As a work-from-home-mom I thought I was doing everything I needed to be a “good mom”. In my head this meant that I was with my daughter when she was home from school. However, all this changed suddenly when one day I came across a drawing she had made. According to her, the drawing showed her and Baba playing ball in the garden and Mama working on her laptop.
This hit my like a hammer. I kept thinking to myself, is this true? Am I on my laptop or cellphone SO much that in her head, playtime is only equal to mama’s work time? I went through her little “Newsbook” where I found this drawing and sure enough – there was stick figure upon stick figure of everyone playing, except me – who was always working.
Seriously? I gave up my career to stay at home for this? To be viewed as the parent who only works?
Time for some serious self-reflection right? Well guess what, someone was too busy working and not playing with Popo so we went on with our lives. And then one fine weekend, about 6 months later, Baba had to go out for work and she wanted to play legos. Our conversation went something like this:
Popo: I don’t want baba to go, I want to play legos.
Me: I can play legos with you.
Popo: No! You don’t know how to play legos.
Me: Yes I do, I taught Baba how to play legos.
Popo: No! You don’t know how to play. Only Baba knows how to play!
This would be incident 2 of “Spend time PLAYING with your daughter”. You’d think that after 2 incidents the concept of “play time” would be solidified in my head right? Wrong.
So my third strike came along in the form of tears. In Pakistan, children start school earlier than in the West which means homework comes earlier too. I thought I was one of the lucky ones because she never complained about doing homework. In fact, she ASKED to do it – weird kid right? But here’s the thing: every time she finished she would just start crying for no apparent reason. Of course the over analyzer in me figured she was getting stressed and releasing it after the work completed.
The answer was much more simple.
She just wanted play time with me. Not get ready for school time, not feed me time, not homework time, not bedtime…simple play time.
So I started dedicating one hour after homework to just playing with her. No laptop, no phone, no work. Just me and her and whatever activities she wanted to do. It made a world of a difference. Her attitude towards the entire day shifted. It means that I’m now officially an expert at making sounds for inanimate objects, but isn’t the whole point of raising these precious beings to spend as much time as possible with them before they reach the “I hate you, I want my friends” phase? I sure think so. All this is temporary. We might as well enjoy these fleeting moments of playing Dora the Explorer or Littlest Pet Shop with them for the brief time that we have.