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Erin Stewart
Let's face it: playtime with baby isn't always a thrill-a-minute, but maybe that just means you're doing parenting right.

“Sometimes, parenting is boring”

That’s a headline in The New York Times this week that caught my eye, and made me almost laugh out loud. “Sometimes?” I thought. “Understatement of the century.”

Sure, parenthood has occasional euphoric moments of excitement. A first word! A first step! You did your own laundry! You cleared a dish without being asked 50 times!

These moments are what we parents live for. They affirm that we are doing something right. We are on the right track and our children are progressing. These moments are nothing short of thrilling for mom and dad.

Erin Stewart
Let's face it: playtime with baby isn't always a thrill-a-minute, but maybe that just means you're doing parenting right.

But then, there are the other moments. The ones that take up the majority of the day in, day out of parenthood. And while The New York Times is playing it coy with the use of the word “boring,” I’m going to go out on a limb here and call a spade a spade: parenthood can be mind-numbingly dull. If you’ve ever spent an afternoon with an 8-month-old, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I recently baby-sat one such adorable 8-month-old. She is sweet and smiley and everything you’d want in a baby companion for the afternoon.

But still, I found myself having flashbacks to the infant days of my own children. Sitting on the floor, listening to the “Cookie Jar Song” on the shape sorter sing for the 50th time. Zoning out for minutes at a time while watching lights blink on some plastic contraption. Contemplating jamming a teething toy into my retina just for the sake of having something to do.

When this baby’s mother got home, I confessed my sins. I told her how playtime with anyone under at least 3 is really not “my thing,” and how I had all but forgotten how tedious it is. She immediately commiserated, telling me how she once zoned out so long during baby playtime that she only came to when she realized her hair was wound up in a spinning Goofy figure that was slowly sucking her into the toy’s innards.

We talked for a while about the mind-numbing nature of parenting little ones, and honestly, it felt good to say it out loud. Much of the time, we feel like we’re not being “good moms” if we’re bored. Like we should somehow morph from well-educated, interesting women into full-time baby playmates who are completely fulfilled by motherhood and riveted by every peek-a-booing minute of it.

Erin Stewart
Let's face it: playtime with baby isn't always a thrill-a-minute, but maybe that just means you're doing parenting right.

This is especially true when you’re smack in the middle of these years. You can’t admit you’re bored because hey, you’re the one who wanted this baby, right? And if you tell your mom friends that you find some aspects of motherhood downright dull, what will they think? Surely they don’t wish for the sweet release of naptime or fantasize about throwing the “Cookie Jar” toy out the window just to make it stop.

Do they?

Well, I’ve been out of the baby stage long enough that I feel safe enough to admit it: Yes. They do. We all do, sometimes.

My youngest is now 2½, and while I still engage in a less-than-riveting puzzle or castle-building session now and again, I’m glad that my sitting-with-a-baby-who-can’t-really-do-anything days are over.

Those days are painful. Painful.

So why do we do it? Would our kids even care if we were scrolling Instagram rather than staring at them? Does me sitting here, clapping maniacally for raspberry sounds even matter?

Well, here’s the insightful conclusion from the New York Times article:

“… don’t let yourself off the hook, push yourself to pay attention because the connections you forge with young children are the most important thing in their world, but you do it through the repetitive interactions and often tedious games and those drive-you-crazy songs.

"And sometimes every moment will be a heartfelt expression of profound parental love, and sometimes you will be very bored, and the two are not as far apart as you might think.”

5 comments on this story

Admitting motherhood isn't a total, nonstop thrill-fest doesn't make me a terrible mother. It makes me an amazing one because I wasn’t sitting by my babies all those days and hours and everlasting minutes for me. If I was, I definitely would have been doing something more entertaining. I was doing it for the little person next to me, who thought it was hilarious when I peeked out from behind the washcloth and who shimmied to the rhythm of the “Cookie Jar Song.”

Even though I may have been bored out of my mind, my babies were not. My babies were growing and learning and maybe on some level, understanding that mom will be there for all the moments — the thrilling big ones and the mundane ones — because even though I can’t always see it, every single moment together has been a big one to them.