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I am completely disinterested in my children and I need some advice

(25 Posts)
thumbsucker Fri 02-Sep-11 20:56:33

Sorry, this is a bit of a long one and I don't really know where to start. Just been reading threads about people who shout too much (yep, I do that) and get too angry too quickly (also do that) but no-one who's said they are completely disinterested in their children. I have a ds who's 6 and a dd who's 4 and I just can't be bothered to play with them. I have zero imagination. We were on holiday recently and my ds wanted me to play with him in the pool. My dd wasn't interested in the pool so was playing elsewhere and my dh was having a lie-down. Rather than taking a deep breath and trying to think of something to play, I just kept telling him No, I don't want to I don't want to. Like a kid myself. When we're out at the park and they behave badly, rather than trying to reprimand them quietly, I show them up. I have this self-sabotage mode I go into that must make me look completely embarassing where I completely lose my temper or really put them down. I REALLY hate this behaviour in myself but a lot of the time I would rather be doing ANYTHING. Really, anything at all than being with my children. Does anyone else feel the same? Has anyone got any suggestions for dealing with it? Thanks for reading.

CharlieBoo Fri 02-Sep-11 21:07:55

Hi, I know what you're saying. I really have to force myself to play as I'm not naturally that good at it, and my eldest is not great at playing alone so he needs a lot of playing with. It gets frustrating but I try and do it and I notice that once I engage I enjoy it. Could you be depressed? This can be a big symptom, being disinterested in things/family/relationships/going out. I know I have been depressed and often thought 'is this it? Is this all that's ever going go happen in my life', but I have sought help and feel much more positive. Do you have a dp/dh?

HereIGo Fri 02-Sep-11 21:14:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

girliefriend Fri 02-Sep-11 21:14:06

If you really want to change this behaviour then you need to do it! I know eaiser said than done, I agree with the above poster that to me you sound depressed. I feel a bit sorry for your kids tbh sad

Is there a sure start or like near by that run parenting classes? You probably need to make a start by putting aside a small amount of time each day to so something with your kids even if its just a puzzle, look at a story etc. Can you see patterns emerging from your own childhood, would some counselling help?

Glitterandglue Fri 02-Sep-11 23:06:24

Could I suggest giving Parentline a ring on 0808 800 2222? It's a free 24 hour helpline for any parenting issues and I think they might well be able to give you some suggestions about this. If you feel more comfortable online they also appear to do live chat, Skype and email - the website's

substantiallycompromised Fri 02-Sep-11 23:19:10

I think you might be a bit depressed because you are equating "not being interested in playing with your children" with "being completely disinterested" in them. And the two aren't the same at all.

So you are being unfairly hard on yourself - and that's fairly typical of someone who is suffering from depression.

You wouldn't be posting here and trying to see advice if you were completely disinterested.

You sound a bit overwhelmed, frustrated and in need of some support. Or would it be possible to change your life circumstances a bit and do some part time work? Have you any family/friends around whom you can call on?

thumbsucker Sat 03-Sep-11 08:59:48

Thanks for all your replies. I do have a dh and he is brilliant at playing - which kind of makes me feel a bit more inadequate. I also do work but I hate my work, it's completely unfulfilling which again, might be part of the problem. Substantiallycompromised I think you're right when you say that not wanting to play doesn't actually equate to being completely disinterested but yes, I think I might be a little depressed. At dinner last night my DS said to my DH 'mummy doesn't laugh very often does she'. It nearly killed me because it's true. Does anyone know if you can get cbt counselling through your GP?

Charlieboo - I'd like to know more about the help you sought?

HereIgo - I will try the 10 minutes a day thing. I just struggle when they don't know what they want to play and neither do I

margerykemp Sat 03-Sep-11 09:17:58

Might you have Aspergers? It affects women too and sufferers find imaginative play difficult/ impossible.

Playing is not the only indicator of a good parent. They already have your dp to play with and imo all this helicopter parenting nowadays is creati-g a generation of dcs who are too easily bored.

justhe1 Sat 03-Sep-11 09:33:02

Hello..are you me? (right down to the thumb sucking...which i still do at aged 41 blush)

This is exactly how i am and i too hate it.

With a huge amount of effort i do try, and it is a very concious effort.

We have games like "Guess who", card games, jenga that dont particularly require any imagination, but that means i can play with my child for 20 mins/half an hour.

Also and really importantly, i read to him every night at bedtime, this is good quality time, me & him.
After that, i tell him 5 things that has made me smile about him & really proud of him that day. I refuse to undermine his confidence because of the way I am.

If i am honest, i have been guilty of being "removed" and "distant" from my son, not because i am depressed but because i am just not interested in kids. NOW that is a confession on a parenting board isnt it!! shock
Im not proud, but thats the way i feel. I do my damndest to NOT show it to him.

Its not easy, but just keep the big picture in mind and consider how you may be affecting them in the long run, small things done now, will make huge differences now & later.

Dont beat yourself up, you are not alone x

TheOriginalFAB Sat 03-Sep-11 09:43:27

I am another one who doesn't know how to play and say no far too often. When we do play together I enjoy it and think why do I not do this more. I am going to try much harder as it is miserable here at the moment because of me.

SaggyHairyArse Sat 03-Sep-11 10:49:36

Don't be hard on yourself, we are not all Mary Poppins you know, far from it!

I am not great at playing (as in playing like a child) with my children either. The sorts of things I do that I think they appreciate are going in the woods and pushing them on rope swings and playing hide and seek and doing stuff like baking with them.

Now they are getting older, can you try and encourage some play that you do like: Monopoly (childrens version), Scrabble, Logo, Yes and No game etc or just being a bit silly like if you have a wii or a Playstation or something and have a competition with a dancemat or something.

Like someone else said, just do ten minutes a day and I am sure it will start to feel a bit more natural.

*Not sure where your talents lie but we are getting into building models like aircraft etc with my DS and with my DD making plaster models and she paints them.

As for the showing them up at the park, just tell them off/remind them what they should be doing and if necessary remove them. I do and say stuff all the time that I wish I hadnt because there are usually better ways of handling things but nobody is perfect, I jsut try every day not to make the same mistakes and do the best I can.

girliefriend Sat 03-Sep-11 11:29:17

yes you should be able to get counselling through your g.p or at least a referral to a counselling service which is means tested (depending in where you live). When you are feeling low its hard to get the motivation to do anything but you have at least acknowledged there is a problem and you want to change which is half the battle. Def get yourself to the drs, hope things improve for you smile

Eurostar Sat 03-Sep-11 11:49:37

"I show them up. I have this self-sabotage mode I go into that must make me look completely embarassing where I completely lose my temper or really put them down."

Forget the not being able to play for now - this, what you said above - is far, far more important, and way beyond disinterest. You have to get control on this. Putting down your children is going to destroy their self-esteem...and everyone must be living on eggshells wondering when you are going to explode next.

It's great that you've posted here as a start and I'm sorry if I sound harsh. Lack of interest or pleasure can certainly be a major symptom of depression - but this verbal cruelty to your children is something else, I don't know if you are repeating patterns that were normal in your family growing up or if something else is going on.

Yes, in most parts of the country the GP can refer to CBT. Also find out about parenting classes and anger management. There are lots of people out there who want to help make lives happier, do make use of everything there is.

Oakmaiden Sat 03-Sep-11 11:58:24

Do you have anywhere near you that runs the Webster Stratton "incredible Years" course? It sounds like it would be really helpful for you. It starts off by using HerIGo's 10 minutes of play suggestion, but also teaches you how to interact effectively with your child, how to have fair expectations and how to enforce boundaries without losing your rag.

I found it very useful. You can just buy the book online, but the support you get from doing the course is really valuable.

Albrecht Sat 03-Sep-11 12:45:17

You sound like my mum sad. I was like that a bit too but when ds came along, I didn't want him feeling like I had growing up.

Yes go to your gp, even if the waiting list is massive its better to get your name down as you'll get to the top eventually.

When ds does something that I find infuriating, I force myself to not say anything straight away, count to 3 and think about how he would feel if I exploded. Not saying this is the correct technique, just that I trained myself to do this rather than shouting "FFS!" so it is possible to change your behaviour. You might find How to Talk... useful as it gives lots of ways of communicating with children without belittling them.

Re not knowing what to play. If you feel imaginative stuff is hard how about a physical challenge? You guard the sofa and they have to get past you on to it or each person has to get the others socks off while keeping theirs on.

Earwiggy Sat 03-Sep-11 13:23:03

What do you like doing, because it sounds like you're not enjoying work or home life and having something you do enjoy can make the boring parts of life a bit more bearable.

Try to get an evening out whether with friends or a yoga class etc every week.

Then think about things you would like doing with your kids, they are old enough to have a go at lots of things, so steer them towards things you find interesting. Don't beat yourself up if playing is not your thing, just find something you do like so you enjoy family time.

As others have said it is worth talking to your gp who will refer you if necessary, but recovering from depression is a long haul and self help can be a good start.

thumbsucker Sun 04-Sep-11 08:04:02

Sorry, been away from the computer and come back to lots of replies. Thank you Justthe1. It's slightly weird to think there's someone who also still sucks their thumb (I'm 38). Having said that, when you wrote on your post that you play jenga and guess who with your kids I realised that those are the things I actually do. Reading these replies has made me realise that I am interested in them but I have my limits. I am not enormously imaginative and actually I do beat myself up about that and forget that I do do stuff with them that I enjoy.

I absolutely love baking and although I have to force myself to go slowly and not get cross with the mess, I am good with them when we do baking. It's a time when I'm proud of my mummying. I am going to write a list of stuff that I enjoy doing with them - Jenga and baking included, and forget about trying the make believe stuff - it's just not me.

Eurostar - I put this post up knowing that some of the replies might be harsh but you've been kind in your reply. I certainly think my dad did that kind of put down thing to me - can't really remember any specifics but even now, he is distant and has always been extremely formal, and family life was a bit difficult growing up (too complicated to go into here). I also see the way he is with my kids sometimes, expecting way too much of them. It's odd how you can see that behaviour in someone else and find it deplorable but can't stop yourself doing it.

Albrecht - my neighbour has that book and I will ask to borrow it. Thanks for the suggestion.

Chandon Sun 04-Sep-11 08:14:32

The thing is, it is easy to play with kids.

They like a challenge, so I ask them to see how many rounds aroudn the garden they can run, we use a timer. Or in the pool, how far they can swim under water/on their back.

And lots of "it" and "catch" games

DecapitatedLegoman Sun 04-Sep-11 08:41:11

You're not alone. I'm another one who can't play. I find it incredibly boring and I'm very self-conscious.

I think if their dad plays with them then that goes a long way to taking the pressure off you. It really is ok to have one parent who does more play than the other.

I also think you can change the whole mood/tone of a day without playing. Things like a tickle in passing, putting a teatowel on your head or making a den with a sheet and a couple of chairs then making them a picnic to have in it - it's not really playing but it's what they want/need. Does that make any sense? It's hard to explain.

I lost my way with my oldest when he was 3. Everything just became hard and I didn't enjoy spending time with him, expected way too much and was downright cruel and unkind to him. It was dreadful but I'm the grownup so I decided that enough was enough and tackled it by taking responsibility for myself (getting more sleep and exercise) and structuring play into every day. It's a snowball effect once you get going.

Try local sports centres for regular activities or clubs you can take them to. Shared experience that you can talk about afterwards can bring you closer with minimal effort.

substantiallycompromised Sun 04-Sep-11 17:16:17

what a great post Decapitated

Sleep is a big factor I think and doing anything (such as exercise) that will make YOU feel better. It's the old parenting bank account cliché: if you keep paying out all the time (giving physically and emotionally to your dc) without doing something to build up the balance, eventually you run out of money/energy. It sounds terribly trite but it's so true.

Glad you are feeling more positive thumbsucker. I think you have too high expectations of yourself - no one can be all things to all people - just concentrate on the things you are naturally good at. You can always bring in other adults/teachers at a later stage to develop areas if/where you really feel you feel you are lacking ie drama/art classes etc (and we are ALL lacking in some areas.)

One other thing occurred to me: this gets a bit easier as they get older, but can you play a few games which start with you setting the scene and prompting their imagination but where you don't actually have to follow them there (ifyswim)???

Two examples:

get a cushion or a scarf or a frisbee or some such object
a timer
a whistle

tell your dc they each have 3 minutes to come up with, say, 6 ideas about what alternative thing that object could be ie a scarf could be a snake, a long moustache, a river. Make it in to an exciting race and always encourage no matter how extreme or wierd the ideas they come up with. DC usually love it and hen take over themselves and start playing the same game with other objects.

set up a scenario with whatever toys you have - a shop/ a hospital/a garage
(can be just cardboard boxes with drawings on) and give your dc three points of a story ie a man comes in and steals food without paying and runs off, he then falls over in the street and breaks his arm, he then calls out for help. Ask them how they would react and what they would do if those things happened? How they feel/act as the storekeeper/doctor/policeman??? having set the scene, leave them to act out the various scenarios....or observe from afar just adding various suggestions here and there to steer the thing along.

Good luck!

lurcherlover Mon 05-Sep-11 22:10:51

Get hold of Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. It's got great ideas for building play into everyday life when it doesn't come naturally to you.

thumbsucker Tue 06-Sep-11 10:24:55

thanks substantiallycompromised, those are great ideas. I reckon it's good to have some tried and tested standbys when you're not feeling in the slightest bit imaginative. I also realise that when I'm NOT feeling overworked or over tired, I do do those things like a little tickle in passing. I've also realised this feeling is intermittent, which is probably why i've never actually got as far as seeking professional help in the form of counselling. I do have that book Playful Parenting and yes, it does have some good ideas although it did make me feel as though i should make everything into a game, which I am simply not capable of.

I guess like everyone, when I'm well rested and have exercised (I had just had a two week holiday with the family and no exercise, which is something I otherwise do regularly, when I wrote my original post) I am much more 'available' to them. Otherwise I close off.

substantiallycompromised Wed 07-Sep-11 14:56:25

Glad you are looking at things more objectively Thumbsucker and not being so hard on yourself. Good luck with it all!

TheGoddessBlossom Wed 07-Sep-11 18:25:11

I'm quite bad at this too. i don't think I even really enjoyed playing as a kid when i was a kid!!

I have 2 DSs though and I have to join in. Football in the park. GAH!

I have discovered jigsaws though. DS2 got one for his birthday and we all did it on holiday together so I have bought another, harder one for DS1's birthday. i also like colouring in, so we sit and do that together. They get bored at that far more quickly than I do...

It is not my idea of a great time, but they love it so much when I do join in that it is worth it and I do try and make the effort. I also believe however that they don't have to be played with ALLLLL the time, once you have played for a bit they can find something to do on their own or together - I never got 24/7 attention and activities laid on, and I don't think it's necessary for my children to have that either.

tunnelmaniac Fri 09-Sep-11 00:32:13

I don't do play either, and was really close when they were babies, bf all 3 DCs for at least a year +. What I did instead was to get them to help me doing whatever I'm doing like watering the plants or sowing seeds etc.. (they soon get bored and want to go off and play somewhere else with their toys). It's not a prob, I'm just not that enamoured by small children's activilites. But seriously, we have great interactive time which doesn't involve hiding, ball games or jiggling dice and jigsaws.
Now my older 2 are teenagers I find it much easier to interact. Maybe I just like teens better than toddlers?
Don't let anyone make you feel guilty about not being your kids' playmate - children need time to play one their own and there's too much of a tendency these days to manage their time constantly with too much input from adults. Leave 'em alone to get bored enough to use their imaginations to make up games. My 7 year old has a tendency to want attention all the time because her (lovely actually) gran 'plays' with her like they are both children. I do stuff with her, but make her go and play one her own (with her lovely toys).

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