Don’t worry about being a ‘fun mom’

Ordinary moments of peace and satisfaction can be holy.
Our Faith

I wasn’t particularly offended a couple of months ago when my 4-year-old told me that she wishes Aunt Sarah were her mom because Aunt Sarah is “more fun.” 

For starters, she’s not wrong. My sister-in-law is more fun than I am, and I’m confident enough about what I do provide for my children in the mothering department to call a spade a spade as far as the matter of amusement is concerned.  

Besides, I understand that moms and aunts have different roles in a child’s life. As someone who grew up with a lot of playful and indulgent aunts and a mom who was neither of those things but wonderful in many other ways, I’m glad for my children that they, too, have been blessed with aunts who will play grocery store with them, paint their nails, and buy them Play-Doh. And I’m glad for myself that my sister and sisters-in-law save me from having to partake in such activities. I’ll just cross my fingers that someday my children will be able to speak of me with the affection that I speak of my mom: She wasn’t fun, but she had other great qualities.

My daughter’s statement still gave me some pause, though, because it got me thinking about what being a fun mom represents. 


To my 4-year-old, Aunt Sarah is fun because she plays tag with her children in the park, buys them a ball pit for their playroom, and greets whininess with silliness to reverse sour moods when they arise. I am unlikely to do any of these things, and I don’t see this as a moral failing or even something that I ought to change; my children will not only survive but can thrive with only peers as playmates and with being asked to take their whining to the ball pit-free basement. I don’t, in other words, necessarily wish to emulate the aspects of “fun mom” that my daughters revere in their aunt.

But what my sister-in-law does that I do admire, and that I do think would be worth emulating, is finding real joy in her vocation as a parent. I never get the sense that Sarah is forcing the fun that she bestows upon her children. Whereas it would take real sacrifice for me to leave the heart-to-heart (and OK, fine, sometimes gossip) with my mom friends on the park bench to take part in the children’s activities, I get the sense that Sarah is genuinely happy to be running around with her kids. Even as I am somewhat baffled by this way of being, I admire it; there is something that just seems spiritually right about the way in which Sarah embraces her everyday reality with wonder and delight.

A central doctrine of Christian faith is the idea of incarnation. Narrowly, this refers to the fact that God took on human form in the person of Jesus, the body of Christ. More broadly, the incarnational principle captures the idea that the material world and the human body are good, not just because God created them that way (see Genesis) but because the divine made its home among them 2,000 years ago (see the gospels) and continues to fill them with the Holy Spirit (see the Acts of the Apostles). 

In the words of theologian Elizabeth Johnson, “By becoming flesh the Word of God confers blessing on the whole of earthly reality in its material dimension, and beyond that, on the cosmos in which the Earth exists. Rather than being a barrier that distances us from the divine, this material world becomes a sacrament that can reveal divine presence. In place of spiritual contempt for the world, we ally ourselves with the living God by loving the whole natural world, part of the flesh that the Word became.”


When I think about loving the world, the first thing that comes to mind is loving nature, or as Johnson puts it, the cosmos; but the material world includes people and activities as well as the trees, the sky, and the stars. When we love the stuff that fills our days, we are loving the world and therefore aligning ourselves with the God who created the world. So in terms specifically related to the topic at hand, when we find joy, wonder, and delight within our everyday reality of being a parent (as opposed to frustration, drudgery, and ennui), that’s a kind of union with the divine. 

In other words, there is something holy about being a fun mom. We ally ourselves with God by loving the world, by loving our lives. 

Now, I certainly don’t think that our faith calls us to live within a small range of emotional experience, and I’m in no way condemning myself or anyone else for finding parenting tedious, aggravating, and boring on occasion. Experiencing the gamut of emotions is a part of the human experience, and caring for and shaping the lives of children is difficult and unending work. Of course we are going to feel negatively about it at times.

But if we want to align ourselves with God (I do), and if we align ourselves with God when we embody the joy, wonder, and delight that are part and parcel of the “fun mom” label, then I want to figure out what it takes for me to have more fun as a parent, to enjoy this life that I currently have. This doesn’t mean neglecting my kids while I read novels and eat cookies, for obvious reasons. Denial of our present reality and responsibilities in favor of our own satisfaction isn’t union with God; it’s pathological. Besides, something that might otherwise be fun for us quickly ceases to be pleasurable if our kids are displeased, and, well, kids aren’t happy when their parents ignore them. 


Enjoying my life as a parent also doesn’t mean playing make-believe with my kids or installing a zipline in the backyard, because while both of those things would thrill my children, neither would be fun for me in the slightest. 

Rather, loving the world—loving my world, as it is as a parent right now—is going to look like finding things that fall into that glorious center of a Venn diagram: delightful for me and delightful for my children. Jerry Seinfeld says there’s no such thing as fun for the whole family, and maybe that’ll be true for our crew at a different stage of life, but I’m relieved to recognize that at this point, there is an abundance of activities that make us all reasonably happy to be alive and together. For instance: picnicking, lounging around on our front porch, cuddling up under a soft blanket, reading books, strolling around the neighborhood, dancing in the kitchen to Taylor Swift, organizing drawers, and making something out of the ordinary for breakfast. None of these activities is particularly remarkable, but, in a way, that’s the point. They are ordinary things that create moments of satisfaction and peace and enable me to say, like God did in the story of creation, “It is good.”

Read more Home Faith:

This article also appears in the January 2024 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 89, No. 1, pages 43-44). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.


Image: Unsplash/Thiago Cerquiera


About the author

Teresa Coda

Teresa Coda works in parish faith formation. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two young daughters.

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