One thing about being a parent that no one ever warns you about is the fact that your kids will siphon away all your energy like little gasoline thieves. By the end of the day, they’re still running full steam ahead and you’re struggling to put one foot in front of the other.
Tackling it alone is even harder. It’s tempting to set them loose in the yard or the park while you plant yourself on a bench or in a lawn chair, but don’t let utter parental exhaustion keep you from enjoying time with your kids.
Single Parent Exhaustion
Why should you take the time to play with your kids, even if you’re tired?
Some Games Need Two People
Kids are usually more than happy to make new friends on the playground and include these new buddies in their games, but there aren’t always other kids at the park or playground for them to play with. When it comes down to it, some games need two people, and if you’re tackling parenthood as a single mom, you are player two by default. You can’t play catch or throw a frisbee by yourself. Instead of leaving your kids to their own devices, get up and start playing!
Chances are high that if you’re not already fairly fit, you may find yourself out of breath trying to keep up with them, but this isn’t a bad thing — the more you run around and play, the healthier you’ll get!
Be a Role Model
We love to try and tell our kids to do as we say instead of as we do, but that doesn’t ever actually work. They’ll smile and nod —- and then mimic exactly what we do anyway. Instead of trying to force them to go play, getting up and joining them helps them to see you as a role model. This applies to other aspects of their and your life too, but when you’re in the middle of a game, it’s a lot easier to get the point across.
You’re already wearing two hats here, which is challenging enough as it is. It might feel like you need to work extra hard to give them the lessons they might have gotten from their sperm donor, but they just want to be like Mom. Kids learn through play, and this is another skill that they can learn and file away for later in life, even if they don’t realize that they’re learning.
Promote Intergenerational Connections
In the United States, around 20% of people live in a multigenerational home, but fostering socialization between these disparate generations is often challenging. Grandparents adore their grandchildren, but when these younglings start rambling on about Minecraft or the latest TikTok trend, they’re likely to be lost. Play is something that everyone can understand and enjoy, and getting everyone together can help build those intergenerational connections that might otherwise be challenging.
This is also an opportunity to help them connect with their paternal grandparents, even if Dad isn’t in the picture. Note that this only applies if the relationship with those grandparents is amicable. You are under no obligation to subject yourself or your children to toxic people for the sake of intergenerational connections.
Help Them Stay Healthy
Staying active and healthy can be challenging when there are so many things to keep us indoors. According to the Centers for Disease Control, children through adolescence should be doing at least an hour of physical activity every day, alternating between cardio and strength training activities. You don’t need to put them on a Peloton and buy tons of free weights to accomplish this — running on the playground counts as cardio, and climbing a tree or playground equipment can double as strength training.
Being exhausted or miserable isn’t an excuse to stay on the bench. In fact, getting your body moving releases endorphins and other beneficial neurotransmitters that can help refresh your mental state. Chances are good you’ll feel better afterward, and you might even have a bit of extra energy to finish out your day.
Build Your Bonds
As kids grow older, it gets more difficult to build strong bonds with them. Teenagers, especially, are more prone to turn inward, bottling things up instead of expressing them. Talking to mom is anathema — most teenagers I know would rather remove their own fingernails than have a conversation with their parents. If you’re going it alone, you can’t exactly tell them to go talk to Dad if they won’t open up to you. Taking the time to play with your kids while they’re younger can make it a lot easier to forge those bonds and build a strong relationship that will last a lifetime.
Learn How to Play Again
When we’re growing up, we’ll often reach an age where we’re told to put aside childish things. We stop imagining, we focus on school or work and we forget how to play. In the words of science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin, “The creative adult is the child who survived.” Life also has a habit of knocking you off your feet and then kicking you while you’re down there. Whether you’re single by choice, through a divorce, or are living as a widow, navigating the world of parenthood is enough to make you forget that you ever were a child.
If you’ve forgotten how to play, and you’ve got kids in your life, let them teach you how to be a kid again. You might be surprised how much it affects the other parts of your life as well.
Get Out There and Play
Play can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Maybe you’re fighting a dragon to rescue a princess — or fighting a princess to rescue a dragon. You can throw a football or race your bikes, or run from one end of the yard to the other to see who is fastest. There are endless possibilities. I know you’re tired, mama. There’s nothing harder than going it alone. Get up, get out there and spend some time actively playing with your kids.
Not only will you help them stay healthy and learn the skills that they’re going to need for the rest of their lives, but you might find that it helps you remember how to be a kid which is something we can all benefit from now and then.