Do you suffer from parental boredom?

Do you suffer from parental boredom?
On most days, I’m on top of my parenting game: I read with my two-year-old, help him make crafts from Pinterest, and encourage him to help me cook in the kitchen. On those days, I’m an A+ mom.

Then there are the other days… the days where I can only take so much of repeating the same answers, fiddling with a puzzle over and over, and watching my toddler play with crayons and dominoes. Days like these, I’m ready to conk out and can even feel my eyelids drooping, with of course a list of tasks I still need to do running through my mind.

In short, sometimes I get bored. Never mind that all my energy comes zooming back the minute my toddler is down for the night. Some days, parental boredom takes over and I’m doing my best to keep from falling asleep while we’re lounging on the floor talking about the same things over and over.

During the days when I’m sadly bored out of my mind, I try to follow these tips:

  • Participate in activities you actually enjoy. I’m not a rough housing kind of parent. I dread when my toddler wants to play hide-and-seek or run under my legs. On the other hand, I can get down with some pretend play, so my toddler and I will often sit at his little table cooking and eating pretend food. Find the activities you like and stay away from those you don’t. Thankfully my husband will gladly fill in and play chase and hide-and-seek with the little guy.
  • Let him play by himself while you do something else nearby. When I’m ready to go bonkers from boredom, I’ll often pull out a book and read near my toddler. Or I’ll take notes or write in my journal. I’ll even do the dreaded chores. I’m perfectly content with letting him play independently and doing activities that I not only need or want to do, but are good for my toddler to witness (e.g. so that he knows adults enjoy books too).
  • Find kid-centric activities you and your little one can do. When I’m out of ideas, I normally hop online and find activities I can quickly and easily do with my little guy. I tend to stick to one activity per day and keep it simple, whether it’s painting with watercolors or applying stickers on paper. You can even take it further by making an agenda and scheduling in several activities in one day and assign “subjects” like math, reading and social studies. Some of my favorite resources include: Productive Parenting, A Place of Our Own and No Time for Flash Cards.
  • Get out of the house. You know you’re a parent when you go to the grocery just to get out of the house! Groceries or not, getting out of the house can provide you and your little one the break and even fun that you need. Some of the places we’ve visited include: the library, park, beach, mall, garden center, pet store, play dates, and yes, the grocery.

I love parenting. But there are those days where I can’t believe how much of the day has gone by and it seems like we’ve done absolutely nothing. I’ve accepted that, as with any job, there will be bouts of boredom that are perfectly normal and will likely disappear in lieu of more fun and stimulation. In the meantime, I try to stick to activities I enjoy as well as new ones I find online to push the boredom aside.

How do you handle boredom at home? What are your favorite (and not-so-favorite) activities to do with your kids?

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The benefits of pretend play

My toddler has been subjecting Morris the monkey to eat play dough “sweet potatoes,” complete with a bib that he insists the poor monkey wear. He will also tear the play dough into pieces, just like how his mom and dad dice or mash his food for him. And of course Morris’ meal isn’t complete without a cup of milk and water to wash all that play— er, sweet potato down.

With his imagination chugging along, my toddler has entered the world of pretend play, and I couldn’t be happier.

With pretend play, kids are able to act out and therefore better understand events that happen in their lives. For instance, my toddler has since been pretending that it’s time to go to Morris’ house. “What are you going to do at Morris’ house?” I asked him.

“Eat snacks,” he promptly responded. That he continued to act out a situation similar to the morning routines we have of him going to my aunt’s house—with snacks and everything—isn’t too much of a coincidence: he may be acting out a common occurrence in his life and is perhaps starting to grasp why he goes there most days instead of staying at home.

Pretend play also allows kids to regain some of the control that often feels lost in the World of Big Adults. The fact that my toddler can decide what Morris eats and how much, as well as spoon-feeds and offers Morris his cup of water helps him feel like the adult in their play. Now, as the “bigger” person, he has the say on all matters.

On a similar note, pretend play can help kids in situations where they feel particularly vulnerable and emotional. When my toddler had to visit the doctor for a checkup, he was able to switch roles and assume the character of the doctor on his “patients” to ease with the often uncomfortable feelings of being probed and examined, however well-meaning and important the reason. Or perhaps a child going through the difficult transition of moving to a new home will pretend to pack up his belongings to bring it to his new house, a.k.a. the walk-in closet.

At the root of pretend play is the robust imagination that kids come very well-equipped with. For my toddler, his desk has morphed into a rocket, apparently the same one that the bear from one of his favorite books Mooncake takes to zoom to the moon. Encouraging pretend play boosts and reinforces their imaginations, so much so that a desk converts to a rocket that zooms, a playground into a house, or Legos into pasta (apparently the large green piece is lasagna).

And just a few minutes ago, as my toddler protested against taking his nap, did pretend play come in handy. As he sat crying on my lap with Morris in tow, I asked him, “What do you think Morris wants to do right now?” And he responded, “Play in the living room.” We then held a conversation with Morris, with me explaining how sad Morris must feel that he can’t keep playing in the living room, but that resting makes him stronger. Better yet, once the nap is done, both Morris and LO can resume their game.

My toddler sat listening to me explaining why “Morris” had to nap and only then calmed down enough to agree that maybe a nap will be okay, especially since Morris gets to play right after. He was able to channel whatever frustrating emotions he felt in a play scenario and share the burden with his fellow toys.

I’m excited to witness my toddler begin to develop pretend play and channel his emotions and strengthen his imagination. Plus, it’s just so darn cute watching him “talk” to his animals.

How has pretend play helped your kids? How do you encourage pretend play?

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Weekend links and actually doing something I pinned on Pinterest

Weekend links and actually doing something I pinned on Pinterest
One of the boards on the Sleeping Should Be Easy Pinterest account is a “crafts with kids” section, where I pin awesome activities I swear I’ll do with my toddler. Of course I always find some excuse: “But I don’t have tongue depressors handy… I lost the white crayon so now I can’t make the magic letters… He’s too young for that activity…” And so on. But I couldn’t find an excuse for this activity, from the blog No One Has More Fun than the Adams’: fun with pipe cleaners and a colander. After all, I actually had pipe cleaners (who knew they’d come in handy after all?) as well as a colander in the kitchen. So off we go, for our first ever Pinterest activity.

Weekend links and actually doing something I pinned on Pinterest
And what do you know, the little guy loved it. I figured he would, considering he likes figuring out how things work and was just bowled over at the shapes the pipe cleaners were making. I had to help him make poke the first end of the pipe cleaner, but he determined where he wanted to stick the other end to. He kept asking, “What’s this?” with the pipe cleaners, although he must have selective memory because I swear I showed it to him several months ago but was met with a “I’m not interested” shrug.

I liked this activity, however short it was, because we already had these two items and he was able to flex his fine motor skills with all that poking and aiming at the holes. I’m pretty sure he would have kept going if I had given him more pipe cleaners (and another colander).

Perhaps I can go find more orange pipe cleaners while you read a few links below:

  • The The LA Times cites that the U.S. ranks 25th of best places for mothers. The U.S.’s relatively low ranking compared to other developed countries is due to issues like risks in pregnancy-related deaths, child mortality, low political status for women, preschool enrollment and guaranteed paid maternity leave.
  • If that isn’t enough to get you excited about books, SSBE reader Ana from Mommyhood: From the Heart featured a link to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. If your child is between the ages of 0 to 5, he or she can receive one free book a month until they turn five years old. I haven’t signed up for this but Ana has been receiving her free books from this literacy program.

What Pinterest activities have you done recently?

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Why I don’t bother with working mom guilt

I keep hearing about this guilt I’m supposed to feel because I’m a mom who works. Apparently I should beat myself up because I don’t get to see my toddler several hours in the day, that someone else is caring for him while I’m in the office or that I can’t seem to keep my home spotless.

Instead, I’m one of those moms who feel zero guilt when it comes to my toddler and working.

And it’s not because I’m a workaholic—I don’t work crazy hours or check my work email while on vacation. Sure, I enjoy what I do in the office, work hard, excel in my field and get along well with my coworkers, but seriously, if I won a gazillion dollars, I’d probably be outta there in a second (okay, maybe in two weeks). So while having a career is important for many moms, getting paid isn’t at the top of my fulfillment list.

Why then the lack of guilt when it comes to working instead of spending time with my toddler? Because I’m doing the best I can. When I’m with LO, I consciously have my parenting cap on (most of the time). I look for opportunities for him to learn and thrive, whether it’s through reading books, making crafts or exploring our natural surroundings. I make sure he knows he’s loved and cared for, both when it’s easy and when more patience is called for. When I’m not with him, I’m reading parenting books, blogging about parenting, or talking to my husband about how we can improve as parents. Almost everything I do caters to the well-being of my son.

In short, I think I’m a damn good mom.

You may have your own ways of wearing your parenting cap that’s different from mine, but if you’re like most moms I know, we all bust our asses doing what’s best for our kids. (Wow, I just said “damn” and “asses” in one blog post! Apologies to my nine-year-old niece who reads this blog.)

Sometimes guilt is confused with desire: it’s okay that I want to be home with my toddler instead of sitting in an office. As difficult as it felt to return to work after maternity leave, there was still no reason to feel guilty. The desire to spend more time with my baby shouldn’t make me feel guilty because I can’t. Some families have the option for one parent to stay at home; others don’t. I wish I could see my toddler more often, but that would mean a significant pay decrease which wouldn’t be prudent for us at this moment.

I also heard from a few moms who feel guilty for working whenever they come home and realize that they still have to unload the dishwasher, clean the toilet and pay the bills. Especially when everything in the house was spotless before kids, adjusting to a kid-infested house could take some getting used to. But seriously, we have kids. Maybe even a bunch of them. My home is hardly going to look anything like how it used to look, and even less than what I see in magazines or catalogs. I love the fact that I can now pull out the “we have a kid” card whenever I realize I haven’t watered the plants in three weeks or that there are crayon marks on the table. Those are the marks of a family blessed with a kid, not of  an incompetent mom.

Which brings me to my last point: we can’t do it all. We’re quite the conundrum—we’re supposed to be stay-at-home moms so our kids can spend time with us, but be working moms so they know women kick butt in the workforce too. We can’t miss out on any of our baby’s “firsts,” but we have to be the top performer in our department. We have to tend to our crying baby or fussy toddler even though the project is due in two hours. Too many expectations rest on our shoulders and we can’t bear every single one of them.

We’re moms—complete with flaws, ambitions, and the choices we make. So when that guilt starts creeping up again, pull out your “we have a kid” card and remind yourself that you’re doing your best.

Do you feel guilty for being a working mom? How do you handle and appease this guilt? Is there anything you can change about your situation to alleviate the guilt?

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When parents take over children’s crafts

When parents take over children's crafts
My two-year-old and I were sitting at his little table molding some play dough. “Let’s make a bowl of soup!” I suggested. I started off with the black play dough and molded a pretty decent bowl, then made the spinach soup out of green play dough. And as I was molding the shapes, I was looking at my toddler… who was looking at me… waiting expectantly for this bowl of soup to materialize out of my hands while his own were sitting empty.

I had brought out the play dough hoping for some open-ended play, where he can create and mold to his imagination’s content. Instead he just sat there, an audience member instead of a participant. “Here you go,” I said, handing him some black play dough. “You can make a bowl too.”

And just as I had feared, he replied, “No—mama make it,” handing me back the play dough.

Great. I just completely hijacked an activity that, if I were childless, would never have made it into my day’s agenda. Here I was showing my toddler how cool it is to make bowls out of play dough and showing all the awesome things we could make, except I was doing all the doing. I realized this happened before too: he’d ask me to make a pumpkin and I would magically mold something that looked like one and hand it to him. He would squeal with delight, and here I blindly thought, “Yay, we’re doing crafts!” Uh, no. I’m doing crafts, he’s just playing with my creations.

I hadn’t been encouraging him to take part in the task. I don’t want him to think these activities were beyond his ability and that only adults can make cool things. I remember seeing some really great artists when I was a kid, but rather than wondering whether I could do the same, I dismissed the very thought of it, assuming that that skill was beyond anything I could ever do. I don’t want my toddler to think that way. Yes, I can make a more realistic-looking bowl of soup, but who’s to say he can’t try, or that his is any less worthy than mine?

So after he handed me back the play dough, convinced that this molding business was only something Mama could do, I handed him another piece. “Why don’t you make the fork, and I’ll make the spoon,” I suggested. He agreed, and while I was making my spoon, he sort of picked at his piece here and there. “Can I see?” I asked him. “Wow! You made a fork. Now our bowls have a fork and spoon,” I told him. Never mind that his fork looked nothing like one. I still took the piece and pretend to poke at my pretend food.

Other than a few of these relapses, I usually let him lead with other crafts as well. When it comes to painting, I try to make suggestions sparingly, like when I see he needs help or ideas. Or when we’re gluing strips of paper or applying stickers onto card stock, he decides where to put them and what color to use. It’s okay if his crafts aren’t the cutesy crafts you see online. I just want him to enjoy the act of making something, creating ideas and finishing a project all at his own discretion and choosing. And it’s also fine for me to make awesome bowls and spoons so he can see the possibilities; I just don’t want him to think that he can’t do them either.

And if he just wants to hold a ball of play dough and pick tiny bits from it instead of rolling it into a masterpiece, then more power to him. When it comes to children’s crafts, children should be the main doers, even if it won’t make a pretty picture on Pinterest.

How do you and your kids do crafts together?