Most days, I juggle spending time playing with my girls with all sorts of other daily stuff-I-have-to-do, like folding laundry, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, showering, and so on. It's just the nature of being a mom. I'd like to spend tons and tons of time just playing with my kids. But I have to get other stuff done. So I alternate playing and doing something on my never ending mental to-do list. They play on their own. They're pretty good at it. I think it's a good thing.
But even though they're good at entertaining each other and themselves, I do love to get down on the floor and just play with them without distractions. I do this at least for a little while every day. Today I made a point of skipping the laundry and other stuff and just being with them. We played dress up and sang songs. I was alternately assigned the roles of Beast, Evil Queen, Happy (dwarf), a giant, Snow White's mother (?), Prince Charming, and Gaston.
And just when I thought I was being Super Awesome Mom and we were having the best. time. ever., Miss asked, "Is anyone coming over to play with us?" She was referring to a babysitter. I told her that no one was, that I was staying and playing with them.
"But I want someone to come play with us."
Huh? I'm your Mom and I'm here, laughing and tickling and being silly and wearing crazy hats and playing all these stupid characters and you want a babysitter?
Yeah. Okay. I love that my girls like their babysitters. That's a good thing. But when it comes to this sort of stuff, being compared with babysitters, Mom kind of gets a raw deal. I mean, let's face it, I just can't compete with someone who gets paid to do nothing but lavish all her attention and energy on my kids for the entire time she's with them. She doesn't have to do laundry, make beds, vacuum floors, make grocery lists, and on and on while trying to attend to my three kids. And while I'm pouting about this, I can't compete with my husband on this stuff either. But that's mostly just because he is totally willing to play monster and chase and hide and seek all. evening. long. with my two older girls. And truth? I hate playing chase and hide and seek, so I'm giving that one up to him. But still ...
I know. There are lots of times when my kids want only me. When they're sick, or hurt, or scared, or tired. Or nervous, or excited, or proud. If I'm on the phone or trying to have a discussion with another mom at a play date. They want me when there's a book to be read or a song to be sung. No one can tuck them in quite like me (though Miss chose to have my mom tuck her in every night when my parents visited recently).
Sometimes other people, like Daddy, grandparents, and babysitters, are popular with my kids because they can provide them with undivided attention for extended periods of time. I do it sometimes too of course, though not as much as I'd like. Even when I make a point to just play, things don't always work out the way I plan (today was a day for just playing, but then Miss complained of ear pain so we had to go to the doctor and then to Target for a prescription).
As Mom, I often have to divide my attention between my three girls or between my girls and the myriad other things I have to do each day. They are often excited to have a babysitter to play with them. They're always excited for grandparents and their Dad.
It never bothers me that they love being with other people. I think it's great. And it truly doesn't bother me that they sometimes choose other people over me (though I was kind of shocked today to be dissed while I was doing what I thought was some super awesome playing with them).
Thing is, it's not a competition. No one else can be their Mom. No one else will ever fill that role for them but me. And if they're secure in that, then they'll be happy to have great relationships with the other special people in their lives. They have awesome relationships with their Daddy and grandparents and aunts and uncles. And yes, clearly they enjoy their babysitters. Each of these relationships is special and important for each of my girls.
I don't give my girls undivided attention all day long. I don't think any mom does. It would be weird and helicopter-ish if I did. Instead, I spend some time giving them focused attention and the rest of the time they have me here, nearby, all day every day as their sounding board. Their touchstone. When they run to me or call to me countless times each day, I'm always here to answer, to listen, to watch.
They know that I'm always here, and that I always will be. Even when they choose the babysitter (or Grandma or Daddy) over me.