“No, I can’t play with you at the moment darling!”. Mama, dear mama, how many times have you snapped those words at your toddler while rushing around trying to get dinner cooked and a load of washing on after a busy day at work? It is something I am usually very mindful of, but I am far from perfect. In fact, I did it today, and as those words passed my lips and I turned my head to look at Mr 3, I caught the look of defeat in his eyes as he let out a soft ‘ohhh’ while dropping his gaze and walking out of the room. And of course, it’s not the first time I have ushered him out of the way while trying to get things done, and it’s not the first time I have seen that look on his face. As he walked over to his desk and started drawing, the internal struggle started in my mind. As parents, the struggle never ends, does it? Children, work, home – our lives are full of commitments and the balancing (or juggling) act can be tough!
A couple of hours after I made that choice to put the washing before playing with my son, we heard the tragic news that a friend of my husband’s lost their beautiful little girl unexpectedly on the weekend. Utterly heartbreaking… There is something that hits you deep inside when you hear news like that. It hurts. You wish there was some way you could ease the grieving parents pain and bring their baby back for them, but of course you can’t. Your mind wanders to your own babies, my baby. Did I tell him I love him enough times today? Did I hug him and gaze into beautiful blue eyes for long enough? Did I make time to play with him and give him my attention, or did I tell him I couldn’t play with him because I was too busy? I know two parents that would give the world to play with their baby again right now… It really puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?
So, what are Moms (and Dads) to do? How do we maintain life’s commitments and obligations, needs and wants, all the while ensuring we make time for what is most important – our children. Of course, there are other very important things in our lives, such as our partners, families and ourselves, but today I want to talk about our children. How can we do what we need to do without jeopardising precious time spent with our babes? Here are some tips for you super Mama!
1. Let them help
I know what you’re thinking, and my OCD brain is agreeing with you, but bear with me here! On the weekend, I was folding washing and my son came in and declared that he wanted to help. The fact that he couldn’t pick his pyjamas up off the floor in his bedroom is irrelevant, apparently! He was adamant that he wanted to join me in folding some clothes too. He chose a pair of my husband’s shorts and proceeded to fold them, in the most unusual way, before rolling them into a little ball. Just as I was about to tell him that it wasn’t right (who decides that anyway?) he looked at me with the biggest smile on his face and yelled out for his Daddy to come and see. He was so proud of his effort! So much so, that we popped some music on and let him fold/roll all of the shorts up while I did the rest. He told me that folding washing was so much fun when we do it together. Maybe rolled up shorts are not practical in your home, so find something they can do. Maybe they can roll up the towels, or pass you the clothes, or pop the clothes away for you. Get creative, and let them help!
2. Give your undivided attention
When you do make the decision to stop what you are doing and watch/play/listen to your child, give them your undivided attention. If you can plan to play between chores, giving each task your undivided attention, you will be more productive too! Go and play on the floor while waiting for your washing machine to run its cycle. Be sure to leave your phone on the table too! Pop dinner in the oven and go outside and play for 15 minutes. 15 minutes of wholehearted focussing on your child is far more valuable than an hour of ‘kind of invested, but also doing five other things’ attention.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Prior to becoming a Mom, my house was like a show home. Everything was immaculate, always clean and organised. Cue baby, turned toddler, now little boy. Over the last 3.5 years I have learnt not to sweat the small stuff, sometimes not even the big stuff! It has allowed me the freedom to relax and enjoy my son more. If there is only half hour until Mr 3’s bed time and the house is a mess. Guess what? It is staying that way, at least until he has gone to sleep. If you don’t get your shirt ironed because you spent 10 minutes longer cuddling – don’t sweat it! If you choose to buy some pre-packaged food in a box to save time making something else from scratch – don’t sweat it! Give yourself permission to not sweat the small stuff. The rewards will be many, including saved energy and more time with your babes.
4. Let them wait
Wait? What? I know what I said before. I started this article off with a story about making my son wait, while I did housework. But here’s the thing – in life, sometimes we must wait. We also must learn patience. The difference between this tip, and the example I gave with telling my son I couldn’t play with him earlier is parameters. Give clear and concise parameters so they know what is going on. Reality is, sometimes we will need to finish a chore or task before we can stop and give our attention to our children. Instead of just saying ‘No, I can’t play with you at the moment’, try explaining what you are doing, and how long you will be, and assuring them that you will be right with them once you are done. I have found a found a timer works great in these situations. You might also want to switch that scenario and play with them first (perhaps with a time limit) and then complete your tasks afterwards.
Life is busy, and so is motherhood. Regardless of what you have going on, take the time to make your child feel like the most precious thing in the world – because they are. We all know that you will benefit from the time spent with them, just as much as they will. Before you know it, it will be too late. They won’t be asking for those cuddles, or for you to listen to those adorably silly stories they have made up, forever. Give them, and yourself, the quality time desired. And on the days it doesn’t go to plan – remember that it’s okay, you’re doing the best you can. Remind them how special they are and try again tomorrow. You’re doing a great job mama.