Being a mom of little kids can be extremely boring and lonely. During the first year of my son’s life, I spent way more time, mindlessly scrolling, social media because I was bored out of my mind and I was craving connection. I was just so lonely.
Here are 5 tips that have helped me thrive during the toddler years and actually have fun while I am in the thick of parenting little kids.
5 Tips to Have More Fun with Your Kids (and Stop Wasting So Much Time on Your Phone)
1. Prioritize Human Connection
This is a journal entry from when my first son was 7 months old:
“I cried a lot today. The loneliness of my life hit hard again. I am worn out and emotionally struggling to reach out to the same couple of people I even know… I realized tonight that the reason I go on Instagram so much is because I am craving connection. There is a little bit of connection on there, but nothing compared to what I need to fulfill my social needs.”
One of the biggest things for me to thrive while my kids are little is I need real human connection. Social media offers a little bit of connection, but it doesn’t satisfy that real need for connection.
It takes a lot of effort to find true, deep connections. Like I shared in that journal entry, I felt like I was working so hard to connect with people in real life, but as a stay-at-home mom you have to really put in the effort.
I spent a lot of time going to the places where young moms are; I would go to parks and library story time. At those places I would reach out and talk with people, get their numbers, and then plan playdates in the future.
I would use social media to make in-person connections and reconnect with people that I’ve known in the past. I would see on social media that they lived nearby and reach out to see if they wanted to get together in-person.
Something else that I did during this phase when I was trying hard to find human connection as a= young stay-at-home mom was planning an open-house style “young mom party” (so moms could come in between their kids’ naps). I invited them to bring their babies, connect with other moms, and have some cookies. It was super easy! I don’t know if anybody knew each other, but it was good for me to actually connect with people and bring other moms together.
2. Plan Things that Hold Yourself Accountable
A few weeks ago, I asked on Instagram what makes it hard for you to have fun. The most common responses were “kids” and “finding the motivation.” I can definitely relate.
It feels so much easier to just stay inside (especially in the winter), but usually my kids get antsy and I’m annoyed with my kids. I almost always turn to my phone to escape, and that usually just makes the situation worse. So, it’s really helpful to have that accountability that comes from planning things.
This isn’t specifically related to having fun with your kids, but I’ve been really struggling to actually make myself get up and run in the morning. So, to hold myself accountable I started a women’s running group. I texted anyone who’s expressed interest in running, told them specific days and times that I’d be running, and invited them to come with me. Even if nobody comes, I know that I’ve told somebody, so it holds myself accountable, because I need to be ready to go just in case.
You could plan things to hold yourself accountable by starting a mom club that meets regularly each week, designating a day and time each week that you take your kids on an outing, or text someone and let them know you’ll be taking your kids sledding at a certain day and time.
3. Set Boundaries Around Fun
On Saturdays we usually like to get chores done as well as do something fun as a family. Last Saturday my two-year-old son was asking to go outside. We all ended up going outside, but I was thinking about all the things I wanted to get done that day. Even though I was physically there I was not mentally there. I realized that it’s so much better for me to have fun with my kids if I set a boundary for a certain amount of time that I will play with them.
For example, 10 minutes before my son goes down for his nap and 10 minutes after he wakes up from his nap I put my phone away in a different room. I don’t do any other tasks and I’m completely focused on having fun with him. It’s so much more fun for both of us when I’m all in because I know that I only have to do this for 10 minutes and then I can move on to something else. Because I have that boundary, I’m able to be more present and have more fun. I’d rather be completely present for a shorter amount of time than be distracted while playing for a longer amount of time.
4. Do What You Think is Fun
One of the best ways to enjoy your kids is to not play in ways that aren’t fun for you.
I don’t particularly love reading books with my son. He loves to read books on his own, I love to read books on my own, but I only read books with him for 10 minutes per day. I feel totally fine about not doing that with him because I don’t want to do that.
It is helpful to lean into the things that you do like to do. I love spending time outside at parks. I think it’s so fun to just spend hours at the park with my kids. So I do that a lot. You might not like to take your kids to parks, and that’s okay. Do what you love to do, and then just bring your kids along. And don’t do what you don’t want to do.
5. Keep Realistic Expectations
I have a friend who has three little girls that are all really close in age, and they’ve taken their kids camping several times. I loved camping before I had kids, but the idea of taking kids camping was so scary to me. I was asking my friend about how she takes her kids camping and she told me that as soon as she accepted that they weren’t going to sleep well while camping it was a much better experience because she wasn’t so caught up in the fact that they weren’t sleeping. She just accepted that they weren’t going to sleep well, it was just going to be a night or two, they were going to try to enjoy the other parts, and then go home and sleep well later. You get to decide if that’s worth it to you, but that idea of setting realistic expectations can be so freeing in doing fun things with your kids.
I remember when B was a baby we’d go do something fun, and then he’d cry the whole way home. I would think to myself, “I’m never going to do that again. That was not worth it.” I was so worked up because he cried on the way home. It ruined the whole experience.
I’ve since been able to change my mindset that when doing things with kids they’re probably going to have tantrums or not sleep well or things are going to happen that are not ideal for a typically fun situation. But, if you can keep realistic expectations about that and accept that those things are going to happen, then it makes the whole thing more fun because you can focus on the good parts.
Life as a mom of little kids can be extremely lonely and boring. I felt that on such a deep level during the first year of my son’s life, so I spent a lot more time on my phone than I really wanted to. But this stage of life really can be so fun! It takes effort and it’s not easy, but as I have focused on these 5 things (finding ways to connect with other people, planning things to hold myself accountable, setting boundaries around fun, doing what I think is fun and not doing what I don’t think is fun, and keeping realistic expectations for my kids) I have been LOVING this stage of life. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows because there are definitely ups and downs and hard parts of this stage of life, but I really do feel more fulfilled. I don’t have such a false sense of connection from spending so much time on social media and I don’t waste so much time on my phone that doesn’t actually leave me feeling fulfilled.
If this is something you want you should definitely join us for this month’s workshop: How to Stop Wasting Your Free Time Mindlessly Scrolling.