If there is one guilt ridden business it is in the business of being a mom. Whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom you will always find something about the kids that will make you feel guilty. From the more complex issues like the time you spend away trying to earn a living to simple issues like failing to keep your cool and negotiate through a tantrum or even simply saying “no” to junk food you know is not good for them anyway!
But perhaps the biggest challenge of all comes from learning to balance family time and the crazy and sometimes even unpredictable work schedules.
Thankfully, spending time with family is more than ticking away the hours of the day; it is about quality interaction between parents and children. The most important mission of all is time with your family.
Things like work and possibly continued education seem to be the enemy but in reality they are just the excuses we use to get out of responsibilities we want to put on the back burner. The irony is that work can actually provide valuable resources for the family in terms of food, shelter, health insurance, and savings. These activities outside the parenting role provide a parent with a very important reminder that time is precious. It cannot be replayed, rewound, paused or even stopped. Life must go on and the fundamental lesson that should be mastered is the art of balance and prioritisation.
In parenting, as in life, it is vital to remember that the value of your time will depend on how you choose to spend it. If a parent spends all day at home watching TV and movies, drinking or just lazing about, obviously the child is not benefiting from their presence. On the other hand, if a parent spends just an hour devoted to interaction with their child, that parent will have enriched the experience of their little one. Quality over quantity is key.
Presence is more than just a physical state. Love and care are involved in the selection of childcare, clothing, and feeding children. Every aspect of a child’s world exists because of the efforts put forth by the parent or caregiver. The parent sustains the life of the child. This vital role does not evaporate when the parent is away on business or is busy with any other activity.
Part of being there for a child is letting that child know they are in your thoughts; it is a matter of doing little things that show you care. Small remembrances like sending a note in your child’s lunch or bringing them a healthy snack or something to drink when picking them up at the end of a long day at school or preschool, a hug, a kiss, conversation are all tokens of affection your young child will treasure. These small acts do not require a lot of time, only consistent, continual acknowledgements by the parent.
There are many ways to play an active role in family life, but parents do not need extra hours in the day to do it. We can all still be active parents in spite of all the busy, unpredictable adult lifestyles we may have. All it takes is a kind word here and there, a brief remembrance, or fifteen minutes to an hour set aside in time pockets throughout the week. Your children just need to recognise your presence and at least have a “window of opportunity” in which they can be assured of your availability. Children are adaptable and appreciate the time that parents give them. The only requirement is that the parent demonstrates they care and are aware of their child’s achievements through positive interaction.