Mommy Guilt- Spending Time With The Kids


One of the hardest things about being a mom is that nagging worry about whether you are “doing enough” for your kids. It doesn’t matter how many people tell you you’re doing great, or how many times you remind yourself that they are in God’s hands, ultimately, not yours. Sometimes, that worry is the loudest thing in your head and heart.

At other times, it’s not a worry, it’s an actual problem to solve. Am I doing enough for the kids? Is our time together at home profitable, spent building a relationship between us? Is their childhood fun, safe and imaginative?

As a stay-at-home mom who works 2-3 hours a day in the afternoons, this is a problem I am continually solving. I HAVE to go to work at least a few hours, as we’ve chosen to live in a very expensive county in California. We’ve also chosen for my husband to do something he loves for a living. Unfortunately, the school is only able to pay him an abysmal salary (I’m not being snooty or picky here, honestly).

But God’s made it clear that this is where we are supposed to be right now, which means I have to work. I am grateful every single day that he’s allowed me to grow my business into something I can do for just a few hours a day and double our income every month!

But it means I only have my mornings/early afternoons to spend with my boys. My precious toddler and crawler.

The one thing I am realizing, more than ever, is that I cannot measure things by how much actual “time” I spend with them. The quality of the time will depend greatly on their moods (and mine!).

And then there are the other factors– housework, phone calls and logistical stuff for my business, paying the bills, grocery shopping, making meals. Not to mention, anything I want to do for me, like shower or finish an exercise video.

I’ve heard the argument that the dishes will always be there, but the kids won’t. It’s a good reminder, really it is. But the reality is that I have to live here too. Dishes and bills piled up all around make me depressed. And I’m definitely not a good mom when I’m depressed.

And then there are the meals. I am not content to toss cooking to the wind and buy pre-packaged dinners, just because that would give me more time with the kids. Their long term health and growth is something I have to take into consideration. No matter how crazy things get, I am unwilling to let the quality of our food affect our health.

So ignoring all my responsibilities is not the answer. Quitting my job is not the answer. I have a limited time every day to spend with my boys (evenings don’t count much– everyone’s cranky before bedtime!). How am I supposed to make the most of it?

The answer is not going to be the same for both boys. Their personalities are wildly different. Gregory likes to play by himself 75% of the time (truly). If I interfere and try to play with him, he growls at me to go away. He wants the solitude, wants to enjoy his imaginative world by himself. He’d go absolutely bonkers if I structured his time with me at home. Sometimes, I interrupt him to ask if he wants to do a craft or wants to play outside. If he growls at me (again, where’d he learn that?) to go away, I know not to push it.

But that other 25% of the time? I can be there waiting. Drop what I’m doing if possible, knowing that most of the time, he doesn’t want me there. And that’s the thing about this kid– when he’s there, he’s THERE. 100%, no distractions. So we read books, sing silly songs, and pretend to eat his imaginative cooking. Spending quality time with Gregory means to be ready for when he’s ready.

Anthony, however, didn’t get his nickname, “The Barnacle” for nothing. We used to joke that there is an invisible umbilical cord, still attached. He wants to be held and cuddled and sung to at least twice an hour. I’m not joking. He’ll be playing by himself, and an internal alarm goes off inside of him and he crawls to me for a few hugs and kisses. Then he’s off again. Repeat, a few minutes later. He wants to play side by side with Gregory, but then he gets a warning growl and he backs off…usually.

Since he’s just 18 months old, I’m still figuring out how to love him best and spend quality time with him. It’s a no brainer that I should make sure to hug and kiss him every 10 minutes or so. I set aside around 15-20 minutes to rock him to sleep for his naps and bedtime because he just LOVES it. Soaks in every last second. Playing peekaboo games and singing songs naming all of his body parts seems to be a hit right now as well.

Will it ever be enough? I don’t know the answer to that, honestly. We can’t see the world from their perspective, we can only listen as hard as we can for whatever clues they can give us.

And if not? There’s always expensive therapy later on someday when we’re rich.

Just kidding.

Sort of.


P.S. Does anyone else have any good advice for how to spend quality time with your kids?

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  • Miwa @ cranes and clovers

    I’m also a stay at home mom that works from home (I’m a translator) so I can totally relate to this post. I agree that quality is more important than quality. If you’re with your kids all day but have your head in the clouds, it’s not going to be as special as a half day that you spend completely focused on what your kids need and want. Because, like your son (and my daughter), a lot of kids like to play by themselves for a chunk of the day.

    I used to work during my daughter’s naps and after she went to sleep, but these days she’s been giving me some bits of time during the day to get things done. Which is great ๐Ÿ™‚ And although I haven’t figured out the best way to spend quality time with her, I must say that the points you made are definitely the things that are the most important.

    Sorry I don’t have much advice since I’m still trying to figure things out too ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Miwa @ cranes and clovers

      Sorry, that should say “quality is more important than quantity.” haha

      • themrscone

        Miwa, it’s just nice to know that someone else struggles with this same thing! ๐Ÿ™‚ It can’t be that bad if we’re all trying to figure it out, right?

  • Kerrin

    Very true Kelly. I really like your point on “the dishes will be there” quote. I see that all the time on Pinterest and facebook and it honestly really annoys me. There are just basic things that need to be done around the house for things to run smoothly. My kids need clean clothes and dishes and decent food to eat and those things don’t happen by themselves. Plus, just like you, I NEED order to my house. It’s funny because I remember my Mom always being there for me growing up and we have a great relationship but I never really remember her playing with me. I am sure she did, but I had a sibling so close in age I just played with her and I am sure my kids will remember the same thing. I play with them but over time they will play with their siblings so much more!

    • themrscone

      What a great point, Kerrin. That’s the real reason we have more than one, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • nicole neesby

    SO GOOD, my friend! I struggle with this a lot. Not wanting to be a total ‘child-centered’ home where our littles grow up thinking the universe revolves around them, but also wanting to make them feel incredibly loved and valued. Knowing our time together is slipping by quickly. Also can totally relate on the work front, as I just opened a handmade business so now I juggle one more thing. So so grateful, but seeking the best way God would have me use my time throughout the days.

    Stopping by your blog tonight via your linkup with Casey Leigh! XO

    • themrscone

      Thanks for stopping by! I know what you mean about not necessarily wanting a child-centered home, but wanting them to feel valued!

  • Emma @ P is for Preschooler

    So true. I’m home with my daughter all day but I still worry I don’t spend enough “quality” time with her. As you said, it depends of the mood – of both of us. We all just do the best we can with what we have, while trying to stay sane in the process! You sound like a wonderfully caring mother and your kiddos are lucky to have you! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • themrscone

      Aw, thanks! It’s good to remember it’s about the quality, because we can manage that part some of the time, right?

  • Andrea @Hand and the Heart

    I love this post. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that quality time really is more important!

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