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I admit it: I don't like playing with my kid




Have you ever thought these things while attempting to play with your kid?

  • I’d rather be doing something else. 
  • I should want to do this. 
  • This is boring. OR This is too much. 
  • I feel guilty because of how much I hate this. 
  • This is not fun. This is not easy.  How do I get this to stop?

You’re not alone, and my guest today, Sara Olsher is going to share a brutally honest take at the real life challenges and guilt associated with play and quality time as a parent.

Cancer survivor, divorced single mom of one, author-illustrator and founder of Mighty and Bright, Sara has a credible and honest take on these challenges as well as a unique, creative solution.

We know we’re supposed to spend quality time with our kids. We also know it’s quite often much easier said than done.

In our conversation we take the time to name the obvious realities of being bored, overstimulated or "doing it wrong" as well as the real dynamics that make it even more challenging like being a single parent, having multiple kids, having a chronic illness, and being neurodivergent or just being under so much stress.


  • Why we believe it’s a crime that your mental health as a parent is not a consideration with most expert advice of what’s best for kids
  • How 1:1 time prevents negative behaviors
  • The critical components to make sure play together ACTUALLY fills their cup


  • Our beef with playing "The Floor Is Lava" :)

Sara's previous episodes:
Ep. 37- Talking about Hard Things - April 13th, 2021
Ep. 51 - Kids’ Mental Health at Home - October 26th, 2021

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Sara Olsher  0:00  
Your mental health is important. You know, everybody talks about how your kid needs to like love their childhood and you want to create this like magical childhood for them. But you should enjoy parenthood too. It should not constantly feel like you're failing, is shutting. It should not be like unfun, really prioritize having fun and doing things that we both like to do. And that also teaches my daughter that other people's feelings matter what other people want to do matters. That is a very important life lesson.

Danielle Bettmann  0:35  
Ever feel like you suck at this job? Motherhood, I mean? Have too much anxiety, not enough patience. Too much yelling, not enough play. There's no manual, no village, no guarantees. The stakes are high. We want so badly to get it right. This is survival mode. We're just trying to make it to bedtime. So if you're full of mom guilt, your temper scares you. You feel like you're screwing everything up. And you're afraid to admit any of those things out loud. This podcast is for you.  This is Failing Motherhood. I'm Danielle Bettmann. And each week we'll chat with a mom ready to be real. Sharing her insecurities, her fears, your failures and her wins. We do not have it all figured out. That's not the goal. The goal is to remind you, you are the mom your kids need. They need what you have. You are good enough. You're not alone. I hope you pop in your buds somehow sneak away and get ready to hear some hope from the trenches. You belong here, friend. We're so glad you're here.

Danielle Bettmann  1:49  
Hey, it's Danielle, parenting coach for parents of age 10 and under strong-willed kids. I hope you clicked on this episode, hoping for validation, solidarity, and a bit of a breakthrough because that is what you are going to get in today's episode. 

Danielle Bettmann  2:06  
Have you ever thought any of these things while attempting to play with your child? 

Danielle Bettmann  2:11  
I would rather be doing anything else right now. I should want to do this. This is so boring. Or this is too much. I feel guilty because of how much I hate this. This is not fun. This is not easy. How do I get this to stop? 

Danielle Bettmann  2:28  
You are not alone. These are direct quotes from today's episode and my guest today, Sara Olsher is going to share a brutally honest take at the real life challenges and guilt associated with play and quality time as a parent, Sara Olsher is one of my very favorite people. She's a cancer survivor, divorced single mom of one author, illustrator and founder of Mighty and Bright. And since meeting for our first episode of Failing Motherhood, I have recommended her products to every parent I meet. And I have gotten to co-create a few things with her, which has been a highlight of my career. 

Danielle Bettmann  3:07  
We know we're supposed to spend quality time with our kids. We also know it's quite often much easier said than done. In our conversation today, we take the time to name the real dynamics that make it even more challenging. Like being a single parent, having multiple kids, having a chronic illness, being neurodivergent as a parent, or just being under so much stress. We believe it is a crime that your mental health as a parent is not a consideration with most expert advice of what's best for kids. We have created a solution to this and we share all the details of how to access it for yourself, including the critical components that make play successful and fun for both of you. So let's dive in.

Danielle Bettmann  3:56  
Welcome to Failing Motherhood. My name is Danielle Bettmann. And on today's episode, I'm so excited to be joined by Sara Olsher. Welcome back, Sara. You are the only repeat guest we've ever had uon Failing Motherhood. 

Sara Olsher  4:08  
Whoa, that is a serious honor.

Danielle Bettmann  4:11  
It is. And this is number three for you.

Sara Olsher  4:13  
Oh, wow,

Danielle Bettmann  4:14  
This is a big deal.

Sara Olsher  4:16  
I'm seriously so honored. That's awesome. 

Danielle Bettmann  4:19  
You're considered a special in our book. So for those that are new to you, you were on episode 37 Talking about Hard Things. And so if you want to dive into conversations around being chronically ill, or having a diagnosis as a parent, and how to talk to your child about that, and having resources that support you, as well as going through a divorce and communicating that and those conversations go back to that episode April 13th of 2021. And then I had you back episode 51 where we talked about Kids Mental Health at Home. And that was October 2021, which I would have thought was yesterday but apparently that's two and a half years ago.

Sara Olsher  4:59  
Yeah That's a that's a mind blower the last few years have been quite, quite a ride.

Danielle Bettmann  5:05  
Yeah. So like, just catch us up on the last two and a half years, where are you been what you've been doing?

Sara Olsher  5:11  
Well, so I think mental health obviously is like such a big thing, right? And I realized maybe so as a bit of background, I run a company called Mighty and Bright and we focus on like visual schedules. And it started out as visual schedules for kids. And over the last year of transition to having visual schedules for adults, too, because so many people were requesting them and so had just kind of like this big shift of like a bunch of families that, like everyone in the family has ADHD, and they like don't know how to organize themselves, or they're just really busy. And they're like, division of labor. I want to kill my partner because they don't do anything. And how do I make them do it? So yeah, that's basically what I have been doing. 

Danielle Bettmann  6:00  
Yeah, no big deal. No big deal, just like a giant pivot as a business and a bunch of new products. And you've just been twiddling your thumbs really.

Sara Olsher  6:08  
Yeah. True that.

Danielle Bettmann  6:11  
So for those that are still meeting you for the first time, which is very likely, who are you, who's in your family?

Sara Olsher  6:16  
It is me. I am a mom. I am a cancer survivor. And I have a daughter who is now 13 and going into high school next year, which blows my mind. And I would be remiss if I did not mention that we have three cats and a dog. I'm getting trouble with my child. Oh, yes. And what are their names? Daisy is the dog and then we have Waffle, Tater tot and Batman.

Danielle Bettmann  6:47  
Yeah, so good. Okay, it's you run Mighty and Bright. And we met a few years ago, over Instagram for that first podcast episode collab. And then we've been kind of inseparable ever since a little bit professionally. And personally, I very much enjoy your company. And we have been creating some things together, which is really, really fun. But just for just, you know, to continue to clarify, have you ever felt like you were failing motherhood at all recently?

Sara Olsher  7:14  
Oh, all the freakin time. Every, everything that your kids go through is like, at this age, especially it takes me back to my own experience. Because at this point, now I can remember what it was like to be my daughter's age. And it is super triggering. So I am navigating not just like her experience of this, but also my own trauma of like, what middle school was like, and trying not to, like put that on her. Oh, I just feel like I am constantly failing, and having to go to her and say, I am sorry. And we're also getting to the age where she's like, I don't want to talk about this anymore. And I'm like, But wait a second, we have to talk about I have more to say I have more to say I have more wisdom to impart. And you have to listen to me as you have always listened to me. And I don't know why you're not. It's rough. Yeah, that's stressful. Yeah, lots of failing, and lots of apologizing. Lots of you know, trying to repair. Gotta maintain the trust.

Danielle Bettmann  8:29  
Well she is still lucky to have you for being aware that that's where you're at. And that's what is needed. And it's never gonna be perfect cupcakes and rainbows. So no.

Sara Olsher  8:40  
Nope, all we can do is the best we can do. And she still feels like I'm a really good mom. So she's like, that's all. That's all I can hope for.

Danielle Bettmann  8:48  
That's good. That's good. I am in real time having to correct myself because I have had one other guest repeat just for statistics sake. But this you're the only one that's done it three times.

Sara Olsher  8:59  
Okay, okay, so I'm still special.

Danielle Bettmann  9:02  
So you still special. But I don't want to forget about Laura Pryor, she was episode one. And then I had her back again, like a year later, just for all of the listeners that are high up on their Failing Motherhood, analytics and statistics because I know how much you're setting that like Jeopardy. 

Danielle Bettmann  9:18  
Anyway. So we are here to talk about quality time. And some of the guilt that's associated with that some of the challenges that we have personally gone through that has led us to a place of kind of working on this professionally. But quality time is one of those things where if you have been on Instagram, and watched one parenting expert for like more than a day, you've probably heard them recommend that you should be spending one on one quality time with your kids, which is great. And we also know is quite often easier said than done. So I know you've been a single mom, most of your journey. What was that like for you? You know, especially those early The years.

Sara Olsher  10:01  
Yeah, I have been a single mom since my daughter was 18 months old. And really, even though I was married for that first year and a half, my ex-husband was really not involved. And it was all on me anyway. And it's been stressful pretty much that whole time. And I think when you're going through a period of stress, it can be really hard to access that like inner child part. And my inner child was like, totally shut off. I was like, I have too much stuff to do. I have too many responsibilities. And it was really, really hard for me to play with my daughter. I felt guilty about it every day, because of how much I hated it. And I am my daughter's person. She's my person. Like, I felt like I should want to do this. So yeah, it was not, it was not fun. It was not easy. I also feel like to be totally honest, I don't really like playing games, or maybe have some kind of mental block about playing games, like just hate it like Monopoly is my idea of hell. She would want to play Candyland over and over again for like hours. And and I also had the issue of like, how do I get this to stop? Because I would rather be doing something else. Yeah. And then I felt guilty about that. She'd be sad. Yeah, it was bad. Well,

Danielle Bettmann  11:30  
I'm sure you have the guilt of well, she doesn't have a sibling. So therefore, you know, you should be the sole provider of some entertainment or, you know, be teaching her all those modeling social skills or, you know, be the person that's there as her person, for sure. So that adds on a heap of weight of guilt.

Sara Olsher  11:49  
Yeah, and I have all the other complications of guilt. Like, I've wrecked her entire life by getting a divorce. And I work and she hates going to daycare. She hates going to school. Like, you know, motherhood's so fun. 

Danielle Bettmann  12:04  
No big deal. Yeah.

Sara Olsher  12:06  
You know, like, I just really love this little human and wanted have always wanted to do the best by us. So feeling guilty about, you know, everything that I did that made me feel like I was failing was I lived and breathed that guilt.

Danielle Bettmann  12:22  
But let's be real, what types of things would she bring to you or ask you to play that you cringed?

Sara Olsher  12:27  
The only thing I liked to play was Doctor in which I was a patient near death. And she would have to like, you know, be Doc McStuffins. For me, that was the only game I liked. I hated all of the board games I didn't, I was always doing it wrong. You know, we're playing Barbies, or, you know, she hated Barbies. But that's a good example, you know, playing stuffed animals or whatever, where it's like, I'm always doing it wrong. No, don't do it like that. Or playing active games like wanting to go outside and play tag or even just like wanting to sometimes even wanting to do like art projects, because I was so exhausted after commuting an hour each way to work, and then knowing that I had to make dinner and also clean up from finger painting. Right, right. Yeah, I feel like even say like confessing this, I'm like, I feel guilty. Even this many years have passed, and I feel guilty for how much I didn't want to do any of that.

Danielle Bettmann  13:32  
But that's why this conversation needs to be had because there's so many other moms that are so afraid to admit that because of how icky it feels to admit that it makes you feel like there's a worth or value or some type of grade that is paired and synonymous with our ability to play. And we look at what is really activated, especially on social media, and it's the the Pinterest moms, the projects, the things that are so Instagram worthy. And you know, that spent clearly so much time to set up and that their kids are just reveling in. And it's the sensory bins, and it's the scavenger hunts and it's like, you know, all these things, and we're like, wow, yeah, she's a great mom. And I must not be because I do not have the time, energy or interest in any of that. 

Sara Olsher  14:23  
It's the mental labor for me, of so much of it. That is really like if I could just summarize the things in my life that feel exhausting. It's the things that involve a lot of like mental labor. I'm okay with emotional labor, but the mental labor of trying to come up with the ideas and you know, especially when they are recurring, this is why I hate meal planning so much. It's like dinner happens every frickin day. And I'm tired of doing the same thing over and over again. And play time was the same. It was like Like, I don't want to play this same thing over and over again. But I don't have any better ideas because I'm too tired come up with.

Danielle Bettmann  15:07  
Yes, 100%. And I think there's also a level of being under stimulated, where the things that they are occupied in or the level of involvement that they want to, like boss you around with is not enough to hold your attention, especially if you are in a space where you're looking around and just seeing how the laundry is piling up as you speak. And the dishes are still in the sink. And you know, you need to start dinner soon. And what are you going to make and like all the tabs are still active in your head? It's very hard to be present. 

Sara Olsher  15:40  

Danielle Bettmann  15:40  
And for that to hold your attention and be like, Yes, please. I am this Barbie. Let's go over here. And I don't I can't think of anything. I don't know. I have no storyline. Yeah,

Sara Olsher  15:53  
Same. Yeah, it's a weird combo of being like both under stimulated and overstimulated. Because there's no game that was like falling in the middle. It was either this really boring, like, let's be creative. And I'm like, I would way rather be doing anything else right now. Or it's like it's too loud. It's like, really overwhelming. My anxiety is getting higher and higher and higher, as you're like, screaming that the floor is lava. Like, there's no middle ground? Yes.

Danielle Bettmann  16:25  
I want to just like stay on this for one more beat because I think other families are going to chime in with their own challenges to where they might have multiple kids, and how are you supposed to have quality time, when you have four kids that are all spanning a bunch of different age groups and interests, what other things have parents shared with you or that you've heard, that creates like a challenge and wanting to have this ideal of all this quality time?

Sara Olsher  16:53  
I think a lot of parents, the multiple siblings is a big one, having a chronic illness is another big one. There are a lot of people, especially after COVID, who were dealing with like long term health issues where they have chronic pain or they are chronically exhausted or like I had cancer, so having to go through treatment and then manage the like energy associated with that I really get that. I've heard a lot of families that were the parents are neurodivergent. So they're like, I am not able to focus on this or, like having no structure around. This makes me want to claw my eyeballs out things like that.

Danielle Bettmann  17:36  
Yes. And for me, I'll add on I think not having that, like, light at the end of the tunnel is like suffocating. Yes. Because it doesn't feel like you have the permission to get up and do what you need to do. And you're like trapped and it starts to feel claustrophobic. And then you put out this vibe, where your kids like, clearly you don't want to be here.

Sara Olsher  18:00  
Again, then they're their hearts are broken. Yeah, I hate that feeling. I have hurt your feelings, because I don't want to play and it's not personal. I love you. As a human. I don't want to play. 

Danielle Bettmann  18:11  
I'm trying my darndest, I have good intentions. I have forced myself to sit here even though you know it was against my best interest. And yet, I can't fake how much I don't want to be here right now and how not fun this genuinely is. And so our kids are very perceptive. And you know, conceal that. So then it ends up creating this like opposite effect, where not only is their cup not filled, but now they're like clinging as a result, right when we tried to get up and like do all the things we need to do. So.

Sara Olsher  18:44  
Yeah. So that makes it so you you don't want to do it even more than next time.

Danielle Bettmann  18:48  
Right. And it creates this vicious cycle and you can't not have play then be synonymous with like this icky feeling and dynamic. 

Sara Olsher  18:57  
I also will say I feel like the pressure to do this a certain way, is part of the reason why you and I started talking about solving this problem was because this whole, like positive parenting like view on special time, as they call it or quality time is you have to do it a certain way. You have to let your kid be the one that guides it, you know, and what the parent wants doesn't factor in at all. And it's very black and white about the way that it needs to be done. And so you can really feel like you're failing at it because you weren't set up for success to begin with your mental health wasn't a consideration. I think that if I could summarize what it's like to be a parent as a millennial, that sums it up. Nobody cares about the parents mental health. It's all about the research and what is good for the kid. 

Sara Olsher  19:51  
But you know, I was talking to somebody a long time ago who specialized in like motherhood, like specifically postpartum and she was like really pro screen time. Because she was like, I would like to see the study that says that a mother with poor mental health has less of an impact on a kid than screen does, like, for sure. I really relied on screen time when I was going through my divorce because I couldn't cope. And I feel like this whole, there's so much pressure on the quality time part without taking into account like, Can the parent even handle this right now? Yes, how do we make it so that everybody gets what they need, like there has to be a gray like middle ground. And that I think is kind of where you and I connected on this. Because we're like, we have to do what's best for our kids, and also take into account our own mental health because our kids are going to suffer if their parent is suffering. 100%

Danielle Bettmann  20:51  
That is the unspoken part of this whole conversation, the bigger idea of quality time that hadn't been addressed, because we've seen and followed people who specifically say, yes, it needs to be child directed, you should not be controlling in their choices, you should let them have control, it should be this big exercise in filling your child's Cup, which is valid for those principles. Because, yes, we know that the whole reason why we would want to do quality time in the first place is so that our kid feels connected to us. And when they feel connected, they're more likely to be cooperative, but we're not also doing it just to be transactional, because we actually do want our kids to feel loved, we want them to feel like you know, they're an important part of our family that they are a priority to us. And we do that by blocking out some time that is just for them, especially when there is a demanding workload on us or a lot of other, you know, new changes like a new baby. And, you know, it's really grounding for both of you to have a routine that allows for that cup to be filled. 

Danielle Bettmann  21:57  
Because we know, I mean, a lot of parents that I work with know, they are reaching out and using their behavior to act out to get attention or to get that feeling of control met. And we don't love that behavior. So when you know, most parents have put this together, when I start the day by filling their cup, they usually do better. So I know, then that's why I beat myself up because I know my kids bad behavior today was because I didn't spend and start the day with quality time. And so that's on me. And I vowed to do better tomorrow. So what if I, you know, take them to a movie, and then we go out for ice cream. And then we go to the roller skating rink, and then we do all these things, and we come home, surely their cup will be filled and I'll be able to get some stuff done tonight. And then it's never happened. Your kid will come home and be like, you never spend time with me. Why don't we have a special dinner together? And you're so sucked dry? As a parent, you're like, I can't even be with you right now. Like what? Did none of that count?

Sara Olsher  23:01  
Yeah, yeah. And I think if there's anything that I have learned over the last five years, it's how much structure like I recognized when my daughter was really little how much structure was helpful for her. And that's why the my business was born was like visual structure. But the more we can put structure around things, they are easier. And this is true for kids. It's true for adults, like if we can like visually display it, awesome. But there are so many other ways in which we can structure things. So that there's less mental labor for you. And there's less mental labor for the kid to like, it almost feels like too much pressure for everybody. When there's no structure involved in the conversation. You say to your child, like I want to spend quality time with you, that is what we're doing now. You know, versus like, here's a whole long list of all the things that we're going to do, but I haven't labeled it as quality time together. You know, I'm not sure if it's like recognized as like, what it is, you're like, I am now going to put forth effort into making you feel special and loved and we're going to do things like that you want to do and then it's like, oh, you know, that's great.

Danielle Bettmann  24:27  
It's a perception thing. Because in the same way as like our marriages, I talk to my clients a lot about like, yeah, you can go on dates with your spouse if you have one date in six months, and you know that you had to move hell and high water to make that date possible because you had to pay an arm and a leg for a babysitter and you like bought these tickets and you end up going to like this thing you know that you watch as a like a play the whole time and then you come home. You put so much pressure on your relationship to have fun And for that to be like the best thing ever, but then if you don't know, the next time you ever gonna get out of the house with your spouse, then definitely doesn't feel like enough, you don't feel like oh, well, I'm great. Like, I can go another year without any more quality time together. 

Danielle Bettmann  25:12  
But yet, if you work from home with your spouse, and you're in even the same floor of your house for 12 hours a day, you might be like, parallel spending time, but that also doesn't fill your cup of quality time. Because you're distracted and not present, you know, you're not focused on actually being there with the other person and really like getting to know them and filling their cup. So there's a lot that we can do, where we're parallel with our kids, right, where we're sitting next to them, maybe on our phone, or where we're taking them on these big dates. And we do like a thing on a Saturday morning. And in their minds. It's like, oh, that was great. But it's still not like, I still have an empty cup, I still don't feel like I actually got to look at you in your eyes. And you know, talk about maybe something that I haven't, I've had on my heart for a while or like, gotten to do this thing that I love and get to share it with you. And so then we come up empty, and especially if they don't know when the next time is that they're gonna get that time with you. They're gonna figure it out how to get it on their own. And, you know, it's kind of like leaving it up to them. And then that is just negative.

Sara Olsher  26:22  
Yes, I think that's part of what makes the like ongoing exhaustion and why we constantly feel like we have to, like, do more things, when in reality, sometimes, like, just having a little bit of structure. And then having the rest of it unstructured. It could work like we don't necessarily have to like, have 900 things scheduled during the week where everybody's running from one thing to the next. Yeah,

Danielle Bettmann  26:48  
no, it is definitely a quality over quantity type of thing.

Sara Olsher  26:52  
We're not saying do more. In summary, we're saying that there are ways to like create the structure so that you don't have these two problems. Yes.

Danielle Bettmann  27:01  
And so, drumroll, please. I mean, what is that answer? What can we do?

Sara Olsher  27:07  
So Danielle and I basically came up with this idea. And I feel that it is one of the most brilliant things that has ever come out of our collective brains. And they're called Special Time Cards. And the idea is that it's, it's not just fun ideas for things for kids to do with their grown up. It is literally like the structure.

Danielle Bettmann  27:34  
It's a roadmap to follow. 

Sara Olsher  27:36  
Yeah, of like, creating specific time that is going to make kids feel like they had a choice, they had a sense of control, they had the ability to spend time with you in a way that like filled their cup. And it isn't sucking you dry. Because basically it's a list of your 

Sara Olsher  27:58  
It's a whole deck of color-coded cards. And the idea is that you get to choose between these different colors active, chill, art, and play, and you go through the card before you present them to your child, and you choose the ones that you are willing to do or that sound good to you. And then you present those to your kid and you let them choose the activity from those. So it's like you have pre-sorted the plans. So that you know you're not going to want to you know, play floor is lava, run out of the room screaming Yeah. And so I would never choose that card. But you could, for example, you could say, Okay, we're gonna do you know, play outside, we're gonna do play, hide and seek. And we also have a whole bunch of like, blank cards. So you know, some families just really liked to play football, for example, that's not our family. Maybe you're a soccer or like, 

Danielle Bettmann  28:57  
play video games together. If they're older, you know, something like that. 

Sara Olsher  28:57  
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So you can customize the card deck for things that you your family really likes to do, but maybe not all the time. And you can offer, offer those things to your kids. So say, I have picked three cards, they are make inspiring art rocks, play outside and play, hide and seek. And then I go to my kid and I say, Hey, Jimmy, that is not my kid's name, by the way. Hey, Jimmy. We're going to have 15 minutes of special time right now. And while you've planned this ahead of time, but it's special time,

Danielle Bettmann  29:33  
we'll circle back to that. 

Sara Olsher  29:34  
Yeah, we'll circle back again. So you give them the cards and you say which one of these would you like to do? and then they choose it and then for 15 minutes you do that activity together.

Danielle Bettmann  30:00  
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Sara Olsher  32:29  
Now, I will also say one of the other greatest inventions in the history of parenthood is a visual timer. So Time Timer makes these where basically, you can see time counting down where it's like and they have an app too, that's free, because the time timer is really expensive. They have dupes on Amazon too. But basically, you set the timer for 15 minutes, and the kid can see time shrinking. So it doesn't come as a shock to them when the 15 minutes is up. And then you say to them, you know, our 15 minutes is up. But we're doing this again tomorrow. Because as we will talk about moment. We have scheduled this out, you can do anything for 15 minutes. You really can, except floor is lava maybe,

Danielle Bettmann  33:17  
or Barbies or monopoly.

Sara Olsher  33:19  
Yeah, whatever, whatever your thing is. And if you're me, it's a long list. whatever your thing is that you don't want to do- you never choose that card. Yeah, burn it if you want. Throw it away. Yeah. It was never in the deck to begin, right? And

Danielle Bettmann  33:33  
why can parents have the permission to pre authorize what those choices are? 

Sara Olsher  33:38  
Because your mental health is important too! Your mental health is important. You know, everybody talks about how your kid needs to like love their childhood, and you want to create this like magical childhood for them. But you should enjoy parenthood too. It should not constantly feel like you're failing, is shutting. It should not be like unfun. I really prioritize, Especially after getting cancer. I really prioritize having fun and doing things that we both like to do. And that also teaches my daughter that other people's feelings matter what other people want to do matters. That is a very important life lesson. You know, so if I were to present Jimmy, my, my fake son with these and he's like, but Mom, why is floors lava never an option? My answer is honest. Well, because, Jimmy, I love spending time with you and I hate that game. Yeah. Straight up. straight up. There's no problem with that. We don't want to teach our kids to be codependent. We don't want to teach them that it is their job as a parent to sacrifice everything that was ever important to them in this service of someone else. Right? Like you're teaching them boundaries, this is good.

Danielle Bettmann  34:52  
And you're truly doing a disservice to them when you try to put on a fake smile, and be like I will do whatever you want to do, and then you put out that vibe of like, I don't want to be here. Because then your kid isn't, has no other choice but to assume there's something about them you don't like they're not thinking, Oh, she must not like floor is lava, they're thinking, Oh, mom just really feels like, she doesn't want to be here when I asked her to play, ooh, like, that doesn't bring me to some good conclusions, right?

Sara Olsher  35:24  
And it's not the truth and right, it's not the truth.

Danielle Bettmann  35:27  
And you'd rather be upfront and honest and say, I love you. And I want to have fun with you. And I don't have fun, when we play the floor is lava, or I don't have fun when we play those figures, because I don't do it right. And, you know, we end up arguing, I have much more fun with you, when we can play video games together, or when we can draw together or when we follow a art instruction video on YouTube. Because you know, we're both trying to work on it. And you know, like that, when we have these common interests. And we can value that and you can show more of your authentic self to your child. And they appreciate that, that there's a level of mutual respect there. Agreed.

Sara Olsher  36:06  
I also will say now that I am the parent of an eighth grader, I think it's really important to lay the foundation that like one person cannot fill every single thing that you want out of a person. So like just to say like, you have friends that love playing floor as lava. I'm not that person. Yeah, that's fair. Because like when they start being like, oh, I want to best friend who wants to do all the things that I want to do. That's not realistic in relationships. So we want our kids to understand like, you have things in common with different people. And if you want to play basketball, you know, maybe mom isn't the right person, maybe your friend Jane isn't the right person. But your friend, Billy is the right person for the things that you want to do. So that's just an aside an added benefit of special time and setting boundaries. 

Danielle Bettmann  36:59  
For sure. We're always wanting to drip some life skills in there for sure. For our own, you know, peace of mind, too. But why is 15 minutes enough?

Sara Olsher  37:08  
You know, research just shows that 15 minutes of quality time, it's about quality over quantity. And if you have undivided attention for 15 minutes, that is all it takes to build a stronger connection with your kids, which is like so helpful. Can I just say 15 minutes? That is great.

Danielle Bettmann  37:29  
Yes, we have 15 minutes for the most part. And we can talk about you know how to do that with more siblings and all that. But when you really think about what our expectation is of like, I should have to sit down and play for two hours. You know, all of these little like a set up a scavenger hunt. And we'll do all these Pinterest activities. And we'll get all the art stuff out and will for two hours. No, you don't really don't need to. If you want to maximize your time, you just have to put your phone away and use your eye contact and set a timer so that you truly are uninterrupted and even setting a boundary of like having another parent take care of a sibling while you work with the other sibling, because it's just more of the message you're sending about how important your time is, during that 15 minutes.

Sara Olsher  38:14  
Totally. I would also say like if you're a single parent, again, do not get worked up about screen time, make those siblings take turns, let them play screentime while you're having quality time with another sibling, there's no shame in this.

Danielle Bettmann  38:29  
Right? So what name some more of the cards.

Sara Olsher  38:33  
Okay, let's go through. I really love the idea of the blank cards. Because, you know, again, this isn't about generating ideas, you can Google that. It's the mental labor like figuring out what to do, you can Google that and add your own. Okay, so we have make cards together to mail to a loved one, which I got a comment the other day from a family that said that that created like the most beautiful ritual for them that they have been like writing letters to different people and sending them and the kid really looks forward to it. And then it's making people so happy. So I love that. Give each other manicures. This is a great one for if you are really tired. We're getting some chill ones now shadow puppets. You can take flashlights into the closet. Do yoga, take a walk, Listen to music or an audio book, play a card game. Let's get some active ones in here. So I prove that my laziness has not impacted this. Work on a puzzle that one's not active. build a fort with sheets. Hosted Tea Party on a blanket, floor is lava. I love how that's always my example. Make free art from recycling. Play basketball using a stuffed animal in a laundry basket ride bikes, play with playdough or slime. You might want to ditch

Danielle Bettmann  39:57  
that one too. Throw in the garbage

Sara Olsher  40:00  
We have a special place in our garage that's allowed to get messy. But I can imagine if you were an apartment dweller, you would never want to see that card.

Danielle Bettmann  40:10  
Right? So when we came up with these ideas, we really tried to hone in on things that don't require a whole lot of setup, and can actually be accomplished in 15 minutes. Because there's a lot that your kid might be interested in to where they bring you a recipe and you're like, Mom, let's make 45 cupcakes. And you're like, I don't have time for that. So that would not be a good option for quality time. You can save that for a Saturday morning. But you want to actually have a few things where you can say, Oh, I do actually have 15 minutes between now and when I need to start cooking dinner. Let's actually like, do something quick. So these ideas are ready to go pull and start right away. Yeah,

Sara Olsher  40:53  
I feel like these are, I mean, literally, we have been told, and the box says a total game changer. Because having that structure, I had a dad who was autistic who said that having that structure and like knowing what to do was just completely changed his life as a parent, because he, he didn't know how to play with his kids. And also, viral sensation, KC Davis, Danielle, and I had a whole conversation with her about how she uses these cards, because we just like sent them to her. And she was like, before we talk about anything else, I just have to tell you that these have completely changed my parenting. Because she, she didn't want to do the whole 15 minutes thing, because she liked playing for like long periods of time with her kids. But she was getting really bored playing with them. And so but she would hurt her daughter's feelings if she was like, I don't want to do this anymore. So she instead of saying I don't want to do this anymore, she'd be like, Hey, let's choose another card. And then she she was like I played with my daughter for like an hour, which she's like, I've never been able to do that before. So I thought that was interesting, because it's a completely different way of using these cards than Danielle and I had come up with, but such a neuro spicy, friendly deck, yes.

Danielle Bettmann  42:15  
Because it truly does feel like there is freedom to have a tool to better communicate your own needs and have permission to validate them. And know that it is important that I start dinner. And that's, you know, important for all of us. And I will be able to do that as soon as the timer goes up. And I'll be able to transition out of this because we know and we're going to do it tomorrow. And yeah, you can be upset, you can want more time with me. But I can rest assured that I am giving you quality time rather than the, you know, so and so quantity time or the none, that I wasn't able to even mentally wrap my mind around because it felt like too much. So talk more about like, how to set up that structure, you know, preventatively and kind of having a plan for this. 

Sara Olsher  43:04  
Yeah, I think setting the expectations as you go into it is part of what makes this so successful. So you're gonna say to your kid, like, I really want to spend like awesome quality time with you because you are like one of my favorite people in the whole universe. And I love you. And I'm so excited about this, I got this card deck. And it's full of like ideas of things that we can do together. And so what we're going to do is we're going to spend 15 minutes of quality time each day, we're going to do it at this specific time in our routines. So rather than focusing on the actual time on the clock, you would say, like, after this certain thing, or before this certain thing. So say you want to do it in the mornings, you can say after breakfast, we're going to do special time. Or you can say, you know, after I get dinner ready, and it's like simmering, that's when we're going to do this. And so I'm going to set a timer on my phone or on the Time Timer, if I wanted to get one of those, and then we can see how the time is going to be ticking down. I'm going to choose some cards, and I'm gonna let you choose which thing we're gonna do. And we're gonna do it for 15 minutes. And then I know you're probably gonna be like, No, I want to keep doing it. And I would too, but we have all these other things that we have to do. This is a new special thing we're doing, and then we're going to do it again tomorrow. And so do you want to do it? No, that kid is going to be like, This sounds awesome. Yes, please. So then you get into that routine every day of or however you've set it up. Maybe you're gonna say we're going to do this, you know, because maybe you have multiple kids and you can only do 1 15 minutes span a day you're going to be like okay, you know, Kid number one gets Wednesdays I have seven kids, so I'm just gonna do once a week.

Danielle Bettmann  44:51  
Yeah, once a week quality is better than nothing. Yes, it really great and I always recommend starting small so that You don't over promise and under deliver. Because nothing burns your credibility more as a parent than saying, I'm going to make this promise to you. And it means a lot to me. And then I immediately am not able to follow through because of, you know, work demands or getting sick or whatever else. And so if you need to start on the weekends, start on the weekends, even if it doesn't feel sufficient, even if it doesn't feel like that's what your end goal ideal is. That's okay. Work it in once a week, and then mark it and twice a week and then figure out a way that you can swap with your partner. So they're getting some quality time, some nights too. I've had families where they have two kids, you know, they have swap time, where you know, they just know, okay, right before bed, some nights, you know, I get Mom, he gets dad and vice versa. And then they just, you know, flip flop, and they both use that time where you don't have to have mom gets 15 minutes, and dad gets 15 minutes with each kid. You know, every day. No, anything is better than nothing. And Rich, remind yourself that it's it's a low bar, and you would much rather build momentum with wins, and memories and like good connection moments then to constantly have more reasons to beat yourself up. Because you're not doing the thing you said you were doing.

Sara Olsher  46:11  
Yeah, you're creating a ritual. And I just think that's so beautiful. Like the idea of having a ritual with your family, like I grew up Jewish. And every Friday night does Shabbat where you are like having this ritual of like looking back on the on the week and like taking a breather, and like taking the time to reset. That's once a week, but it changes your stress level. And you can totally incorporate these types of like small interactions is something that becomes a big part of their childhood. Think it's really cool. Yeah,

Danielle Bettmann  46:44  
think about the memories that they will have, especially of the things that you got excited about when you get to maybe introduce them to music that you loved as a kid or when you got to show them a video game you played with when you were little or when you got to learn how to draw a horse with them. And it was hilarious because they looked terrible. Like, yeah, that's the childhood. We're striving for it. And we're trying to put it on this giant pedestal of like, you know, if it's not Pinterest worthy, it's not worth it. And it's like, no, no, our kids just want us. it's the little things. Yes, it's the little things. Yeah,

Sara Olsher  47:22  
I actually asked my daughter the other night as we were going to bed what her like memories of childhood were and it was none of that like Pinterest stuff. Like she was talking about how like the day that she learned that pigeons were more afraid of her than she was of them and how it was like chasing pigeons around. And I'm like, it just goes to show that the hours that I spent dyeing rice, different colors for the sensory been really had no impact on her. Which is good. Is that? Right? I mean, it's like, okay, so now that I know that like now one of our special time cards can be go chase pigeons, sorry, to the pigeons.

Danielle Bettmann  48:08  
Yes, yeah. But it could be literally, you know, Googling and YouTubing a curiosity of the day. And like, they don't have to be non screentime, you have make your own rules, like you just do it the way that works for your family, and run with it. Because when you feel that confident to have that permission, and then you put those boundaries in place so that you are much more successful at this as a parent, your kids benefit more than it would be trying to fit yourself into like a square peg in a round hole that some other expert on Instagram told you you should do.

Sara Olsher  48:44  
Yeah. And that's where you get burnout. That's where you get exhausted. Danielle and I have talked a lot like just between the two of us about family values. And like how every family is different. And that kind of diversity in our families is what makes what makes your child's childhood different from everybody else's. You know, like it should be reflective of the things that you care about. It should be reflective of the things that your family likes to do. That's what is gonna give them something interesting to talk about when they're adults. Well, my family did this thing. Oh, my my family did that too. Because I think our moms were probably on Pinterest at the same time. Oh, yeah.

Danielle Bettmann  49:25  
Yeah, right. Yeah. And they both ended up yelling at us at

Sara Olsher  49:29  
the end. That's exactly yeah.

Danielle Bettmann  49:33  
So is there any other like, FAQs that we get on these are like troubleshooting tips we can give for parents that are trying to implement this?

Sara Olsher  49:43  
One thing I think is interesting is we've gone viral on Tiktok like three times for these special time cards because people are like, Oh my god, this is the problem that I've been trying to solve my whole life. And the only thing that I think was on misunderstanding, and most people get after I explain it is that I idea is not to give you a whole bunch of ideas like that. This is not about generating ideas. It's about creating a structure and creating a way for you to easily spend time with your kids, get to know them, and all that. And as far as you know, I don't really I feel like when people get it, and there's an instruction card in it, and it makes it really, I mean, it's really easy. Like, it's really easy to do. And then on the back of the instruction card, we also have all these like really cute, nice compliments that you can give your kid like, no one does this like you. You're getting better at this every time you try. I love spending time with you, I am so glad you're my kid. Like, it just warms my heart to read. Yes,

Danielle Bettmann  50:46  
I love those so much. And I always try to end my time with my kids saying one of those things, I feel like the thing that they have wanted to hear the most lately is like, You're a really important part of our family. ooo. we discount something like that? Because it's assumed, right? Like, how awkward is it to like, name, you know that they are like, you know, I'm so glad you're my kid. But how much does it mean for even our partner to say like, you are so important to me, I'm so glad you're in my life. Like, yeah, it's assumed that we've been married forever. But like, I need to hear that sometimes, you know, especially if you haven't been feeling that great about yourself lately. We can't discount just how much our kids need to hear some of that

Sara Olsher  51:27  
There is a reason I choose you to be my kid, I would choose like ever, all the kids in the whole world. This is what makes us special. This is why you are the one that I am like so good as my kid, I'm so glad I got sent you. Because, Wow, you are so important. I love that.

Danielle Bettmann  51:47  
Yes. And if you are out of place, quick caveat that, you know saying that doesn't feel possible, then let's talk offline, because that is something to address genuinely and with more support. And you know, managing a lot of that conflict dynamic, and the guilt that you have and the baggage and then their behavior that is creating so much, you know, to walking on eggshells at home. That's what I do find all the other episodes on that. So we know that that is also a real thing. And you're not a bad person for not wanting to spend time and be in the same room as your kid. But know that that is not because you are actually choosing that. It is because you are a caveat of the circumstances that when you have more capacity, when you feel better, you'll be able to be more accessible to do those things.

Sara Olsher  51:49  
It can be really hard, it can be really hard really, really hard. Yeah.

Danielle Bettmann  52:44  
So even if you don't, you know, feel like you need special time cards, or if you feel like you don't need tips on this, just hear us give you permission to do quality time in your own way.

Sara Olsher  52:57  
Yeah, don't don't be stuck with what how somebody else says it has to be done,

Danielle Bettmann  53:02  
right? Or even listen to your child's demands, honestly, because they are going to demand the world like like they are never going to be satisfied. Right? If you went to Disney World every single day, they would find something to complain about. So just because they say it doesn't mean it's true. If they are saying things to you, like you never spend time with me. And you know, you don't love me and things like that. Don't let them convince you of something, you know is not true.

Sara Olsher  53:30  
That is that is really good advice. Because I think kids speak out of emotion. Because with kids, their emotion takes over their entire body. It takes over their entire worldview, whatever is happening in this moment is true. All the time for N has always been true and will be true for all of time. They have not learned yet that everything is temporary, which is like one other thing. I mean, when you're in the middle of like a giant emotional situation, you don't want anybody telling you that, but just know that in your own heart. This is developmental, it's not true. Yes.

Danielle Bettmann  54:05  
And while you can, you know, sit at nights and say, Is there a pattern here? Have we you know, have I been able to spend some time with him lately? If not, what can I do about it tomorrow or into the future next week, you can be strategic about it. What we're saying is having a ritual like this allows you to check that box in your mind that worries constantly. If you're worried about this, you're a good parent that has great intentions and you know really touch wants to take this seriously. And we're trying to support you by giving you a ritual and a tool that is going to have your back that allows you to put your money where your mouth is take action on this and know Yeah, I might have a really busy week at work this week and I might not be home as much as I wanted to be and there might be a million tabs going on in my head and that I did not choose and can't control. However, I am going to have this ritual every night or every morning or every day when they get home, and that is going to help me sleep at night. Because we did, I did look them in the ice, and I did get to see them today. And yes, I would love to always have more time. But I filled their cup and I can have that peace of mind. And truly, I think that that is so powerful. It is.

Sara Olsher  55:22  
I love that peace of mind.

Danielle Bettmann  55:24  
So how do listeners get their hands on on the set?

Sara Olsher  55:27  
We have them at You can search for special time cards. And I'm sure Danielle will link to them in the show notes. And we have a 10% off coupon if you enter failingmotherhood, you can get 10% off.

Danielle Bettmann  55:42  
Yes. And while you're there, add a few other things to your cart. Because. 

Sara Olsher  55:45  
Yeah, we have one of the things I think I didn't mention earlier is we have some stickers for the kids routine chart that have special time cards on them. So that you can like visually show your kids because developmentally, they can't keep information in their brains. And that's why they asked you 10 million questions over and over and over again, even literally put this into their routine. So they know when special time is. And

Danielle Bettmann  56:12  
sometimes for me out of sight out of mind, I might have said it out loud and promised it and then I don't do it because I did not have a visual reminder. And I don't know about you, but I hate my phone going off with a bunch of alarms that I have to then disarm and then don't act on and forget they were there. Totally. So when your kid says, Oh, look, what's next on my chart. It's special time you're like, Oh, great. Thanks for like, reminding us because I meant to do that. And I want to do that. But we just need backup. And that's okay, if your brain doesn't hold that, either. Yeah,

Sara Olsher  56:45  
for sure. You got this.

Danielle Bettmann  56:48  
Anything else we need to cover?

Sara Olsher  56:50  
I think we got it. Thank you so much for having me, Danielle. Of course,

Danielle Bettmann  56:54  
Of course, we'll probably have to make it a fourth sometime later. I'd love working with you. I think you're an incredible person that has come up with so many amazing ideas for making life just a little bit simpler. And I think we both have connected so much on like the ultimate self care is creating a life that you don't want to have to escape from all the time. And just having tools that surround you that back you up and really make your intentions actually feasible. And so that is what Sara's products do both for you now and for your child and just creating that structure, creating rituals, creating things that just set you up for a whole lot more success. So go ahead and do a deep dive if you haven't yet on Thanks so much.

Danielle Bettmann  57:46  
Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Failing Motherhood. Your kids are so lucky to have you. If you loved this episode, take a screenshot right now and share it in your Instagram stories and tag me. If you're loving the podcast, be sure that you've subscribed and leave a review so we can help more moms know they're not alone if they feel like they're failing motherhood on a daily basis. And if you're ready to transform your relationship with your strong willed child, and invest in the support you need to make it happen. Schedule your free consultation using the link in the show notes. I can't wait to meet you. Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I believe in you, and I'm cheering you on.



Tuesday, Sept 27th at 1:00 PM CENTRAL

Confidently parent your strong-willed child without caving in or dimming their spark so you can finally break free of power struggles, guilt + self-doubt!