The play-time blues: How SMF changed the way I spend time with my children

Posted in Family.

There’s nothing like the feeling of relief when you opt-out of something you really don’t want to do. And this relates to mothers, too. Especially because we live in a society that tells us what we should or should not do, and it seems some days we can’t win either way.

 “A place where both child and parent have a great time”

The other day when I was scrolling Facebook, I came across an article written by Lucy AitkenRead, a writer and blogger of who currently lives in a yurt in New Zealand with her family. 

In her article titled, “What are sites of mutual fulfilment? Something parents need more of, that’s what,” Lucy explores the concept of an activity that is pleasurable for both mother and child. And this really appealed to me, because so often I hear of friends flogging themselves with guilt over having to play certain games their child likes but they don’t – and I can’t help but wonder to myself: why do it then?

So let’s break it down.

According to Lucy, a Site of Mutual Fulfilment (SMF) is a “place where both child and parent have a great time”. She believes that despite it being a simple concept, SMF’s should occur daily. 

Read more about play:

Parent/kid relationships are a two-way street

This really makes my heart sing, because it is my personal belief that being a parent shouldn’t always be a hard slog and it shouldn’t necessarily centre around the child, either. Because relationships and learning are a two-way street, and the needs of the parent count as well.

So what happens when mothers don’t prioritise their needs? Well, they become angry, impatient, resentful and frustrated. And fair enough, hey? I know that after only ten minutes of playing make-believe with my daughter I am ready to shove pins in my eyeballs from the sheer boredom. Surely our time could be better spent so that we are both happily engaged? 

“An SMF is a place where both the child’s and the parent’s urges and needs are met,” says Lucy.

“They are places where all parties leave with a full cup. They are the vital mental health break in a day for mum or dad.

“Having enough SMF’s planned throughout each week can make the difference in whether we enjoy parenting, or not.”

Now, this is a concept I think we all should familiarise ourselves with. So let’s talk about what an SMF might look like.

It is possible …

For our family, an SMF looks like:

Going for a scoot around the lighthouse: my girls get to run off some energy, and I get to enjoy the fresh air and a little bit of personal space (read: enjoy moments where they aren’t hanging off me) 

Cooking together: my daughters get to practise their kitchen skills, and I get a hand with an activity that I find pretty mundane.

Visiting the Library: my girls get to enjoy choosing books for themselves while I get to pick some out for myself, too. 

Exploring the rock pools: my daughters get to roam about in an open space, and I get to enjoy soaking up some sun and read a novel or catch up on some blogs. 

Finding a daily SMF with multiple children of varying ages can be a challenge, but it is actually possible with a little forethought and preparation. Since learning about this concept, and having a name for it, I’ve found I’m more able to prioritise it into my daily life, too. And now more than ever I am trying to create more moments throughout the day where we can all fill our cup. Thank you, Lucy!


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