It's Time To Let Mothers Enjoy Raising Their Children

Motherhood, we are being told, must be seen - must be felt - to be a struggle at all times, in order for us to justify that we are actually doing something that matters. 

Our work is so often seen to be of such little value, that we have become committed to demonstrating that the effort involved in it requires true and hefty sacrifice and commitment, and that, just like so many other jobs, our role is comprised of nothing but HARD WORK. 

We feel it is necessary to stress the importance of just how much of a challenge our days can be; because we see this as the only way we can be heard. Our roles are so quickly dismissed as indulgent and irrelevant, that we are determined to ensure people know just how hard we are working - and the only way we can do this, it seems, is by speaking out about the difficulties we face and the hardships we endure.

I do support, with great passion, the movement of normalising motherhood. I believe we should talk about the trials and the tribulations, share our struggles and the mess and the chaos of it all. I think these open, real conversations are essential and they allow us to find a sense of meaningful connection and community in the midst of a society where we often raise our children in isolation.

But in glamourising the work and struggle of motherhood, we have made it unacceptable to talk about the joy. 

Other jobs are able to celebrate their wins - as well as discussing their hardships - because work outside the home, or indeed any work not connected to the raising of children, is seen as valuable. The fact that our job is already seen as 'easy' and 'not a real job' is why we so desperately cling to the community that perpetuates the misery of motherhood. We are so repressed that we are not willing to risk further being pushed aside or seen as less hard working or less relevant, by talking about how sometimes- indeed often, motherhood can be wonderful. 

We have given up on the parts of motherhood that bring us joy. 

One of the greatest losses, is the lost art of play.

We do not allow ourselves to engage in acts of play, as they may be seen as frivolous, and we fear that this would completely eradicate any validity there was at all to our roles. 

Additionally, play is not something that comes naturally to all parents. We often no longer have the skills to engage in play, or the time or willingness to practise and develop them.

And it is not without reason that we find play so difficult to engage in.

The physicality of it; the constant lifting and running and hiding and jumping and moving can be exhausting and physically demanding on a parent who is already weary and bone achingly tired.

Taking your mind into the realm of imagination is cognitively challenging for many adults. We no longer engage our brains in this way and the transition from thinking 'adult' thoughts, to being able to release those and allow imaginative, creative thoughts and play to free flow can be tolling. It requires effort and practice to remember how toys talk to each other, or the type of adventures dolls and superheroes like to engage in.

We worry about looking ridiculous, being judged by family or friends if they see us being 'silly'; behaving in a way that is not seen as appropriate (this is a primarily female concern - fathers do tend to be commended for engaging in silly play with their children.) 

But the benefits of play cannot be ignored. For the child, the social, emotional and cognitive skills developed through play with parental figures are well documented. This focused attention is essential for healthy wellbeing and development. 

For the parent, the act of play allows connection with their children on an interactive level that is based on pleasure, rather than necessity. So much time in parenting is spent tending to the essential tasks of feeding, soothing, and educating children; whereas time specifically set aside for play, generates interactions that are based on enjoyment of the relationship, rather than being goal or outcome focused. 

We cannot continue to look at play as a waste of resources, but rather, must see it as an avenue to bring back optimism and excitement to our roles. 

Fathers too, need to understand the importance of play - not only their own playtime with their offspring, but in giving mothers the opportunity to engage joyously with their children in a supportive environment. 

Dads, you need to tell Mums it's ok to play with their kids! Raising children is about a lot more than cooking and cleaning and although those tasks provide tangible results you can see, they are no more important than the incredible work being done in the art of play. 

It's time to give mothers back the permission to enjoy raising their children. 

Let's start embracing the art of play. Let's strive to find ways to play and engage with our children that we can take joy in. Let's allow ourselves to reignite our imaginations, to put aside the worries of all the other things we should be doing, and let's allow ourselves to start being really present with our kids. 

Motherhood should be enjoyed and we should be able to celebrate that enjoyment. Putting play back into our days is a direct shortcut to embracing the passion and zest we have for our kids and the time we spend together. 

We don't need to be drowning in drudgery to know that we are doing real and important work. 

The great work of motherhood, is in the play. 

Samantha Johnson is a writer, a mother and a fan of facts, fiction, feminism and families.

Women's Forum Contributors
Women’s Forum Contributors are women from all walks of life who are passionate about bringing a truly pro-woman perspective to our public discourse.


Shirley Hogg commented on 19-Feb-2017 05:04 PM
I am a grandma and I agree totally with Samantha. I really enjoyed bringing up my 4 children who have so far given me 10 grandchildren. I loved being part of their lives and treating them like persons, not things or encumberances.

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