“There is only one thing more precious than our time, and that is who we spend it on,” writes author Leo Christopher.
Where Does The Time Go?
Do you ever feel like there just is not enough time? The kids, the job, the home, the meals…and something is always bound to come up, like an oil change, a sore throat, not to mention an evening meeting or travel plans. Life is busy. Balancing motherhood and a career is never simple. Long gone are the days when there was one breadwinner, and one partner who stayed home to ‘manage’ all the other daily stuff. The appointments. The playdates. The cleaning. What usually goes missing is quality time with family. When both parents work, it is often difficult to carve out even an hour a day to spend as a family without distractions. Cell phones, televisions, computers, and tablets are everywhere and they call to us grown-ups offering the entertainment we crave when we are not in our working roles.
While self-care is important, just as performing well at work and being a loving supportive partner is as well, finding quality time as a parent is crucial. If your kids are young, quality time is important to your children’s development and sense of belonging in the family.
Making It Happen
Nope, you can’t magically add hours to your day. Some children report “feeling left out” or “feeling invisible” (from the New Zealand Ministry of Social Development ) when parents spend time with them. But with so much to complete, what is a working parent to do?
You can’t stop working, or buying groceries, or driving to those necessary appointments. But here are a few ideas for meaningful ways to connect with your kids as a working parent:
1) Put the Internet down, in all its forms
It is so easy to grab a glance at social media or check the headlines. But the importance of disconnecting cannot be overstated: giving your kids your undivided attention is the greatest gift you can give them.
2) Remember, it’s quality, not quantity
You don’t need hours to create quality time. Psychologists say the most important fifteen minutes of your child’s day occur right after school, and again just before bed. Block that time out to connect with your child for reading, talking about the day, and preparing
3) Say NO when you can
Work-life is demanding. If your superior is not understanding or supportive about trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance, setting boundaries will be tougher–but not impossible. Decide what are healthy and manageable work hours for your position, commute, and needs at home. Then, make it clear those are not negotiable. Say yes to extra work when it is convenient for you to do so, but *not* when saying yes takes away from valuable times with our kids.
4) Delegate what you can
Depending on the ages of your children, the time your partner has to offer, and your expendable resources, consider delegating some of your chores and errands to gain back some time in your day. Perhaps there is a high schooler nearby who will agree to some pocket money in exchange for walking your dog, running your laundry, or even running to the market for you. Consider what a few dollars may get you in terms of time with your kids.
5) Give Yourself A Break
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Working parents struggle with the time crunch daily. We need to recalibrate the balance and remember that kids are resilient. Balancing motherhood and a career is hard enough without beating yourself up along the way.
Remember Your Resources
As we learn more we will do better. When we try harder we will find the time to make the memories. Many families are in the same boat as you–what ideas do they have to carve out much-needed family time?
Finding time with your kids yields so many benefits. Studies have shown quality time with kids builds children’s self-esteem, improves the mental health of every family member, and meets the emotional needs of your child. Children whose emotional needs are met are less likely to act out for attention. Quality time doesn’t have to be a week-long vacation, an afternoon jam-packed with activities, or an expensive trip to the toy store; quality time often looks like a family sharing a meal, playing a board game, or reading together. The important word is: together.