Finding Time for Gaming as a Parent

I’m writing this with my almost-four-year-old hanging on my arm. He’s at the age where he wants to spend 100% of his waking hours (and let’s be honest, his sleeping hours as well) with me or his dad. With jobs and other responsibilities, it’s hard to find time to play video games. Gone are the weekends where I used to spend all day in front of the computer, immersed in another world. I still want to play video games, though, and I know I’m not alone. I belong to a Facebook group for parents who like video games. Many of my fellow gaming bloggers happen to be parents as well. We have kids, we want to game, but how do we find the time? I asked the Facebook group for their tips and compiled my own, and the result is this list.

Game With Your Kid

This works best for older kids. Indy is just getting to the age where he’s able to play some basic games with grown-ups. Sometimes we take turns playing fruit ninja on my phone. He spends more time meticulously choosing his blade and background than actually slicing fruit, but that’s fine. He plays Mario Kart with my brother. He’s terrible at it, but he has fun and you have to start somewhere. Nintendo Wii and classic systems and lego games come highly recommended for playing with your kid.

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Not all games are kid-friendly, though. I’ve been playing Witcher 3 and I don’t want to play that with my kid around, much less play it with him. Although, I remember my husband playing Witcher 3 on the xbox while holding our child as a tiny baby.

Game During Nap Time

This works particularly well if you’re a Stay-At-Home-Parent, but there is one important requirement: your kid has to take naps. Indy stopped taking naps at about 2 1/2, and no longer having nap time cut big into gaming time. We miss nap time.

On weekends, we’ve replaced it with…

Game During Screen Time

We give our kid some screen time on weekend afternoons that usually turns into game time for me. The feasibility of this technique depends on your kid’s age, how much screen time you want them to have, and if they’re the sort of kid who will sit happily in front of a screen and not bother you for a few hours. Plop the kid down with some educational games on the tablet and go play some less educational games yourself.

Hire a Babysitter

Babysitters don’t have to just be for going out! Recently my parents took Indy for the weekend and while my husband and I did go out for dinner, we spent most of the following afternoon playing video games. (This might sound like a cute couple bonding experience, but he played City of Heroes in the living room while I played Witcher 3 upstairs.) I played the game straight for about four hours.

Take a Day Off Work

I used to take a day off work whenever Bioware launched a new Dragon Age or Mass Effect game. I know I’m not alone in this technique–a former coworker took a day off for Fallout 4. If Dragon Age 4 ever comes out, I’ll probably do this again. Having a SAHD husband makes me feel a bit guilty about it. This method only works for working parents.

Game While Your Kid’s Sleeping

This technique came up the most in the Facebook group and it’s something we do, too. My husband does group content with his City of Heroes guild Sunday evenings after the kid goes to bed. I don’t game every night, but sometimes I’ll get an hour of playtime after he goes to sleep.

If after bedtime doesn’t work for you, early morning is possible. One person on the Facebook group noted that her husband gets up at 5am to play. I’m definitely not a morning person, but if you are, that’s an option.

Make Gaming a Priority

Before you have kids, it’s easier to find time to game. I remember getting off work for the weekend and having two whole days of nothing to do stretched out before me. Now that I have a kid, I have to be more strategic. If I want to game, I have to keep in mind that it’s something I want to make time to do. After you have kids, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fit all your leisure activities into your now much busier schedule. You might have to drop a thing or two. For me, I don’t binge watch TV anymore. I realized it was very time sucking and not as gratifying as gaming or reading.

Gaming might take precedence over other activities, too. One person in my Facebook group said, “We definitely play instead of, like, cleaning, which isn’t the most adult decision we’ve ever made.”

Take a Break

Maybe none of these ideas will work for you and your family, or maybe you’re just too tired and need to prioritize sleep. That’s understandable. Hopefully one day our kids will be grown, the economy won’t have collapsed so we’ll all have ample money to retire on, and we’ll have all the free time in the world. We can move into a comfy nursing home with great wifi and game the day away until our 5pm dinner.

When my kid was a newborn, I didn’t game. I was too exhausted. Having a newborn took every ounce of energy out of me. But eventually he got bigger, started sleeping though the night, and taking regularly scheduled naps. Then I could game again.

Several people in the Facebook group commented that they no longer have time to game, but for now enjoy living vicariously through the group and enjoy the memes.

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Cover Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash. This is not my kid and I don’t own a Switch.