There’s a stereotype that exists for mothers who play video games. It’s the woman glued to her screen while her kids are somewhere else in the house doing God only knows what. An oblivious mom tied to her digital life who ignores the real one. I drastically changed the way I played games to make sure that stereotype was never true in this house.
I do still occasionally play them. I’ve even casually moved into an MMORPG again and I’m genuinely enjoying it. Most advice just says, “Hey, pay attention to your kids more.” but I find that pretty inadequate. Here’s what I’ve learned about achieving balance.
- Avoid games that you can’t step away from unless your children are young enough to still need long naps. Play something that can pause or play with friends that you can tell, “Hey, I need to go for a minute.”. Even if this is for your me-time, your kids are still going to need you. There are always going to be some moments where you have to watch the character die/let your Sim do their own thing/let the timer run out for the sake of your real responsibilities.
- Give yourself a time limit and stick to it. Much like the limits you put on your kids, give yourself a time limit for your enjoyment and stick to it. Don’t allow yourself to end up looking up from the screen and wondering how four hours have passed already. Don’t allow your entertainment to cause you to forget about the other things you need to do. Games are not like television. You can’t tell yourself you’ll get up in one episode during a Netflix binge, knowing it’ll be just about an hour.
- Don’t do it every day. Make sure your interests are varied and gaming isn’t your only hobby. Your children are looking to you for clues about how to lead their own lives. There’s nothing wrong with them playing video games, but show them that there’s more to life outside of the computer. Find a few other hobbies to do as well, especially ones to share with your kids.
- Don’t feel ashamed of your hobby, and especially don’t say so in front of your kids. You could give the child a sign that they should be ashamed for enjoying different activities themselves if it’s not the exact same thing everyone else does. Don’t allow your insecurities to box in your kids. Video games have been an entertainment staple for the current generation of twenty-and-thirty-somethings and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
- Don’t give your “gaming friends” too much info about your kids. This is always a touchy one. Sometimes you can make wonderful friends online. I still have friends I first met on games almost a decade ago! That said, be careful who you trust with information about your kids or where you live. I ran into more than my fair share of perverts in online games as a teen who didn’t care that I was far underage. Remember that people you meet on a game can get a lot of info from the average Facebook profile if you decide to take the friendship outside of the games. Be careful who you give that power to.
- Avoid anger triggers in the games. If there’s something in your game that tends to make you irritable or short-tempered, don’t do it when there’s a chance you’ll need to interact with your kids soon after. Children take the patience of a saint to raise, so save it for them.
- Do what makes you happy. We only get one chance at life. Find a way to enjoy your hobby with your kids (Mario! The Sims! The possibilities are endless.)
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