The Importance of Playtime for a Mom’s Soul

The following is a guest post from Elizabeth of Seasons with Soul:

The Importance of Playtime for a Mom's Soul
source: Seasons with Soul

Sparkly Sparkly Crazy Hair is famous in our family. A My Little Pony who sells ice cream sundaes for $50 a pop, she also has a perennial bad attitude. And, if you argue with her, the price just skyrockets. We’re not sure how she stays in business, but she does.

Though my daughters are 10 and 8 now, and they haven’t really played ponies in years, they still remember Sparkly Sparkly Crazy Hair — the fun, goofy, off-the-cuff invention of my husband — and they’ve kept her. {Pretty amazing considering how many preschool toys have been donated and/or sent the way of a garage sale.}

Maybe you’re like me — the mom who all too often takes the weight of the world onto her shoulders and feels she doesn’t have time to play. Have you ever looked on wonderingly as your husband {or babysitter, or parent} gets down on the floor and just plays?

Have you ever wondered what would it be like to just let the laundry pile, and the dishes sag sideways in the sink, and the emails and notifications stack up unread?

Have you ever had the crazy urge to throw an old afghan on the grass and simply cloud watch with your elementary school kid just home from school, instead of diving right into homework, or rushing off to an activity, or starting dinner?

Have you ever imagined how amazing it would be to take the entire two-and-a-half hours of preschool to go to the local park by yourself {without your friend or your baby or your pulling dog} and just walk in sun and silence?

I have, and I’ve learned how freeing it can be to start saying “yes” to play. <- Tweet This!

Creativity for the Soul

I used to consider myself creative. I’d indulge in reading novels and creative writing and long walks — and all manner of things that fed my soul — both spiritually and creatively.

That was before marriage and housekeeping, jobs and kids.

Permitting myself the time and space to play, to intentionally pursue and nurture my creativity — well, that just didn’t fit into the schedule anymore.

Sound familiar?

We say to ourselves: If I don’t have time to take a shower, then on earth can I {fill in the blank … paint, design, compose}?

It’s a valid question, but if we insist on doing the math, we often end up frustrated. Many times, there aren’t enough hours in the day for the “must-dos,” let alone the “like-to-dos.”

That’s where play comes in.

As moms, we’re not going to have huge blocks of time to create {well, at least most of us won’t}. We are going to be tired some days and will fail to meet our expectations for pursuing creativity. There will be days where our best-laid plans to create are interrupted by a kid home sick from school.

So, we moms have to be creative about our time to create.

I do this in two ways:

1. I strive to find inspiration in the everyday by being fully present in the moment — in essence, turning work into play.

2. And, I block off time for a one- to two-hour grown-up “play date” by myself each week.

They’re both forms of play, and they’re both actually accomplishing important “work” for us creatives. These forms of play refresh, revitalize, and restock our creative reserves. For a type-A, can’t-sit-still, get-er-done mom like me, there’s something incredibly liberating about considering play work, that allows me to indulge in it more often.

When I can find inspiration in my daily duties as mom, well, that’s just the best. I’m accomplishing what I need to {washing dishes, pulling weeds, folding laundry}, but I’m also fully present and engaging. And, I often find God meets me there, and rewards my focus with inspiration, with ideas, and a feeling of refreshment.

The secret: Leave your smart phone, computer, book, magazine, agenda, behind. Choose to just be there. All there. Talk to yourself, if you have to. Calm that mind clutter with the present moment. Narrate details of what’s happening. Notice colors, smells, sensations. Get down on the floor and play My Little Pony beauty salon like you mean it. Make a light brite masterpiece with your son. Weed your garden. Chop vegetables. When you engage wholeheartedly, these mundane activities can be transformed into the divine.

The second form of play, the grown-up play date, has only two guidelines: It has to be you and you only {the cultivation of solitude being essential to your creativity}, and it has to be fun. You get extra points if it’s frivolous.

I’ve adapted the idea from The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron, a wonderful resource that’s essentially a three-month creativity workshop in a book. It revolves around the concept that your inner artist is a child that needs to play. Creativity, at its heart, flows from a sense of playfulness. And, creativity without playfulness will drain you and your reserves. You are, in essence, restocking your creative stores. You can’t keep drawing and drawing from them, without ending up with bare shelves.

It’s a beautiful irony: By actively engaging in play, you’ll be doing more work than you knew possible. <—Tweet This!

Join me at Seasons with Soul as I explore the intersection of creativity, spirituality, and motherhood with a new series, Spark Moms: Igniting Your Creative Passions for His Glory.

How do you embrace play? Do you wish you were more playful?

Elizabeth grew up on a small, 220-acre farm in the Midwest and lives today in the suburbs with her three littles (10,8, and 3), her husband, and their ditsy but lovable English Springer Spaniel. She’s a food freak, lover of all things DIY, and a reformed perfectionist. You can find her writing about faith, family, and nature at Seasons with Soul or follow her on Twitter @seasonswithsoul.