As noted in a previous post, when I asked the question:
If there was one thing about your family life at the moment you could change what would it be?
There were lots of differing responses to this question in the survey, but there definitely was a reoccurring theme. 434 readers wrote an answer to this question and the word time appeared 175 times! Here is a small selection of responses, which I am sure most parents can relate to:
- Be more organised so I can spend more time with my family
- Finding more quality time together
- More family time
- More meaningful time spent with kids
- More time for me
- More time to do one on one things with my kids
- More time together on the weekend instead of having to spend it on chores!
- More time with children when not tired
- More unstructured time
- Need more time
- Take time to slow down and enjoy ‘life’ aka kids more
- That I had time to focus on my kids a bit more
- Time spent cleaning
- To have more time for each other
- Would like more “me time
The responses highlighted two things to me:
- Time is a key issue for families
- That parents do want to spend more time with their kids
And I would argue that if I asked kids the same question (so they understood the meaning) I think they would want to spend more time together too.
At the time of the survey, (Dec 2013) I would have placed myself in the same group above who responded that they wanted to find more time to just be with the kids.
So how did we get to a place where we are craving more time to be with our kids?
I have been thinking a lot about this recently. I don’t remember my parents having this issue. I remember a few years ago when my mum was staying with me when I had our last baby. She made a very encouraging comment about my ability to do it all and how well I was managing.
I responded that I thought she would have had a much harder time when she was raising myself and my three sisters. We didn’t have a dishwasher, dryer, microwave or many other modern appliances that make my life so much easier. My mum actually disagreed, she countered that there was so much more to do now.
When we were little, she reminded me, she stayed home a lot and we played at home a lot and occupied ourselves. There was no kindy gym, preschool dance classes or fancy play dates. It wasn’t until secondary school did we have after school activities, which was team sport training and we were old enough to get ourselves to and from training.
Her belief was things were simpler then and I agree with her but think I have played a significant part in moving away from the simpler way of life. With the world of choices we have now, every time we take on something new we add another level of complexity to our life. Joining a book club, enrolling the kids in another activity, signing up for a marathon, having play dates while are all undertaken as a fun or recreational activitIES, once committed to, they can just be another item on our to do list.
For me I like challenges, I enjoy new experiences, but I need to realise that these do come at a cost. Working out how much we do as a family and individuals is something I need to work on.
How to find more time to spend with the kids
At the time of writing this post, I am at the end of school holidays. My plan for the school holidays was to spend more time with the kids and for once it actually worked out this way. Sometimes school holidays can be so full of play dates, activities and outings that I miss the opportunity to really just hang out with the kids.
Spending more time with them reminded me how much I love to do this and how I need to spend more time doing it. It really comes down to one of my favourite Seth Godin quotes.
So these are some decisions I have been making:
1. Block out family time – when asked to visit or go out with friends/family, I made the decision to politely decline, saying we have a previous commitment. The previous commitment is the family and it is important I set the right example and keep some time sacred, which cannot be scheduled.
2. Be an active play participant – I got back into the swing of allocation 20 minutes per child (younger three kids) most days over the holidays where they could choose an activity for us to do together. It sounds time consuming, but in reality it isn’t and the effect it has on everyone is absolutely worth the time commitment anyway. The kids are happier as they have had time with me and I am happier as I enjoy the time connecting with them. I made the decision to not spend 20 minutes faffing about on Pinterest or talking on the phone and there was time to play.
3. Tweak your activities – it is harder to find ways to spend time with the older kids. Our 15 year old and I do have our moments of frustration with each other (many actually!) but we also still manage to have some good conversations too. I have found activities like going for a run together allow us to talk easily as there isn’t the intensity of being face to face. Over the holidays I made the decision to change the times of some of my shorter runs so I could run with one of the older boys.
4. Prune activities – Over the holidays I thoroughly enjoyed not having to run to schedule. Thinking about the return of the school term and the accompanying after school activities actually filled me with a bit of dread. Which is crazy really as it is in most parts a schedule of my own making. So I looked at what could I prune. I made the decision to stop one of the after school activities for the younger two boys. As I had already paid for term two, I could only get a credit set up for term three, but this is an improvement and I will work on a better plan for term three as well.
5. Keep it simple – With the best of intentions, I can make things harder for myself than I need to by doing things like finding new places to go, setting up organised activities and having kids over etc. Over the holidays I loved watching the kids make do with what they had at their Nana’s house, get creative and imaginative. They played some fantastic games and easily found ways to entertain themselves. Often I just sat outside with them and chatted and watched as they played. They were happy to just have me near them and engaged with what they were doing, but not always taking part in the activity. I made the decision to let the kids lead on the activities they wanted to do.
The challenge for me is to now hold on to this time as we head back into term two. What I have learnt over the last couple of weeks is that I am deciding how busy I am and where I spend my time. It is possible for me to spend more time with the kids if I make the right decisions. I just need to keep making the right decisions.
How do you find more time to spend with the kids?