Dear parents, we hope this series is a beneficial write up of how to make the best of the time with the children. Below are some tips given to address and remedy some misconceptions about time with children. You will also find good tips on benefits of one parent spending time with the child. Happy reading!!!
WORKING PARENTS & THEIR PROBLEMS
The Problem of Not Enough Time
One parent expressed the problem in these words: “There is never enough time to get everything done at home that needs to be done. It is the same on the weekends. Just about the time I feel I have everything done in the home, and want to settle down with the kids or do something for myself, it’s Monday morning again.”
There’s always something to do, whether you’re a full-time working parent, a part-time working parent, or a non-working parent. The important thing is to realise that your children are the first priority. The rest of the time must be planned accordingly. Once a mother chooses to work, it is impossible for her to continue to do everything she did when she was a non-working parent. You have to make choices & decide what is really important for you, & eliminate the rest or find other ways to accomplish the same things.
Here are some solutions that may help you find more time to be with your children.
- Take turns. In order to stretch time to meet all your commitments, it is vital to share responsibilities. Such sharing must be flexible, based on the individual’s needs & the particular situation. If one parent tries to shoulder all the responsibilities in one particular area all the time, he or she is likely to feel overwhelmed, resentful, & exhausted.
Some families utilize this concept creatively by allowing each parent “free” evenings. Prime time with one parent is better than halfhearted time with two. Monday & Wednesday are Mom’s evenings to go shopping, write letters, visit friends, or whatever. Dad knows that Tuesday & Thursday is his time off. Just an hour to do your own thing can give you a new lease on life & you will return to your children with renewed energy & enthusiasm for parenting.
- Establish a routine. It can save precious time, since everyone knows what to do next & what his or her responsibilities are. It is also true that when children know what to expect, they can be more helpful.
Children, especially young children, need the consistency that routines assure. As a nursery school teacher I often observed the difficulties that a child had when a mother worked irregular hours. The child would be brought to the center at various times–in the middle of a story, during art time, or even halfway through naptime. These children usually had severe adjustment problems–unless they were highly adaptable children. Farewell time was especially difficult since they never knew when Mom would show up again. If the parent brought the child to nursery school on a regular schedule, the child could adapt more easily to the idea of separation.
All children need a regular time each day at home with their parents. Both children & parents are growing & changing daily, & if you habitually miss daily time together, you soon realise that you don’t know each other very well. In addition, there is a warm sense of security that pervades children when they know their parents are consistently there when they need them.
- First things first. Limit newspaper reading & watch 30 minutes of daily news on TV instead or listen to the radio while you are involved in another activity. Limit TV viewing. Let the nonessentials wait. As you plan your day or evening, list everything you’d like to do, then rank these items in terms of their importance & level of interest for you. Start the day–or evening–with the most essential, highest-interest activity & proceed from there. Prime time is too short to get bogged down with nonessentials.
- Think convenience. When you decorate your home think about convenience. Semigloss paint is easier to wash than flat. Waxing floors is a hassle; choose nonwax vinyls. Cleaning up spills is much easier on a tiled or vinyl floor surface than a carpeted surface. Never buy a knickknack unless you really want to invest time in dusting it.
Fresh flowers may boost your spirits. If so, fine. If not, decorate your home with dry flower arrangements.
When organising the kitchen, place everyday tableware at a level easily accessible to the children. They can more readily set the table & unload the dishwasher this way.
- Limit non-family outside social activities. Instead, plan social activities that include the family. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Mind if we bring the kids along?” When entertaining business associates, why not invite them home for a simple meal & an evening with your family, rather than subjecting them to another restaurant? They probably will never forget the occasion.
- Wait until the kids are in bed. The evening hours–from the moment you walk through the door after work until the children’s bedtime–should be prime time for the children. For most kids, these hours are the best part of their day. And if you aren’t careful, this prime time will be eaten up by various projects that, with a little planning, could be scheduled after the kids’ bedtime.
- Get organised. Work efficiency is diminished in the midst of chaos. Searching for lost objects can waste valuable minutes. Effective organisation does take time, but it takes less time to handle things consistently than to wait until a situation has grown out of proportion.
If the children are encouraged to keep their rooms neat, cleaning is relatively simple. But when clothes, books, & toys are left scattered all over the floor, both children & parents panic at the sight. How much better to stay on top of clutter!
- Don’t go it alone. The most successful prime-time parent does not do all of the housework, cooking, laundering, and yard care alone. We all need help & support, even if it’s just emotional support.
- Plan special ways to spend time together. Every family has to find its own special ways & times to get together. Carefully consider your favourite group activities & plan specific ways your family can participate in these activities more often.
- Pretend Mommy’s in Africa. Every prime-time parent occasionally must spend extra time on a project in order to meet a deadline. When children’s emotional needs are adequately filled on a regular basis, they can usually cope with short periods of less parental attention. When this happens in our family we play the “Pretend Mommy’s in Africa” game. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the self-sufficiency my children exhibit during these times. They even pride themselves on helping me with my normal housework & meal preparation activities.
During an “African trip” to finish this book, a note was pushed under my study door. “Dear Mom, Do you have time to fly home & give us a back rub before bed? Yes?___ No?___ Love, Kim, Kari, & Kevin.” I marked “yes,” & delivered the answer in person. After all, I’m a prime-time parent!
The Problem of Guilt
Guilt is another problem of working parents. What happens when you bottle up negative guilt feelings? Let’s consider a typical, imaginary situation. You have had a particularly hard week. The boss demanded that you work overtime, & you didn’t get home until after the children’s bedtime. You feel guilty that you haven’t spent more time with the children. On Monday, you realise you’re beginning to feel depressed. You can hardly get up in the morning & get the children off to school. You arrive at work full of resentment toward the job & toward your boss who makes so many demands. Because you feel guilty, depressed, & resentful, you can’t seem to get organised & your efficiency is significantly reduced. By 5 p.m. you still have a stack of work on your desk & you’re feeling guilty about your work load. You come home frustrated & yell at the children for innocently giggling & goofing around. They stop immediately & put their arms around you, saying, “We’re sorry, mom.” You push them away. “I just need to be alone,” you tell them. Later, when the house is quiet, you begin to feel guilty about screaming at the children. Is there no way out of this endless cycle of guilt?
Now, replay the scene with a few modifications. When you wake up on Monday, face those feelings of depression & guilt. After thinking about some possible solutions, you make up your mind: No more overtime. It just cuts too deeply into your time with the family. Making that decision is a relief, although you’re somewhat scared to tell the boss. You kiss the kids good-bye with a cheery, “See you at five.” When you get to work, you confront your boss immediately. “I felt guilty all last week because I couldn’t spend more time with my children, so I’d rather not work overtime any more. I’m willing to work lunch hours, but my children need me after school. They are disappointed when I’m late. I’m sorry, but I hope you can understand my decision.”
What was the difference between the two scenarios? In the first, you felt guilty, but you didn’t do anything about the feelings & they continued to build up. In the second, you recognised the feelings & took constructive action. As a result, the feelings disappeared.
Working parents often blame themselves (or the fact that they are working), for their children’s problems. Friends, neighbours, & relatives can increase such guilt feelings by wagging their tongues & fingers disapprovingly, “If only she’d stay home & be a mother, she wouldn’t have problems with her children.” Research does not support this idea. Nonworking mothers have as many problems with their children as working mothers. If a mother is happy, whether she is working or not, her children tend to be fairly well adjusted.
However you choose to deal with guilt, do not allow occasional guilt feelings to affect your parenting. The following list includes the most common child-rearing mistakes made by guilty parents.
- Overprotecting the child. “I’m not home very often, so I want to compensate by being with my child whenever I’m home & carefully monitoring her time when I’m not home.” Children thrive on age-related independence–not smothering.
- Giving unnecessary gifts. Some parents believe that they can make up for their absence by giving gifts. Presents never take the place of parental presence.
- Giving in to demands. Children often play on a parent’s guilt feelings to get what they want. Parents fall into this trap by trying to meet every desire & whim of their child. In such situations, the child runs the home–and it’s not a happy place for either parent or child.
- Feeling sorry for the child. “Oh, you poor dear. I feel so sorry for you when I have to work. You don’t have a mommy here when you get home from school.” This attitude only encourages the child to feel sorry for himself. Instead, help your child to see the benefits that can be derived from your work.
- Allowing the child to escape home responsibilities. “After all, this poor child has a mommy who works, so the least I can do is to make it up to him by doing his chores & picking up after him.” Balderdash!
- Ignoring misbehavior. “I don’t want to deal with my child since I’m home so little. I’ll leave that to the babysitter. I want my child to like me, so I’ll just ignore the bad things he does.” This attitude is particularly dangerous because you are encouraging your child to exhibit more of this bad behaviour.
Children need parents who are willing to parent–and that includes healthy doses of both love & discipline. Don’t deny your child his valuable training because you feel guilty about working. Instead, do your best, keep happy, apologize when you fail, & plan ways to avoid repeating the mistake.
The Problem of Illness & Fatigue
Most parents don’t consider the possibility of fatigue & illness, whether their own or their child’s, when they plan their life with children. Stark reality is expressed vividly by Jayme Curley, a working mother who wrote in her diary, “Shana has caught the cold I have just recovered from. David & I were up six times with her last night, she was sweaty & coughing. Of the 203 days of her life, she has been sick 50 days with colds, two with stomachaches. I’ve been sick 74 days with colds & the breast infections. David, 15 days with colds. What a mess we’ve been.”
How do prime-time parents cope with illness & fatigue? Prevention is the best answer. As one mother told me, “I don’t have time to be sick, so I put all my effort into prevention.”
There are three general principles to follow to prevent illness & fatigue.
- Keep your family in good physical condition. If you have a minor problem, have it taken care of immediately.
- Maintain good eating habits, drink plenty of water, and don’t indulge in harmful practices such as drinking alcohol, taking drugs or smoking.
- Use your body carefully. Get plenty of rest & regular exercise. Do not abuse yourself with inactivity or drive yourself too hard.
Coping with Fatigue
If fatigue is your problem, be sure to get enough sleep each night & take a few catnaps during the day. Find a place where you can nap during your break time. When you return home, take a 15-minute nap before settling into the evening routine.
Exercise is a good way to get rid of fatigue. Get up for five minutes every hour & move around briskly enough to feel your heart pump a little harder. Try a number of exercises to stretch & move each part of your body. If your office building has stairs, use them. If the lounge has space to jump rope–jump. If there is a recreational facility at your place of employment or nearby, use the swimming pool, racketball or volleyball courts, or the gym.
Diet not only affects your general health, it can also affect your level of fatigue. Diets that are high in sugars, starches, & fats have a way of slowing down the system. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of energy foods, such as vegetables & good protein.