Whenever I am asked “how are things with you guys?” the answer always involves the words busy and chaos. Life is so crazy and there are no signs of it slowing down, I know I’m not alone. There aren’t many people reading this that have all the time in the world to relax and leisurely read undisturbed. Most are currently waiting for washing to finish or dry, are thinking about having to go back to work tomorrow, and will probably have to get up a couple of times to attend to sentences beginning with “MMUUUUUMMMMM…..”. I am often amazed by how quickly the time ticks on and although I’m not scared by the future, I AM worried that the present is flying by and I am not getting a chance to enjoy it.
Being a stay-at-home mum (or Superhero, Domestic Engineer, Life Shaper etc) I have a never-ending pile of laundry, I seem to be buying, cooking or preparing food non-stop, and I also “try” to “work” at the computer about 20 hours a week. About a year ago I became aware that whenever the kids asked me to come and play with them my answer was usually: not until I have finished this *INSERT IMPORTANT CHORE/WORK HERE*. It is in our nature to stay focused on our tasks and we forget that this is the most important time we have to build good relationships with our kids and enjoy their childhood. It’s easy to focus on the bills, cleaning, work and all the rest. It’s easy to stay in survival mode and say no. Want to slow down time? Sorry not possible without The TARDIS. But you can remember to do the simple things to enjoy the ride.
- Help them with their homework – find out what kind of learner your kid is (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic or social) so you can help them love to learn.
- Read – in the modern world of technology kids have tablets and smart phones to amuse them, sometimes it’s nice to switch off the tech and read a good old fashioned book. With pages.
- Playing video games – in light of the point above, if you can’t beat them, join them. I love playing Mario Kart with my son, even if he does race faster than me.
- Games – whatever they are playing grown-ups can always join in. It’s quite a nice change every now and then to play their games instead of being structured by us.
- Sing together, dance together – we do this a lot at home and even though it might not be your cup of tea it is very good for musical and rhythm development, as well as co-ordination.
- Going for a walk or drive together is a good time for a quiet chat.
- Letting the housework come second instead of first – very difficult when you think of just how much you will have to do later but ask yourself what is more important?
- Take a moment everyday to watch them play, if nothing else it will put a smile on your dial.
- Sitting with them at bedtime is also a nice opportunity to find out about their day, the kids will do anything to delay going to bed!
- Eat with them – although sometimes it isn’t convenient, it’s a nice chance to grab a few extra moments.
- Potter in the garden together, start a project like a compost, worm farm or veggie patch.
- Involve yourself in their gross motor development for example: at the moment we are practicing catching with my 4 year old son.
- Make a date – if your lifestyle is really that hectic, set a day in your calendar because this time is too important to miss.
- Let them help you to stay young and fit by joining in, going swimming, making mud pies, whatever it takes to be involved on their level of play. My theory is that the more time I spend with them now, the more they will let me into their lives when they don’t want to play anymore.
I can happily report that over the last 8 months or so I have spent hours on end building train tracks, playing Wii, racing cars through the car wash, digging in the garden, brushing Barbie’s hair and doing handstands in the yard. And when I am in no position to play I will try to involve them in whatever it is I am doing like sitting in the kitchen with me while I cook or asking them to help me with my task if it’s appropriate. These days I am much more mindful and aware of the times when I do have to turn down a chance to play with them, and that helps to motivate me to make it up later.
This is our time to cherish. Yes work is important and money = food and shelter, but more and more people of our generation are realising that time spent with our babies is more precious than gold. Of course we work to build a good future for the kids, but we all too easily forget how essential it is to bond and forge good relationships in the present. And the only way to do that is to give them the most valuable gift we can give – our time.
Emma Eastman 2013