Mom life is busy, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the millions of tasks it takes to keep our homes and families running. Here are four things that help me to make time for my kids, even when life gets crazy.
“Mom, will you play with me?”
I look up from folding the laundry to see my six-year-old son’s big, pleading eyes. I want to say yes, but so many other tasks are vying for my attention, too.
More than once in the past month, I’ve broken down in tears to my husband in frustration that there are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done. And on the occasion that, for a moment, I think I’m actually on top of things–something always seems to happen to unravel my progress.
For example, last week, I was feeling really good about myself for getting two loads of laundry done in one day! That is, until I realized that in my haste to load the washing machine, I didn’t notice the Pull-up that was mixed in with the clothes. When I went to switch the wash, not only did I NOT have clean clothes…I had to figure out how to clean up an explosion of diaper particles all. over. the. machine.
Thankfully, judging by how quickly Google was able to provide a successful solution to the problem, I’m not the only mom who has ever done that. Still, I was frustrated. It wasn’t even about the mess itself. It was about the wasted time. I hated that the washing machine debacle was cutting into my time to play Guess Who with my son, who had been begging for my attention.
But the nature of motherhood is that unexpected things like that happen all the time. Spills happen, babies wake up early, diapers need to be changed suddenly, dinner burns, and so on.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now. But I still struggle with all the holes that regularly get poked in my “best laid plans”. I have a million things to accomplish, but I want to be present for my kids, too.
If you’re anything like me, you know this struggle all too well.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a batting cage with a broken ball machine that sends tasks hurling at me faster than I can hit them away. I’m getting pelted and pummeled…dropping balls left and right.
I’m constantly juggling so many tasks–cooking, cleaning, running errands, planning meaningful learning activities for the kids, serving at church, planning vacations, throwing birthday parties, kissing owies, playing Candyland, and more…all on whatever sleep I can piece together between nighttime wake up calls from a baby who loves his mama just a little too much.
It makes me so tired.
And when I’m tired, I get grumpy.
And when I’m grumpy, I have a really hard time being the patient, loving, fun mom that I want to be.
I’m sorry to say, I don’t have all the answers…but I have learned ONE thing about managing the massive overwhelm of mom life.
Of all the things I choose to spend time on, I NEVER regret quality time spent with my kids.
If I’m going to let one (or several) of the endless stream of balls fall, my kids are NOT the ball to drop. They deserve to be a priority; they matter more.Telling myself, “I’ll play with them once I get all these other important things done,” is a mistake. Because the other tasks are never done.
I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to make memories with my kids today.
So, how do I make time for my kids?
It’s a constant struggle, and some days I fail at making my kids my priority, but I’m learning…albeit slowly.
Here are four things I do that help me to be present with my kids, even in the midst of a million other things I “need” to do.
Simple ways I make time for my kids
1. Schedule play time
Maybe it sounds forced to schedule time to play with your kids, but it works for me. Building into our routine a few chunks of time each day to be really actively involved in playing with my kids helps me make it a priority. We try to do “mommy school” in the mornings, and I also set aside some time in the afternoon to play. There is no magic number (at least not that I know about). Just pick a block of time (or two or three) each day where you will focus on your kids.
Scheduling time to be present also allows me to feel better about scheduling other times where my kids play on their own (like during quiet time) so I can accomplish other tasks. It’s all about balance.
Note: During these short chunks of play time, I try to put my phone down across the room, or in another room entirely. That way my kids get my undivided attention, and I’m not tempted to check something “quickly” and fall down the rabbit hole of technology.
2. Get out of the house
When I am home, I have a really hard time turning off the urge to get things done. Our homes are full of things just waiting to be done, right? The dirty floor that needs to be cleaned, the shirt that needs to be mended, the broken toy that needs to be glued, the closet that needs to be organized, the laundry that needs to be folded, and so on.
When I get out, I can’t work on those things, so I don’t worry about them. We try to go on fun outings several times a week. Some are big, like to a museum or splash pad. Other times, it’s something simple like a trip to the library or a picnic at the park. But I’m usually a happier mom when we get out of the house and explore together…especially when it’s not just to the grocery store.
3. Make mealtimes matter
There is so much research about the importance of eating dinner together as a family. To make dinnertime meaningful, here are a few things we’ve done.
- Make a no phone rule. Spend the time focusing on the people right in front of you.
- Turn off the TV. Again, let’s talk to each other rather than letting technology take over. Make this time meaningful.
- Not sure what to talk about? Try using conversations starters. Here are a whole bunch of free printable conversation starters for families to get you talking. I’ve had some really interesting discussions with my kids (especially my four-year-old) because of these!
4. Take your time at bedtime
I know. By bedtime I’m often so tired that I just want to throw them in their rooms and just walk away–to be off duty. Mommy needs to NOT be mommy for just a little while.
And yet, these last few minutes of the day are a powerful opportunity to connect with our kids. Lately, I started a tradition of reading aloud from a chapter book to my two older boys (ages 4 and 6) each night. It only takes about 10 extra minutes, and it has been a HUGE blessing to our family. No matter what else happened during the day, I can end the day on a good note–with a snuggle and a story. It also prepares their bodies to sleep as they lay quietly, listening to the story. It’s our special time…and it’s so worth the extra 10 minutes.
One more thing…
As much as I want to be present with my kids, I still recognize that sometimes mama has to get work done. Sometimes, I need to make an important phone call, do a load of laundry, or give some attention to a time-sensitive project. At those times, my kids need to be able to play on their own. It’s okay. It’s even important.
Being more present with our kids doesn’t mean letting our homes become black holes of chaos because we’re too busy making memories with the kids to find some sense of order. My goal is simply this…
I want to make sure that I have at least some real, quality time with my kids each day so that they know they are important to me.
It’s a little sacrifice that I’m sure I’ll never regret.
How do you make time for your kids even when life feels crazy?
I go through spurts where I feel like I’m killing it at being a mom but then I also have moments where I feel like wow I stink at life… It’s hard to balance a tidy home, 4 children and all the things but, I’ve noticed as my kids are getting older that the things that used to take me so much longer to do are getting done faster because the kids can help! When the kids help there’s usually something fun at the end games, baking, pool time, etc. Loved this post.
My oldest is six, so I’m starting to see how he can be genuinely helpful at getting jobs done. It’s so exciting! And it’s nice when kids helping out can turn into meaningful moments, too. Great point.
These are great tips. It really can be so hard to take your time at bedtime, but it does pay huge dividends.
Thanks, Charissa! I’m learning that bedtime often really ends up being shorter in the end (i.e.-they actually go to sleep when I leave instead of coming out 5 thousand times) when I slow it down. And even though I’m tired, I feel better after saying goodnight when I’ve had a good moment with my boys.