Laundry, Dinner, Cleaning, Grocery Shopping, Club Meetings, Phone Calls, Commuting, Working, Disciplining, Homework, Church, Sleep; then it starts all over again. How is a working mother suppose to do it all? It doesn’t matter if you are single or married, because the title “working mother” means more responsibility and often means less fun time with the kids.
It just doesn’t seem fair, women of the 1970s fought to gain the right to have the opportunity to have a lucrative career, but I don’t think those fore-mothers envisioned that we, their progeny, would have to choose between working and parenting, often feeling like we don’t do either very well. Most of us envisioned having a satisfying career then coming home to taking our little ones to picnics in the backyard, and laughing while we bake or make snacks in the kitchen together, or as we take walks in the park, but the fact is that those sweet events happen infrequently and often take more from us than we think we can give; and then comes the guilt. But often our thoughts are: if we take the time, then who will do the food shopping?
Time seems to be our greatest enemy. We want to spend time with our kids but when – before homework or after laundry? There are many articles and books written that give advice on how to give time to kids but many of them advise us to let go of the housework or to include the kids in every day activities and while there is merit to some of the advise, much of it seems impractical and unrealistic. It is really difficult to let go of the housework especially when we are working therefore have a limited amount of home hours to get things done and if we let the kids “help” us; it usually takes twice as long. So what are we to do?
The first step is to make being with our kids a priority. We know it is important but we don’t value it enough. After all, most of us see our kids daily but while seeing our kids or feeding our kids or taking them to their next event is the first step, we also have to prioritize being emotionally involved and present. Too many of us go through the motions of “listening” to our kids or “playing” with them but we are emotionally absent; too busy thinking of our “To Do List.” The same way we have to prioritize spending quality time with our spouse in order to create intimacy, is the same way we have to prioritize and make time for our kids – in order to create friendship and lasting bonds. The more kids we have, the more difficult, but still necessary. It may seem like they are always with us, but one day we will blink and they will be gone and most importantly, they become what we have sown. If we sow emotional neglect because we are too busy, then we reap emotional needy kids; if we sow involvement, then we reap confidence.
So once we prioritize it, what next? How do we do it? We find small and big ways to be with them. We can start with a weekly event; say a movie and popcorn party on Friday nights in PJs, or a lunch date every two weeks or a Friday night video game festival. Sometimes all you have is an hour but if you prioritize that hour, the kids and you will look forward to it. Secondly, we have to find the small moments and seize them whether it is to talk in the car or to share and sing a favorite song or to play catch for 10 minutes while you wait for your laundry to finish the rinse cycle. Kids are resilient; it doesn’t take much to make them feel loved, but we have to be consistent.
There are so many little things that will have a huge impact: like sharing dinner and talking about our day or sharing a funny event. We can create 10 minute bedtime routines that includes writing in each others’ diary or journal, or playing jax or reading together or praying, or dancing, or working on a puzzle,or just cuddling; we can create dates where we go for ice cream, or go for a walk or bike ride. We can make sandwiches and have that picnic – in the park, in the backyard, in the living room. We can make cookies together. It doesn’t matter what we do, so long as we do it together even for 10 minutes a day.
Don’t be surprised if when you start this, it seems like your kids latch on to you more and you can’t shake them; that is a symptom of their feeling of neglect; they are needy because their needs have not been met but once they see that this is a routine not an occasional event, they will relax and give you space; in the interim; tell them repeatedly that you need to get the laundry, the dinner, the phone call done…, BUT that when you are done, you will spend time with them…; once they see that you are a person of your word, they will be more inclined to give you a break. And occasionally, give them their ten minutes BEFORE you complete your tasks…, that will be good for everyone.
Finally, we don’t have to do everything with our kids, all the time, but the things that we choose to do, we have to present and in the moment. It will mean everything. Once we create the connection, it will continue into adulthood… and we will have created more emotionally stable adults who feel loved. In all of our relationships, time equals love. Happy Parenting.