There were many nights that I would put my kids to bed and realize that I hadn’t had a true connection with them all day.
I know how that sounds- it sounds awful.
I am their mother; I should be the person who knows them the best; the person that learns the intimate details of each of their lives everyday; and the person that is closer to them than anyone else in the world. It seems that each day I turn into the person constantly telling them ‘no’ and telling them what to do and when to do it; but never truly connecting with them.
After all, I have spent so much of my life dreaming about being a mother- what would my kids be like? What would they inherit from me? What silly little personalities would they develop? There is nothing more satisfying than watching your child grow and discover and learn.
But the truth of the matter is- I am super busy. I work full-time, I am a graduate student, and I am a full-time mom and wife. My kids are in childcare a good portion of the day and I stay busy so that I can provide for my kids- I want them to have the best life imaginable!
I am not making excuses for my lack of connection. Once I came to the realization that my kids’ childhoods were passing by and I was barely noticing; I felt a profound sadness. In trying to provide a better life for my kids and trying to get everything done every single day, am I taking away what they need the most? Their mother?
I realized that I needed to make the most of the time that I have with my children every single day. Sometimes, work needs to be put aside and school can wait; at this point in my life, my kids are my greatest investment.
I started doing 4 little things each day in order to generate a greater connection to my kids. Since making these weekly changes, my relationship with my sons has grown substantially and I feel like I am able to fully experience their childhood while still maintaining my job and other obligations that come in my busy life!
How a Busy Mom Spends Quality Time with her Kids Everyday
Dinner as a Family Every Single Night
This one is important and it is why I put it first. Dinner time is always a great time to connect with your kids. I can remember only a few instances growing up that I did not have dinner with my mom and dad and my brother. Dinner was always the time we could talk to our parents about our day and hear about their day, and basically discuss whatever we wanted. I know that this can be hard to do with varying schedules and work and activities and the numerous other daily life obligations, but once you make dinner an obligation and you force the other stuff to wait, you are on your way to making daily dinner a habit.
My boys look forward to dinner now. The moment we get home from school/work, they start asking me (every 5 minutes!) if dinner is ready yet. My 1 year-old, Vincent, even likes to help me make dinner. He will grip the spatula with me and help fry up the chicken or he will carry the boys’ plates to the table. Dinner has become a family event.
The best part about the whole thing is that I am learning so much about my kids. They tell me all about their day- who they played with at daycare, what they ate for their snack, who is going to whose birthday party- the important things in a kids’ life :)! And in turn, my husband and I tell them about OUR days. They do not understand everything, but this conversation teaches them to articulate, to listen to other people, and to be respectful as they learn to interact with others.
Even if we only have 20 minutes for dinner because we are having an especially busy day, we make a point to all sit down together for that 20 minutes. Whether you have 20 minutes or 2 hours, your kids will remember any quality time that they spend with you.
Turn the Radio Off
My commute to and from my kids’ daycare is about 10 minutes. These commutes used to be somewhat quiet rides- I would have the radio on with a morning show in the background or an audio book or a podcast playing, and the kids would look out the window quietly. Now- I make it a point to turn off all noise and instead talk to my kids all the way to and all the way from daycare. Really, I turn the radio off anytime I am in the car with my kids. You wouldn’t believe all the things I have learned about my kids during this time! I almost look forward to getting in the car each morning and sometimes even take the scenic route to daycare just to squeeze in a few more minutes of quality-kid conversation.
I ask the boys what they are going to do that day, who they want to play with, what they see outside the window, what color they are wearing, what they want me to make for dinner, and so on and so forth! The question opportunities are endless! Sometimes we will sing songs together or play little games of trying to spot certain objects out the window. I also encourage the boys to talk to each other. If I ask Dominic what he wants for dinner, I then tell Dominic to ask Giovanni what he wants for dinner. Not only am I connecting with my kids and learning more about them, I am encouraging their language skills and teaching them new words and how to express themselves. This is so much better than any audio book!
10 minutes of Active Time Together
I am a firm believer that staying active makes a kid happier and healthier. My kids always get plenty of active time. Even during the cold winter months I like to bundle my kids up and make them run around outside. Even playing chase around the house gets the kids off the couch and running around! Most of the time- my kids play with each other.
One day, I had 10 minutes of free time while dinner was cooking and decided to join my kids on the trampoline. We played ‘mommy monster’, one of their favorite games. It is an easy game- I chase them and growl :)! Not only did I get a little exercise, mommy monster became a hit! That night as I was folding laundry, my Dominic came up to me unprompted and gave me a kiss and said, “love you mommy monster”. There are no sweeter words! I realized that playing with my kids, even for 10 minutes, can have such a profound impact on our relationship. In addition- I am showing the kids that being active and exercising is important, even for a mommy monster :)!
Read Together Every Night
Reading is so important. The best way to demonstrate this importance to your kids is by reading with them every single night. In turn, you are spending quality time with your kids while essentially building their brains and teaching them numerous things. We read one book a night. My kids are still young, so the books do not necessarily have to be long books, but the boys look forward to their book each night. We rotate which kids gets to pick out the nightly reading and we do not put any guidelines on what they can pick. My husband and I rotate reading each night, but whoever is not reading sits on the bed with the kids and actively listens.
After the book, we always asks the kids what happened during the book and which character they liked best. Quality time + reading comprehension is a win-win!
While there are numerous things that you can do with your kids to build your relationship and foster a strong sense of family, these four things: dinner together every night, turning the radio off, 10 minutes of active time, and reading together every night are really easy things that you can do each day that will have a profound impact on your relationship with your kids.
I go to bed every night feeling like I have made the most of my day with my children; like I know who my children are, who they are developing into, and how I can have a daily impact on them.
Until next time,