Let's face it; raising children can sometimes be boring. Babies require hours and hours of repetitive caretaking. Once the initial novelty of caring for a child wears off, the seemingly endless cycle of feeding, changing diapers, and cleaning up messes can become mind-numbingly dull, and even annoying. Many parents get caught up in such day-to-day minutia and find themselves moaning, groaning, and even shouting when faced with yet another icky or tedious chore.
Even the most enamored parents can't help but react when changing the fifth diaper in an hour!
This kind of "parental burn out" is only natural, but it may have some nasty consequences. Delegation of tasks turns into an emotional game of 'hot potato.' Even the most minor of chores can feel like drudgery rather than delight. After all, it becomes nearly impossible to stay in the moment and find joy when a whining toddler, a sleepless infant or even a bored preteen vie for a 'fix it' solution moment after moment.
Whereas there was once parental collaboration, chores get broken down into a laundry list of who did what. "I did it last time!" becomes a familiar refrain and a 'let's just get through the day' mentality erupts. Long suffering sighs, lashing out at the kids for common accidents, and sniping at your partner are all indicators that the 'fun' has gone from 'family.'
When caretaking itself is no longer a reward, the body's own chemicals responsible for feeling good (neurotransmitters) just aren't activated. Fortunately, there is an easy way to break the monotony of child rearing, and curb unnecessary conflict with our significant others. Integrating good-humor into daily moments can wake up our body's natural reward system.
In other words, bring a child's perspective back into your adult world. Simply, become a playful parent!
Try making silly faces to elicit a smile from your wee one, creating songs that make no sense, or just even try spouting off some gobbedly-gook! If spontaneity isn't a strong suit, keep an adventure list that you and your family can do together in moments where things really seem hard. Whatever works for you that just seems, well, FUN! The goal is to disperse tension and irritation, and fire up those parts of the brain that help you feel joy.
"We don't have a bucket list any more," one dad said, "instead we keep our 'adventure list' on the fridge and when it's been a rough, sleepless night, or the baby's been sick, we try to find something on the 'adventure list' that helps motivate us. Even if something as silly on the list as 'make up a song about potty accidents' - we compete to see who can make the most ludicrous lyrics! It really does help make a tedious situation better."
Being playful is about bringing amusement into the most difficult and frustrating of chores. By doing so, it's possible to activate the body's own built-in reward system. It's recognizing when we ourselves have become overwhelmed and frustrated to the point of no return and giving ourselves permission to reach outside the norm. Playful parenting is about shifting our own internal dynamic from grumbling to grateful!