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Do Adults Need Recess Too?

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Laney playing dress-up as a kid!

What would happen if YOU took time to play while your kids played? 

If you’re anything like me, you snatch that block of time while your kids are happily occupied by their toys to meal-plan, cook, clean, do laundry…I’m so spent by the time the kids leave for school and I head to work that I told a friend, “Work is the only ‘me-time’ I get. I kinda wished I worked full-time to be alone more with my thoughts!” She scrunched her face and said, “Cat, that’s pathetic. What you need isn’t more work–it’s play!”
I thought about her comment for weeks…As a mom, I encourage my kids to play because it serves the utilitarian purpose of engaging their minds, imaginations and verbal skills. But as an adult, I’ve equated play with self-indulgence.

I’ve often resented my husband for prioritizing play. He reads at least two books a week, plays board games compulsively with friends and funnels his love for theater into writing plays for a church out West. I shot him a dirty look a couple of weeks ago when he announced he wanted to try out for a part in a local theater production.  WHAT ABOUT MEEEEEE?! I wanted to scream. I imagined my spare sliver of free time dissolving as I caved into becoming a theater widow while juggling the demands of four kids and work. I started protesting his desire to try out for this play until he interrupted my tirade with, “I’ve got to do this. I’ve been feeling down between winter, work and kid stuff. I need to do something fun that brings me joy.”

That really gave me pause. Is play a need? It sure is for kids. They learn through play. They come alive in play. So many synaptic connections fire in the brain when kids play that even child therapists use play as a tool to help kids cope with hardship. If play is such a primal need in allowing us to process life, when did it cease to be a need for us adults?

I’ve been an over-achiever my whole life. My resume was crammed with internships, fellowships and work before I graduated from college. And once I did, I dove into a demanding television career which consumed every ounce of energy I had…until I got married and became a wife, mom, radio host…and all of those roles consumed me as well. I wanted to be consumed. I categorized people who liked to play as lazy. I felt guilty whenever I was unproductive. But now I’m thinking I was wrong. I need to make space to play.

My kind of play involves walking, daydreaming, journaling, writing…Maybe for you it’s art. Or writing a song. A poem. My goal this week is to make a list of things I love to get lost in. Things that bring me joy. My goal next week is to make time to do two of those things.

What is your favorite form of play? How can you make space for it in your life?

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