I’m not sure it really gets easier does it.
Parenting and juggling family life I mean.
You move from one phase to the next and each one brings its own challenges. The biggest challenge for most of us I think is having enough hours in the day to get everything done. And you think when your children start school it’ll get easier but somehow the hours and days and weeks are still full.
Whether you’re a stay at home parent or someone who works outside the home, when you’re juggling everything that busy family life throws at you, it can be really hard to feel like you’re getting enough quality time with your children.
The thing we all need to remember is that it really is about the quality of the time we spend with our children, not the quantity.
We can all stop feeling guilty about not having hours and hours to spend reading with our children, on the floor playing with them or listening to their endless stories. What our children need from us is little moments of time throughout the day where they have our absolute focus.
They need to feel that they’re important, that they’re worthy of our undivided attention.
And, really, that is more achievable through small, repeated moments rather than one big block of time once a week.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas of how to find those little windows of time:
Organise your mornings so you can sit and have breakfast together
I’m so guilty of making breakfast for my children and then leaving them to it while I rush around sorting out lunch boxes and swimming kits, grabbing sips of tea when I can.
Getting just a bit more organised would mean I could sit with my children, just for ten minutes, and eat breakfast with them.
If you can make the time for that to happen then you can talk. Turn the tv off and put away your phone and just chat. Ask them about what they’re looking forward to doing at school that day. Get them to tell you about the friends they want to sit with at lunch time.
Make the most of the school run
If you’re the one to take the children to school and pick them up again, then make the most of that travel time each day.
When I collect my children from school I get them to each tell me 2 things from their day. One thing they learnt about and one thing that made them happy. Asking this tends to get me more information about their day than if I just ask “what did you do today?”.
I love this little insight into their school day and they get to know that I’m interested, that I want to know what they’ve been up to and I care about what’s made them happy that day.
We generally drive to and from school, so my attention is obviously split, so if you can walk to school then you really can make that time focused, quality time with your children.
Get them in the kitchen with you
Early evenings are often the same as mornings in our house. We come home from school and the children often play by themselves while I head out to the kitchen to sort out dinner and get lunches made for the next day.
That’s another window of time though that could be spent together.
There are a few ways you can use that time. You can get the children involved in cooking their tea, or they can help with getting the lunches made while dinner is in the oven. Or you can set them up with their homework at the kitchen table so you can sit with them and talk to them about it when the cooking doesn’t require your attention.
Build quality time into the bedtime routine
If you work outside the home then you might not be able to do some of the other things I’ve mentioned, but if you’re home for bedtime then you can squeeze some quality time in then.
Leave your phone and any other distractions downstairs when you go up for the children’s bedtime.
Spend 15 minutes reading to them, or listening to them read to you.
Have a 5 minute chat about your days. Ask them what made them happy that day, and tell them something from your day that made you smile.
And remember to give everyone a long hug goodnight.
Once you start looking you’ll hopefully be able to find more of these little windows of time.
See where you can include your children in things like cooking meals and popping to the shops. You might not think they’d want to come out with you to pick up some milk and bread but you’d be surprised. It might be an annoying chore to us, but our children often see it for what it really is, a chance to get a bonus 20 minutes of time with you.
Just remember that it really is about the quality, not the quantity, of time we spend with our children. Find those moments where you can and spend them completely with your family.