At our place things are a bit, well, not like a nursery school.
I work from home. Although I tend to schedule work around being a mom (i.e. when my mom, in-laws or hubbie can watch the kids or after they go to bed), I can be pretty preoccupied by times.
Vern and Girlchild have always been pretty good at independent play. I know I can send a quick e-mail or make a phone call while Girlchild plays nearby with her puzzles, for instance. I am also one of those moms who leaves the TV on a lot. My six-year-old is skilled on the computer and has lots of different games - most of which are educational, some of which are just, well, good guy/bad guy stuff. It keeps him occupied when necessary.
Is this ideal? No.
Fantasy: I would be content to do crafts and go to playgroups and participate in clubs and sports all the time. We'd eat the perfect food, exercise together as a family, have a clean and tidy house, exceptionally well-behaved children, would watch a video once or twice a week and leave the TV off otherwise, would have no computer games and I would be fabulously happy and content mama with nary a thought about a different career (not to mention no need for the extra cash).
Reality: I have a bit of a non-mom-related career - although it is part-time and from home - which keeps my brain happy but means the TV does some babysitting, the house isn't always clean and is rarely tidy, sometimes the food comes from boxes or a take-out menu, and Mommy gets preoccupied and snappish and tired. Mommy doesn't really feel cut out for the playgroup set anyway.
The point is, sometimes I'm pretty insecure about what's going on at my house, which I know is totally ridiculous, but hey. Whaddyagonna do. I'm starting to get the sense a lot of mamas feel the same way.
The other day the neighbours' son came over to play with Vern. Neighbourboy, who is about a year and a half younger, is a big Vern fan. The two of them are great buddies who spend a lot of time together outside, especially in warmer weather. It's nice to have a next-door neighbour with young kids. Their other son is about the same age as Girlchild.
Our neighbours have a nice parenting style. They do lots of fun things with the kids and frequent playgroups, concerts, skating, swimming, etc. I know the TV isn't on as much in their house, for sure.
The other day, when it came time for Neighbourboy to go home, he was pretty sad about it. He wanted to stay. His mama managed to effectively diffuse the situation and things ended happily. Later she said to me, "He just loooooves to go to Vern's house. You have so many great things there!"
I laughed because the first thing that popped into my head was the fact our TV is on a lot and Neighbourboy likes to check it out. "Yes, it must be kind of like going to strip club for him," I said. "The TV's always on, there are computer games, we've got the toy shotgun - woohoo!"
(Yes, the toy shotgun: a Christmas gift for Vern from my mom. Sigh. It's a hit with all the boys, of course. Toy guns are probably a topic for an entirely different post. I warned Neighbourboy's mom about it beforehand. She just laughed. She's so great.)
Despite the fact my house is like a strip club for the 7-and-under set (without the strippers, unless you count the fact Girlchild sometimes likes to stroll around in just a diaper), people keep letting their kids come over, so it can't be too bad. Things definitely aren't perfect around here, but we sure mean well.