While each situation has its pros and cons, I miss the time I had to play with my child when I was a stay-at-home mom. To add salt to the wound, as a divorced mom, I have to split my time with my daughter even further. It often feels as if my time with her was cut by 75 percent, and each weekend I have with her seems to whiz by. When I tell you that even eating breakfast with my daughter is a delight, I am not lying. With my work schedule and the custody schedule, I live against the clock.
A big challenge for any parent but especially a working parent who is not home for one-on-one time with the children is finding time to play with your little ones. Weekends aren't just for playtime — they're for errands, homework if your children are old enough, couple time (if you're married), and then some. You often feel as if you're stuffing a life into short sprints of time and clinging to minutes. This is where that serious working-parent guilt comes into play. I remind you, working moms: "It's quality and not quantity." You could sit down with your child every day from 9 to 5, and if you simply stared at your kid, what much good would it be? Not much. To all parents, working or not: it's the quality you put into your interactions with your kids that matter. Not the hours.
For those of you working against the clock, here are ways to make more time to play with your child as a working mom:
Money is tight for many of us — as a single parent, I get it! But sometimes, it's worth it to shell out a few dollars to get back something that is impossible to buy or reproduce: time with our children.
Every weekend I have my daughter, if it is jam-packed, I pay the babysitter to come so I can go food shopping on a Sunday night while she's asleep or to give her a bath, leaving me more time during the day to play instead of rushing my daughter to multiple errands. The bottom line is I don't spend a ton of money to accomplish this (food shopping is a quick trip), and I get something more worthy than gold — time to play with my daughter.
Don't feel bad for hiring help — whether it's to clean house or perhaps ordering groceries in rather than going out, in order to maximize time with your child.
If you have a partner or help, push things to your nighttime hours like answering work emails, doing work, laundry, cooking, etc. Will you be tired? Yes, but leaving the daytime hours you have free to be silly with your kiddos is worth the fatigue. Besides, we're moms, and being tired is part of the job description. You can always do your laundry at any time of the day, but your child won't be awake for a tea party or building a castle out of blocks at midnight. Use your time wisely.
Silence the Phone
It worked for me — silence your tech gadgets for a period of time over the weekend (or all weekend, if you can take it) in order to focus on strictly the kids (and your partner, if you have one) for the weekend. Social media, work emails, phone calls, and other "alarms" from gadgets and conversations will take away more minutes than you realize. Browsing through Facebook could take away an easy 30 minutes you could be coloring or baking with your littles.
This is not to shame anyone who wants to talk to their friends or FB until the cows come home. Quite frankly, I love social media and talking to my friends, but when my girl is with me on a weekend, everyone can wait until it's evening. More time goes by answering emails and making quick calls than you think. Never, ever feel upset or guilty about wanting a life that's outside of your "mom role," but divvy up your time to make sure you're making the most of the time you've got with the kids.
Make Games Out of Everything
I've gotten creative at making a game out of everything — although I could still use some brushing up! Car rides come complete with games that my daughter and I play together. Find ways to make errands a game, and even though it's not the same as brushing Barbie's hair, your kids will remember they had fun with their mom!
Section Off the House
One of the biggest time suckers of the weekend? Cleaning the house.
It's very hard for me, as a neatnik, to turn the other cheek on a dusty shelf, but I had to find a way to make sure not every weekend with my daughter became, "Let's make the house sparkle." Instead, I picked certain chores to do each weekend and left the others for the following, dividing up the chores and leaving more room for weekend fun. This also meant cleaning at night or early in the morning before she wakes. Is it fun to scrub toilets at 10 at night or 5 in the morning? No, but it saves me precious weekend time.
I started saying no to playdates and events. Does it stink to disappoint people? Yes, but the fact is my time is precious with my daughter, and by doing too many events or activities, it meant we had little one-on-one time. Even if you've got five kids, taking the time to do something with just them and saying no to events now and then will not hurt anyone and will only help you feel good about getting to be with your children.
Far too often, moms are bulking up their schedules by saying yes too often. Saying no and providing a balance for your life is smart.
If you have a school-age child who hates doing homework, get some help like a tutor or loved adult that your kid respects. Perhaps then you can run errands for two hours while someone else does the homework help. This will leave the rest of the day for you to enjoy your kid instead of pulling out your hair over math homework. You can also schedule the person to do work with your kiddo over the weekday to leave the weekend free "somewhat." As a former private tutor, I can tell you that most kids will perform better for us than you! Of course, it's an expense, so budget wisely and use only when needed.
You can have time on your hands and do nothing with it, or you can have seconds to spare and make magic in that time. Recognize that just because you're not around as much as a working parent, it doesn't mean that your impact is less or that you're not the biggest star in your kids' lives. Whether it's 50 hours or five, the time you invest in your child will plant the seeds of love and self-esteem with each good interaction. Even if you've got time to spare, you can leave an impression of a lifetime. Water the seeds of love in your kid by making the seconds and minutes matter. Childhood only happens once — let's make it one worth remembering for our children and ourselves!