Among the mommy blogs and boards, many mothers lament the fact that their memories of their own mothers don’t include a lot of playful memories. Many mothers vow to spend playtime with their children in a way their own mothers did not. Often times what is left out of the conversation is why our mothers didn’t offer themselves as the entertainment committee when we were crashing around the house and told goddammit, go play outside.
My own mother was in no way a person to play with children. There may have been times outside of my developmental recollection that she played peek-a-boo or sung a song, but I highly doubt it occurred with much frequency. My brother and I had plenty of toys, a yard, and imagination to entertain ourselves for the most part. She did like board games and cards. When we were a bit older to teach, we spent some evenings at the kitchen table playing Spades, Uno, or one of the hundreds of boards games we had.
When I think back on it I realize that we didn’t do arts & crafts or play hide and seek with her. She didn’t make up silly games or faces or sit on the floor to play or chase us around the yard. I also realize that I didn’t care then and I don’t care now. Would it be nice to have ‘play memories’ with my mother? Sure. But I don’t feel anything is missing because I don’t have them.
My mother was not playful in a child-like sense. Even if she were, I imagine the result would be the same. My mother worked full-time. She cooked dinner every night and had it on the table at 5:30pm. She washed every dish, every floor, every toilet. She changed every diaper, ran every errand, ironed every shirt, and scooped all the dog poop. She paid all the bills and checked the homework. In the winter she’d bring the buckets of coal up from the cellar and clean the ashes out of the stove. In the summer it was constant yardwork and, later on, pool maintenance.
I work full-time as does CS, but Amelia has a nanny that cares for her all day and cleans the house during her naps. The simple fact is that I can play with Amelia more because I have more time. I can pay bills online. I ask other people to fix things around the house. I don’t clean the toilets. CS does dishes and some errands. We can afford to get take-out on occasion. My parents worked to provide me with a better education than they had. They told me I could accomplish whatever life I wanted to work for. I had a better life than either one of my parents did, certainly more leisurely and better educated. All of the things my mother worked to provide didn’t give her time to play children’s games and that is not cause for resentment. Her hard work passed on the time to me. It doesn’t make me a better mother to be able play with my own child more than she did. It makes me a luckier one.