Kids need attention, especially from mom and dad. But we often don’t know how much attention is appropriate because some kids desire 24/7 attention from a parent while some kids don’t crave much interaction at all. Here’s how to strike a good balance between one-on-one time with kids and avoiding becoming their entertainment committee.
Q: My four children are 6, 4, 2, and 6 months. I am kept pretty busy during the day with just feeding and naps and taking care of the house. My children ask for me to play with them often or to spend one-on-one time together. I feel like all I ever say is, “Not right now, Mommy is busy.”
How do I determine what is an appropriate amount of time to spend with them? My household seems too busy to really get one-on-one time with each of them every day. What does this look like to be sure they are getting enough love/attention and not getting ignored? Thanks for your advice!
A: My, you are busy, and feeling pressure to do more, more, more. As a mom of four myself, I well remember the days when keeping the children fed and clean took all of my time and energy (I used to tell my husband when he asked how my day went: “The children are still alive,” which pretty much summed up my accomplishments, LOL).
You do that by letting go of some of your expectations of what needs to be done versus what has to be done. The has to be dones include feeding and napping children. The needs to be done is pretty much everything else.
But you can cut down on the whining/begging from your kids—and keep that connection you have with them strong. Remember that quantity isn’t the same as quality. In other words, you’re probably thinking that you can’t possibly carve out 30 minutes to spend one-on-one with each of your three older kids (you’re already spending tons of time with the baby!). But you CAN find five minutes—for a grand total of 15 minutes each day.
You do that by letting go of some of your expectations of what needs to be done versus what has to be done. The has to be dones include feeding and napping children. The needs to be done is pretty much everything else. Seriously. I went months (okay, make that years), without dusting a single surface in my home. There were some serious dust bunnies underneath the furniture too! I often handed my two oldest (both girls) a rag and bucket of soapy water to “Play Cinderella” on the kitchen just so the floor would get a little bit clean. My husband cleaned the bathrooms for years until our kids were old enough to do that chore.
Next, make sure your kids are doing chores—real chores to help you around the house. I offer a Chores for Kids ebook that outlines what kids at different ages can do. This will cut down on some of the housework and give you a little bit more breathing room.
Now, for shoehorning in that one-on-one time? Write the names of your kids on Popsicle sticks or slips of paper, and put them in a jar labeled “Time with Mom” or something like that. Each day, you stop what you’re doing, pick a name, and set the kitchen timer for five minutes. Then you say what you’ll do based on what you think they’ll like (such as tickle time, clapping games, singing songs, reading a book, snuggling on the couch). Each kid will know that once a day, he/she will have time with mom.
You can increase the time as your schedule allows, and even vary it from day to day, but this is just to show you that kids enjoy knowing they are important enough for you to spend time with them that isn’t them asking you to spend time with them—that you want to spend time with them.