Recently, a mum confessed on a Reddit parenting thread that she made playtime with her kids a little more entertaining by sneakily tuning into a podcast or two while spending time with them.
The original ‘confession’ has been deleted, but the comments, many of which were insightful and encouraging, were not. So we think it’s worth re-publishing here. After all, there are more podcasts than ever these days, and we hope other parents can ease their guilt while they multitask.
Losing my mind
“I am one of those people who doesn’t enjoy playing certain games with my kids,” the mum wrote. “I do love spending time with them, going on walks, listening to their piano practices and reading to them and with them. But there are countless other things that literally make me lose my mind.
“Sitting on the floor and playing with their dolls, play dough, eating pretend food, and other such repetitive games make me scream on the inside.”
So the mum came up with a way to take the pressure off herself, spending time with her littlies without totally surrendering to the playtime.
“A few months ago, I bought a mini earpod (for one ear only),” she explained.
“I pop it in and cover the one ear with my hair. I listen to podcasts but I still have an ear available to listen and interact with them. I also don’t stress about missing parts of the podcast if I get too distracted and I pause as needed.”
The (frankly, genius) mum explained that it helped her de-stress as her kids enjoy spending time with her, but that she feels a little guilty that she’s not 100 percent tuned in to them.
“It has really helped me unwind as well after a long day of work. I feel bad about it but I also feel like it’s a good hack.”
But other parents piped up saying that this sort of clandestine listening saved their sanity during some challenging parenting times too.
“I have a 6-month-old daughter and I do the same thing momma,” one woman wrote. “It’s just about being there for them at this stage. Letting them know you’re present and they’re safe. I am sure you give your kid all of your attention, and glancing at a TV show while you play together isn’t going to make spending time with you any less memorable or special for them. We beat ourselves up so much for this perfect image that doesn’t exist.”
“Watching my son entertain himself is the biggest parenting win to me!” another parent commented. “I watch him lovingly while I listen to my audiobook :)”
“I do this when trying to get my kids to go to sleep!” another mum posted. “I’ve done this since my oldest was a baby, I was struggling with postpartum depression and getting him to sleep was awful and frustrating for me. I started listening to audiobooks while I was trying to rock him to sleep. I still do this even now and it really does help.”
“My little trick is podcasts with headphones while pushing the swing,” another parent admitted. “Stand behind the swing & you can eat chocolate bars while they’re not looking too.”
“I do this so much when my kids draw me they include the headphones,” one dad said. “I am outside with my kids a lot watching them. I would go crazy if I didn’t have something else to do for hours and hours and hours a day.”
“This is how I survived my kid’s colic when he was a baby,” another parent commented.
“A bit disingenuous”
But not everyone was a fan of this sort of sneaky playtime tuning out.
“Sure, but it’s also a bit disingenuous to make it seem like you are giving them your attention when you’re not really giving them your attention,” one person wrote.
“Nothing good can come of this,” another dad declared. But we bet that if someone saw that dad do it, he’d be judged less than the mum.
There were also some useful advice and comments about the pressure parents are now under to give kids undivided attention.
“We’re killing ourselves trying to be the best, when I think what’s best for our kids is for them to see us as humans,” one commenter posted. “They should know we have interests and needs outside of them and learn to respect that. I feel like we’re losing this in our push to be the absolute, by the book, best parent.”
“The internet is a big contributor,” they continued. “My parents never stopped to self-reflect on themselves as parents. They lived very much in the moment. They went to work, had dinner, watched TV, did yard work, ran errands, sat on the porch and smoked cigs and drank wine.”
Another commenter provided this great dollop of perspective: “My parents both worked full time and I was an only child. We had certain things we did together as a family, but I don’t think my parents EVER played with me. No board games, no stories, no pretend time, etc. I was expected to keep myself busy. And I don’t feel as if I was a bit deprived. It’s amazing to me how different our roles as parents seem to be now.”
Indeed! We might judge a mum enjoying a podcast, but for most of us, growing up, we were fine having Dad behind the newspaper and Mum in front of the sink. Distracted parenting was commonplace. Maybe one ear in is better than both eyes tuned to sport? What do you think?
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