This weekend my husband and I are going golfing. This is a new hobby he picked up a year or so ago. It seems that as soon as the weather perked up he was out at every free moment golfing with his buddies. A few months ago I decided to join him on his new-found love and we spent our date day at the golf course.
I quickly realized that golf is fun! I’m terrible at it, but it’s relaxing, it’s played outside in gorgeous weather, and even when your skills aren’t the greatest, you can still have a good time trying.
My husband and I just played a round of golf last week and we’ve already scheduled to go again this weekend. While I was texting my mom to see if she would babysit our kids while we went, I couldn’t help but feel that familiar tinge of mommy guilt. I think working moms probably feel this a lot when we try to schedule weekend or evening activities that don’t involve our kids. I want to play, without my kids, even after working away from them for over 40 hours this week. Does that make me a bad mom?
I mentioned last week that I’m kind of a productivity junky, so not only do I have the mommy guilt that comes with setting aside time for play, I also have guilt because play isn’t accomplishing anything. Play is not a thing. Play, by definition is purposeless. You don’t play in order to achieve your goals. You don’t play in order to make more money. You don’t play so you can learn new things. You play because it is fun and pleasurable. That’s it. For someone who is driven to constantly be productive and always trying to improve myself and reach bigger goals, play can be really hard to put on the schedule. As busy, working moms are schedules are packed full of important meetings, work projects, school events for our kids, and a variety of other things. It seems pretty selfish to add something completely useless such as play just for the sake of having some fun.
Here’s the deal though, play is crucial for all human beings, at every age and stage of life. Children learn through play, they develop skills and abilities, they identify important social rules and constructs, and they enjoy their childhood. Did you know that this doesn’t stop when you become a teenager, or an adult?
Stuart Brown is one of the most popular researchers of play. He did research to discover that the lack of play can be a huge predictor for criminal behavior. When he studies criminals in prisons he learned that many of them came from environments that restricted play. Our brains were wired for play.
Play, in adulthood, is important for building creativity, developing and maintaining relationships, improving memory and thinking skills, and what I think is most important, play helps us enjoy our lives! You only have one life. Your life is a gift to be cherished and enjoyed. If you’re not enjoying your life, you might just not be playing enough. Studies have shown that when we don’t play we aren’t fun to be around, we don’t feel much joy, and all of life becomes laborious. Who wants that?
So what is play? Play is anything you do that is fun, pleasurable, and purposeless. Play is art, books, movies, music, comedy, and even daydreaming. Play is games and puzzles. You can play by yourself or with your spouse, your kids, your dog, or your friends. Play is hobbies. Play is being silly and losing all track of time (and stress). Play brings joy and peace. “Play is the purest expression of love” (Stuart Brown).
Let go of the mommy guilt. Let go of the productivity guilt. Let go of the stress of life for just a moment and give in to the biological need your body has for play, let that moment turn into a few moments until you are lost in the joy and pleasure that can only be found through play.
You were made to play. Go have some fun!
For more details on Stuart Brown and his research, check out his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul or his Ted Talk.