Mom’s mental load

I did a bad, bad thing.

Something I swore I wouldn’t do again.

I re-downloaded The Sims.

It doesn’t sound that terrible until I fill you in on the fact that I have a long and tortured on-again/off-again relationship with this computer game. 

I started playing the original Sims back in university and fell deeply in love with the way I could design people and houses, right down to the size of each room, the style of the wallpaper and each piece of furniture. 

The Sims (original game) (Photo source)

I bought the expansion packs so I could have new outfits and furnishings, and somewhere along the way I upgraded to Sims 2 and started all over again. 

Sims 2 (Photo source)

I was young and child-free with plenty of free time, so the only issue was that I developed painful hand cramps if I played for too long.

Then I had babies — two under two — and there was barely time to shower, let alone time to meticulously drag and drop tiny digital shrubs into a tiny digital backyard. 

I tried reinstalling the game a few times over the years, but I always ended up deleting it soon after because I felt it sucking me back in. I couldn’t go back to the Sim life — I just couldn’t. 

It turns out, I’m not the only parent who suffers from a mild Sims obsession. When I tweeted last month about how much I missed it, other parents chimed in with their own horror stories about getting sucked into the world of CTRL-Shift-C and “motherlode” cheats to get more Simoleons. 

A friend who is a father of two confessed he snapped his Sims disc in half because it was ruining his life. Mad props for that. (I wasn’t strong enough to snap my discs — I just upgraded to a newer computer and refused to let myself reinstall the game.)

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, my Facebook newsfeed was full of ads for the latest version, Sims 4. I could have the Sims 4 Digital Deluxe version for about eight dollars after tax. EIGHT DOLLARS! 

I toughed it out until the day before Christmas Eve when I couldn’t take it anymore. It would be my Christmas gift to myself, I decided. For eight dollars and 61 cents, I was translating Simlish like I’d never left, saying “sul sul” (hello) to my beloved game and “dag dag” (good-bye) to my willpower. 

I thought I’d be plagued with guilt, but I wasn’t. It felt amazing. I sunk effortlessly back into a world where every house, every room, every stick of furniture could be customized exactly as I wished. 

I resisted getting back into The Sims for so long because I felt my time couldn’t be wasted. But maybe everyone needs to “waste” a little time to stay sane, and this is just my way?

As a mom, wife, homeowner and self-employed person, there is always something I could/should be doing. When I do have a spare minute, it should be spent writing the novel I’m trying to finish or working on a project for the DIY columns I submit each week. 

But busy-ness is a sickness and my resolution for 2020 is to stop treating life like some kind of perpetual, intense emergency. I need to get better about lightening up. I need to get better about taking breaks.

When I’m playing The Sims, I’m not worrying about work or feeling aggravated by a messy kitchen — my Sims hire maids so their kitchens are always sparkling. I’m not thinking about anything other than which tile to use around my enormous swimming pool, which railing looks best around the wrap-around deck and if my windows are evenly spaced across the living room. (Sims like a lot of light, so dim rooms make them sad.)

Our daughter and I worked on this design together. A full floor just for the kids!

Playing this silly, wonderful game is a way to temporarily pause the intensity of my thoughts and let my brain float away on something fun and frivolous — like decorating a themed nursery for baby Sim twins, or designing a Victorian mansion with a haunted graveyard out back.

Re-downloading it wasn’t a bad, bad thing after all. At least, not yet — check in with me in a few weeks to make sure my right hand hasn’t seized into a claw from too many hours of dragging and dropping digital furniture.

xo

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