There are plenty of articles out there talking about the benefits of children playing with their parents. Playing, especially for young children, helps develop movement skills, improves learning, and builds stronger bonds between children and parents. However, what about the benefits for parents, and speaking from my perspective as a working father, there are are quite a few benefits that are often overlooked.
Obviously, playing with your kid is just a generally fun and good thing to do all round. But we both know you’re tired, you just spent eight to ten hours on the job, dealing with an annoying boss, demanding co-workers and both your brain and body is telling you that “you need to rest”. You probably spent a good deal of time commuting home, and not only are you drained but you’re starving for food. All you want to do is go home, lay down on the bed, maybe watch some television, and just do nothing. But, that will not be possible because the moment you walk through the door, here comes your three year old son and he could not be happier to see you. For him, you have been gone all day and he missed you. He has no comprehension of work or how tired you are but he is excited to see you, because now it’s time to play with daddy.
The first thing they do is come charging directly at you demanding a hug and to be picked up immediately. They’re throwing sentences at you, about the toys they played with, and the stories they read. There is too much for them to tell you and they need to say it all at once. Meanwhile, the happiness they radiate in all directions is almost catching, and for a moment you forget about work and you are glad to be home. However, this feeling does not last and the exhaustion you felt the moment before you stepped through the door comes back and hits you like a truck. Your first impulse is too put him down, make a half promise you will play in a minute, say hi to your wife, and head to the bedroom for that brief rest before dinner.I am sure that all my fellow dads out there can relate. We have all been in this situation so many times before and nobody wants to be the dad that is too tired to play with his kid. You’re not an idiot, you realise they’re getting older and it’s happening fast. But you’re stressed, your tired, and you have a thousand problems to solve before bed.
Well if that is the case, here is six totally selfish reasons why you should play with them anyway.
1. Stress reduction
Playing with your kid, eases stress by releasing endorphins. Whether you are playing with toy cars, building towers out of blocks or getting in a quick game of football before bed, your stress levels will reduce, resulting in a better state of mind for you. This is also another way to keep depression at bay.
2. Saving you money
When kids are young they can play with almost anything and make it into a game. You don’t need expensive toys, to play ‘hide and seek’ or ‘superheros’ or any other game your child uses his/her imagination to come up with.
3. Better Sleep
Whilst your playing with your child, your brain has begun to relax, stress is easing, you aren’t focused on all the work problems that will either delay you from going to bed on time, keep you awake in bed or cause you to not sleep well. Consider this a much better alternative to watching television or browsing the internet on your phone, which is only telling your primitive hunter gatherer brain it needs to wake up.
4. Get you brain working better
Playing can improve your brain function, boost creativity, and help you solve problems. When animals play, they learn new skills, the same applies to humans. Although I admit, you are likely not learning much about structural engineering when building that Lego tower, or the benefits of not making noise playing a game of hide and seek. However, doing these activities you are stimulating a different part of your brain than what you would ordinary use. The additional benefit is that play will push you to use your imagination, possibly opening up your mind to other solutions to work and life problems.
5. You can become fun again, or at least more likeable and easier to be around
Think about when you were working with someone that was stressed and moody. Regardless of whether they are overworked, this is not someone that you want to spend a lot of time with. By taking some time out to ease your stress, have some fun, and not be so serious. You can re-develop some of those other parts of your personality, like being fun, compassionate, and more easy going.
6. It may get you promoted
If you combine, low stress, better sleep, increased creativity and being more likeable together, you definitely have an improved version of you. And, if you want to get ahead and out of your current job. The best thing you can do to improve your chances for promotion, other than fulfilling the requirements of your role, is to be more effective at networking. I know it sounds cliché and often the people suggesting it are complete sycophants, that would do and say anything to get ahead. However, knowing how to network, does not mean that you need to suck up to your boss or co-workers, it can be as simple as been likable and easy to deal with. And trust me, even if your stressed out and unhappy demeanour is completely justified. The guy running the team across the floor probably doesn’t know that. Instead you’re just that guy with the wrong attitude.
So the next time, you are feeling run down, stressed and generally annoyed at everything, take some time out of the real world by playing with your kid. Sometimes you may have to tap into the last reserves of your Dad strength but you will be better off in the long run!
Now, I get the fact that work is stressful, my last job had me working a minimum of ten to twelve hours, most days. And the days when I didn’t have a proposal to complete, wasn’t returning from a customer visit, or dealing with one of the worst (several implied profanities) bosses I have ever had. And, I could get home at a descent hour, I often felt too tired to want play with my kid. However, I always try too anyway, because yes I like my kid, and I am certain no one else in this world likes me as much as he does (even my wife!). But seeing him so happy always makes me feel better, no matter how rough the day has been. And although, I am not getting promoted every other day! I can attest to feeling less stressed, sleeping better and the rest of the above.
Try to appreciate, that there is more to life than work, your child is growing quickly, and these moments are fleeting.
P.S. My brain must be functioning better, because despite getting up at 4am last night, and been overworked. I have completed this website, and have now posted my first blog post!