The other day I was engaged in a conversation about play. It all started with one of my friends, a mom with young children, telling me that my womxn’s group was not something that most of her friends would be interested in. The reason for this was that “pleasure is just not a priority.”
And my heart shattered into a million pieces.
Damn, I remember being in that exact same space.
And I also remember losing my Self along the way. It was strange how that happened though. Oddly enough, it wasn’t becoming a mother that did this to me. And this realization has meant everything to me!
I was 22 years old when my sweet boy was born. I had a full-time job and luckily was able to take 6 weeks off of work to bond with him and allow my body to heal before returning. I was also a single mother and I was able to do things my way without anyone watching over me or expecting me to "mom" in a specific way.
So I loved on him and I loved on me, too. I played video games with him in my arms. I had great conversations with my best friend. We played games, watched movies, and laughed our asses off. I routinely sat around a table with friends playing D&D and reveling in that fantasy world where I could explore every aspect of my own Self.
And never once, not a single time, did I consider that I should stop doing these things that made me happy. I wanted my son to see me laughing and happy and I relished in his laughter and joy as he discovered the world around him.
When I went back to work, I missed my boy like crazy all day, but loved the work I did and enjoyed the people around me. After work, I would pick him up and we would go on about our business of living life. Some days that meant a quiet evening at home, just the two of us. Other days it meant we were at the lake wakeboarding, camping, and barbecuing . And others were spent playing Beasts, Men, & Gods with a group of friends. Again, it never occurred to me to stop playing. It was simply a part of me, of us.
I even went back to college. I was a single mom, worked full-time, was going to college part-time, and had a fulfilling, playful social life that included my son. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were doing well and we were both happy and healthy.
And then I met someone and got married. We had a common love for wakeboarding and spent time doing that. We even played games together - Super Mario Bros back in those days and we had a special love for Wario. All three of us played together and had great times. And then something happened. I don’t know if it was gradual or was some weird overnight shift.
When we got married, I moved 2 hours away from my gaming friends. We established a routine as a family and my husband even said to me during a conversation once that it was time that I “settled down.” The only play that we did at that point was 6 am trips to the lake to “get done” before the day was wasted away. My life became consumed with keeping the house perfectly clean, getting my college degree, and taking care of my son and husband. I stopped working a full-time job to do this and felt that I had to “settle down” in order to live up to my end of the deal. He took care of me financially and I became the calm, “settled” wife and mom that I was “supposed” to be.
Regardless, pleasure was no longer a priority for me. And when that happened, it no longer was a priority for my son either. And when my heart shattered into a million pieces during that conversation with my friend, these were the memories held within those pieces. The memories of me that I lost during that time in my life. The memories of my son no longer having a role model who supported his development into a healthy, joyful, fulfilled young person, but instead showed him through my actions that play was something that had to be earned, that pleasure was not something that was divinely ours, but something that we might get if we were good and productive and worked hard enough.
My heart shattered.
And it happens again every time I think of this conversation with my friend and remember how I buried the most important - the most human - part of my Self the moment I listened to the beliefs that too much of our society holds about what it means to be an adult, especially a womxn.
Fuck! How insane is it that we do this to each other and to our Selves?
That marriage ended when my son was 16 and we all started playing again.
It wasn’t long before my son and I started LARPing, playing RPGs again, and found our familiar and individual joy once more. My ex-husband, too, found his own happiness and we were all more blissful than we had been in a very long time. Today, my son is 21 years old and we don’t live in the same state, but we still play together - currently, a D&D 5e campaign online with friends - every Saturday. We both understand that play is not something that we earn, but part of who we are. We talk about how important it is in our personal and professional lives and that we absolutely can be successful, happy, joyful, and fulfilled in all areas of our lives because of play, not by putting it on the back burner as a possible reward for doing something else or for being productive.
This is what I want for all moms. In fact, I want this for all human beings. Play and pleasure should NEVER, not EVER, be something that is not a priority. This is part of who we are as human beings and in forgetting or burying that part of our Selves, we lose our ability to experience our full happiness, joy, and fulfillment in this life. That is something we would never wish upon our children and grandchildren. And they are watching us. They are learning from us. From our words and actions. Let’s show them that they get to lead joyful, fulfilling, and pleasure-filled lives.