No one would fault you for not wanting to spend time with a neighbor with whom you have nothing in common.
Perhaps though, you and your child, have undiscovered shared interests. Ask yourself:
- What opportunities are there for my child and me to do something together that we both enjoy?
- What did I enjoy as a child that I might like to get into again?
- What would my child feel about doing it with me?
4. There is no “enough.”
What does “enough” mean to you? How much time do you need to directly dedicate to your kids in order to fill like you’ve fulfilled your commitment to them?
I bet “enough” feels pretty elusive, indefinable.
The truth is if you’re feeling guilty now you’ll feel guilty no matter how much attention you give your kids. There is no threshold after which the guilt stops coming. You’ll always feel like you haven’t done enough.
Where does this guilt come from? It’s a result of the deeply engrained belief that you aren’t good enough. The voice that lives in your head tells you that you should be doing more, you should be better, and you ought to be able to reach a goal line you haven’t even identified.
You’re not alone. Your mom friends are telling themselves the same things, too.
The stakes are so high and your love so immense that you put inhumane levels of pressure on yourself to do it all and do it “better.” Makes the President’s job look like an opportunity to lounge on the beach sipping Mai Tais. At least he has a support team.
While your feeling of not being enough runs deep, it is possible to overcome it and be at peace with what you are doing. (Although I don’t presume that a few paragraphs will get you there. Coaching can, though!)
The next time you tell yourself you aren’t doing a good enough job ask yourself:
- How does that mindset serve or protect me?
- What does it make me feel?
- What does it stop me from doing?
- What thoughts and feelings would I like to have instead?
- What would I be able to do if those were my thoughts and feelings?
- Considering the way in which my current mindset serves/protects me and the thoughts and feelings I’d like to have instead, what shift can I make to install a healthier, more empowering message?
Because you are enough.
The next time you feel like you can’t or don’t play enough with your kids ask yourself how true that is.
Own your thoughts. Own your words. Own your situation. Create your life.
Want help managing your time and energy or overcoming your feelings of guilt or not being good enough? Schedule a complimentary session and see how coaching can help.