This afternoon I spent four hours at an indoor soft play centre. How, you may be wondering, did I do this without wanting to drown myself in the ball pit? Easy. The key to this kind of activity is to lay down some ground rules and for me this equates to one simple fact under no circumstances will I indulge in play of any kind. My daughter knows what to expect I will not have a go on the slide, no I don’t fancy seeing how many balls I can catch at once and I absolutely will not be humiliating myself by trying to roll my whole body through a giant foam mangle.
This may seem cruel, but the whole point of paid for play is that I get let off the responsibility of being an endless source of entertainment. Parenting generally is exhausting. Parenting alone is relentless and it is crucial to give yourself time out now and again.
Of course it does seem slightly perverse to pay to spend the afternoon indoors on what has turned out to be one of the sunniest days this month, but I comfort myself with the fact that I am actually protecting us both from harmful UV rays. I have never been the kind of mum to remember sun lotion, so this is the next best thing.
Sure we could have romped through woods looking for animal tracks or other such wholesome activities, but then it’s difficult to read the papers when you are attempting to bluff your way in tree identification. You can try the park, but the chances are at our local that you’ll have to contend with a steady stream of bored teenagers swearing and hogging all the best stuff. Plus at the park there is no escape from the plaintive cries of â€˜mummy can you push me on the swings?
At our indoor soft play centre my energetic seven year old is guaranteed to find a friend and I am off the hook. After ten minutes she is already holding hands with one of the big girls and I am a good way through The Times. I have brought with me a selection of papers, magazines and books“ the second rule of soft play is to be prepared “ and I work my way happily through them, easily blocking out the screams of toddlers and the flashing of the muted flat screen TVs that line the walls.
Soft play is basically low cost childcare. For a paltry £14 a month I can have unlimited access all I need to do is repeat this afternoon’s session a few times a week and I looking at an hourly rate of about 27p. Bargain. Sure, i’s no Montessori, but my daughter has a great time and after a few hours with my head in a book I feel refreshed and ready to climb back on the never ending merry go round of single parenthood.