Mom Guilt – How Do You Play With Your Children?

Do you “play” with your children? Or do you “play” with you children enough is the question?

Are you engaging in activities such as Barbies, Legos, GI Joe, dolls, or games on a daily basis? When you do, do you feel that it is enough? I have recently had this empowering guilt, now that my children are getting older, that has weighed me down for a while…. well, four years to be exact since my daughter is now 4 years old!


As a part-time working mother and the several duties that include “holding down the fort”, you know, the regulars like cooking, laundry, cleaning, grocery visits, and still somehow finding the time to shower and maybe even have a small civilized phone convo with someone that you knew pre-parenthood?

Forget it!

I’ve always had this image in my head, of myself (a thinner version haha) as a well-rested mom in my immaculate organized home, with white walls and shiny floors, sitting comfortably on the floor in an oversized sweater with a hot tea in my hand, playing on the floor with my loving children for hours with a giant reassuring smile on my face.

Folks, it isn’t looking like that over here and I’m guilt ridden!

My better half works full-time during the week in his educated career to support us. And half the year (crop season), he comes home in the evenings to leave again and is gone most weekends to support the family farm where he grew up, which is his true passion and although it can be tough, I encourage this for him because I know he enjoys the time with his aging father and I see the joy the farm brings him.

Before becoming a mother, I had an immaculate home, everything clean and organized and in its place. I would wash, fold and put away a load of laundry every day after work, load the dishwasher before bed and unload it in the morning before leaving, which took minutes because there was just my husband and I.  Now most days my dishwasher is loaded with ‘odds n ends’ and some days even unrecognizable items, which understandably happens between play dates, dance lessons, drop offs and pickups!

My dream since I was a little girl has always been to become mother and I’ve had this unrealistic turned realistic version of parenting in my head turn to reality, fast!  Don’t get me wrong, I am blessed beyond belief and beyond thankful for this life!  It’s just not what I had pictured as the description above but would I change it?  Not in a HOT minute!

During my first pregnancy, I read multiple baby blogs including The Bump, Baby Zone, Parenting Magazine, Baby Center and Babble, just to name a few, and in these articles, I read multiple times that proven studies have shown you must play with your children regularly. I understand the principles and importance of playing with my children..  and that my friends is where the guilt comes in! Like I said, I “thought” that was going to be the case, but often I find myself struggling between work, life duties, needing me time (very rare) and finding the time to play with my children regularly enough that I don’t feel guilty!

After my 1st child was born, and I was in the midst of clearly learning that my life was indeed changing between no sleep, random hours of feeding, and my house literally turned upside down, my mother kindly printed this poem for me.

A kind gesture and reminder for me when all seemed out of control. I had this hanging from my refrigerator as a reminder, and as lovely as it is, I eventually had to take it down because I felt shame every time I read it and then looked around to a pile of laundry and dishes up to the ceiling!

Now a few years later with a 24-month-old (yep, that mom) and a 4-year-old, no matter how much I prioritize my day, cleaning, organizing, lunch, nap, crying, feeding, no day is alike and there is always something thrown unexpectedly into the mix, like a tantrum, a visitor, a fever or I just don’t want to toddler day!

When I was young, my mother worked 9-5\ 5 days a week and would pick me up every day at 5pm, we would go home, we had dinner, bath, homework, maybe a bit of TV, and my mother read to me every night.

My mom and I both seemed to enjoy it and it strengthened our bond based on what book we were reading, and most books have an educational meaning, we would pause and go into our own stories that were relatable, and I adored my mother’s stories of her experiences because at that age you think your mother is pretty awesome, at least I did. I also remember this breaking into laughter sessions most nights and I usually had a smile on my face when she tucked me in and turned off the light. This is a wonderful memory for me and one that my husband and I both cherish with our children, we love reading to our children every night.

Of course, I have several wonderful memories of my mother then reading to me and different things that she liked to do or that we liked to do together, but forgivably not many of them include her playing babies or barbies… As a child I had an extensive imagination and although I enjoyed it when an adult figure would play with me, I don’t feel that it influenced my life in a negative or positive way.

Did your parents play with you after a long day?  Yes or No? Did it put a positive or a negative influence on your life?

As the years have gone by, I’ve become more attentive to the basis of these articles and am aware of many different parenting strategies, most seem to be efficient and effective for my friends and family and their families. Some play with their children daily, some work full-time and have school-aged children with recreational activities, and endless amounts of homework etc.. I really don’t know how they do it? Some have family adventures every weekend or family movie night, nightly dinners or game night, and from what I’ve witnessed all these children are happy, loving kids that I love to be around and have my children around.

Since becoming a mother, I have had to reevaluate my thoughts of what I “thought” it was going to be like and what it is and come to new conclusions that work for me and my children. Most importantly I try (really hard) to leave the guilt at the door, or most nights the pillow, and know in my heart that if the day went so fast and is done and I didn’t get a chance to “play” or interact with them that it is ok, that I am doing the best I can, and trust me I am still in training!

I have figured out a few strategies that do work for me and my family and is still pleasing everyone while getting some things done! I feel that you don’t necessarily have to put your life on hold to sit and play with your child daily and not to feel like a horrible parent if it doesn’t happen that day or days…

Sometimes I will start to play doll house or babies for 15 minutes and once everything is set up and she is on a roll, I will sit in the chair next to her and fold laundry, still participating in the imaginative portion of the playing with different voices (I rock the Barbie voice) etc. My daughter has become much better at playing alone and with her peers since doing this and I believe from my own experiences as well as talking with child educators that some children need to learn how to play and for some it just comes naturally. My daughter is the type that prefers to be entertained and is always very busy jumping from one task to the next. She likes for me to come up with ideas for her to keep her busy throughout the day, she has always been this way and strives from routine, some days this can be difficult! However my son does very well at playing and entertaining himself for hours and rarely even notices when I leave the room!

I’ve come to an important realization in the writing of this article, after talking with my husband, loved ones, and my peers.. which has brought me peace of mind. I often refer to the way my brain works as a hamster wheel (I know, nice scenario) but it’s true, my mind is always going, always!

I write as often as I can, it is a positive release for me, to get my thoughts and feelings out before they bottle up and come out on their own, usually in some sort of involuntary, anxiety or form of what my hubs calls water works…  so, I write usually at night, if I am not too exhausted after my husband and children are asleep and the house is quiet.

The nights that I am too tired to read or write, I think (hamster wheel) and I often wish I had some sort of SD, computer chip, word processor in my head (sarcasm) because the way that I sort through things and seek my faith can be self-reassuring and for an anxiety sufferer that is NOT something that comes easy!

Here it is.

I’ve come to the conclusion based on my continuous thoughts over the last several days in my writings, that I simply don’t agree with constantly playing and entertaining my children. Sure, I choose to play babies or “house” because I love to reminisce, and I love seeing my children play and interact, pretend and role play but not every day, in my opinion children also need to learn to entertain themselves.

I feel that a strong imagination and finding your own self worth and your ideas of what fun is can come during those moments of boredom and self entertainment is a flawless in a person and it builds self confidence, structure and personality.

What if I don’t want to get down on the floor and play babies or Legos daily, but instead I want to share a walk, bond with my children on my lap over an activity book, paint together, conquer a craft project or simply engage in conversation, go on a scavenger hunt, wander, watch them learn from nature, let them learn about themselves within, before the world shapes and molds them, enjoy little adventures together as we are surrounded by such beauty of  several WI state parks and the most amazing capital city with so much to do together right at our finger tips!  – Thanks MMB! 

Looking back that is all I ever wanted as a child, someone to have a conversation with, someone who found my thoughts and activities of my daily life interesting. I feel this day in age with technology we forget to be “present” parents and shut the devices off. I do it, it’s my social release and most often my social life!

I disconnect the devices and ask my children questions, I engage in conversation with them so that they feel respected and have trust for me when they are older, when the big concerns arise, and I am hopeful that they feel comfortable enough to come to me about anything. 

I am not a psychologist, nor do I have a Ph.D. but I do know that I am a loving mother trying to raise good, kind people in a not so kind, fast world, and If I am wrong and in 20 years my kids are on the Dr. Phil show, dig this article up and use it in one of  the statistics.

Love starts at home and that is how I “play” ❤️

Alexis is a photographer and writer at Live Northerly and Madison Mom, a mother to two energetic littles — Lydia and Leo — and a wife to her high school sweetheart Steven. She is a born and raised Wisconsin girl and now lives in the Driftless Region near her husband’s third-generation family farm. Alexis loves to celebrate life, from the little moments to the special occasions and hopes to inspire others to find the beauty around us! Follow her and her families adventures @wisconmom


  1. Very proud of you, Lexi. As a woman who never experienced the joy of motherhood, I am in awe at your ability to capture your joy and anxiety brought by 2 blessings in your life. A strong marriage and family are not easy tasks in this time. You are an inspiration!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here