The phrase “balancing work and home life” always makes me think of the symbol of justice: a woman with a scale dangling from her outstretched hand—it is no accident she is blindfolded.

Life can’t possibly fit onto a scale without something dripping off the side.

Rather, the components of life are chopped up and tossed into a big bowl; and the ingredients are never in perfect proportion.

A few years ago (when I was losing weight for the 4th time), I made a bet with myself: any time it occurred to me to exercise, I HAD to do it—no excuses.

Recently my oldest daughter had her 12th birthday, and I became acutely aware of all the chances I had missed with her, and the chances I have been missing with my younger kids.

So, I made another deal with myself: instead of telling the children to go play with their siblings (like I usually do), I decided to play with them (or do a particular activity with them) any reasonable time they asked—no excuses.

Because I am a work-at-home, homeschooling mom, it is easy to shrug off the kids when they want to play. I can rationalize that the hours of being together, studying and doing chores somehow compensate for what they really want, which is to simply have some fun with mom.

At the core, I am selfish.

Really.

I get focused on a task (writing, blogging, running, cleaning, whatever), and it is easy to push the kids aside—because I am with them all day, every day.

Shouldn’t that be enough?

Just because I am a mom who is with my children 24/7, does not mean I have achieved some sort of mommy nirvana.

I have to work hard to stay focused on priorities, just as any full-time working mom. I can become so sidetracked with other things, even with homeschooling (which is FOR the kids) that I miss winning their hearts.

Thus, the playtime challenge.

I honestly don’t know why the kids want to play with me because it seems like it could be a punishment.

I brush hair, search for matching shoes, and make sure all the dolls are wearing pants. Even when every game ends up with a talent/fashion/college-scholarship-winner show, the kids, amazingly, love it.

Not only does our youngest light up with razzle-dazzle sparkles in her eyes, but the other kids join the game, incorporating machines that try to sabotage the contest, or aliens who are squashed like bugs under Barbie’s ridiculously high heel.

Playtime is for fun and silliness; and while it often seems like the empty calories of the day (a lot of fun but not much substance), for the children, it appears to be nourishing for their souls.

I may not realize for a long while how playtime is affecting the family, but I can only think it is good for us:  

A few extra servings of something healthy and sweet tossed into the big bowl of life.

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