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