I guess it’s the hormones, but I’ve been feeling extra sentimental lately. And for the first time, really, I’m getting sad about the passage of time, especially when it comes to my oldest. I’ve never been one to be super… sad about it. I get longing for the baby days sometimes, but it’s never hit me like this. I think just knowing that I’m going to have a tiny baby soon, and my oldest is going to look even bigger next to him, and then I’m going to blink and he’s going to turn nine.
And nine? That’s halfway out the door, you guys.
OMGGGGGGGG look at that chubby baby at his first pumpkin patch! OMGGGGGGGGGG TIME IS AN ASSHOLE.
But here’s something I’ve been doing lately to curb the mom guilt because I can’t let myself wallow too much- I’m intentionally committing specific times to my children, and in between those times I’m giving myself permission to not be consistently present for them.
What does that look like?
It means stopping what I’m doing, no matter how entrenched I am in a task or behind I am on a deadline, with enough time to greet them after school (or pick my youngest up from preschool), make snacks, check homework, sign folders, not allow them to litter the house with their backpacks and jackets, and be available for conversations.
This is a time of day I generally loathe because we are all in a terrible mood. The kids are hangry and whining, and I’m irritated that I’ve had to pause what I’m doing. The difference now is that I build this stop into my day, I anticipate the bad moods, I make sure there are snacks in advance, and I try very, very hard not to lose my cool. I try to make this time non-negotiable in my schedule. This 1.5 hour block is for them.
Then again at dinner, I am at the very least present for the meal. We always have been a family that comes together around the dinner table nearly every single night, even if that’s just to eat a box of takeout chicken strips. There are no devices at the table, and most of the time the TV is off (though we’ve been known to watch some American Ninja Warrior and Beat Bugs together then). Most nights, I try to cook, too. (Scott does the dishes, and I couldn’t ask for a better arrangement.)
This block of time continues right through bedtime, and I try to read stories to at least the two big kids, while Scott reads to Lowell. Leyna gets 2-3 books of her choice, and Kendall and I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books for 2 years, one chapter at a time. We’re on the 4th book now. We’ve taken some breaks from this routine for other book series along the way.
In addition, I’m up with them at least 2-3 mornings a week, and Scott takes over the others when he’s working from home and able to let me sleep in a bit because pregnancy insomnia is a bitch. I’ve been intentional about making these mornings less stressful by making lunches the night before, and being sure the kids have their clothes picked out at bedtime. I fight my inner procrastinator and drag myself out of bed to be sure they will have plenty of time to eat and get dressed and be out the door long before I have to tell them to run to school. Most days, this plan goes well.
These might sound like normal things normal parents do, and I certainly don’t deserve a gold star for them. But, in being mindful that these times are not something I can work through (or sleep through because I stayed up all night working), and making a real effort to be present and set myself, and all of us, up for success, they are becoming actual quality time, and they are times my children can depend on me to be available (when I’m not traveling).
Selfishly, this has given me a lot of relief when it comes to the times that I simply can’t be available now. After that after school block of time, I can usually be found taking a nap with Lowell (either sleeping next to me in bed, or watching Netflix). I don’t make it to all their baseball/t-ball games because I can get a lot of work done while their dad takes them in the evenings, and I really have to knock out a lot of projects on the weekends, especially before the baby comes.
Does this mean I ignore them? Not necessarily (though I am Team Ignore The Children, for sure). I’m just not going to let myself feel guilty for not being totally available to them then, or turning them away if it’s something they can figure out on their own (or get their dad to help with).
I’ve been feeling guilty that I’ve been working so much and it seemed opportunities for “quality time” were slim, but when I thought about it, it was more that manufactured quality time (trips & special experiences together) was lacking. There’s still plenty of room in our day for time together, I just have to work to make those times less stressful.
This isn’t some groundbreaking technique. I’m guessing this is how it goes for a lot of parents who work out of the home, though their dedicated times of the day/week may be different. Of course, I can’t speak for that experience and would love to hear from parents who do work out of the home. Do you find that you’re more intentional with the time you have with your children? I’d love to hear from parents of all walks, actually. Are there certain times of day you’ve been able to carve out quality time by being mindful and present, and how does that affect the rest of your day?