How to find time for your kids when you’re time starved

Gina often works 10 hour days 5 days a week in her corporate position as a project manager. She’s worked hard to reach this position and when she had her first daughter struggled with  the decision of whether to return to work or not after her maternity leave. Even though she loved being at home, work seemed to be the stronger pull and she employed a great nanny and made sure she spent almost all her non working hours playing with and developing a bond with Emily her daughter. Her work life balance was more or less working. She had no time for hobbies and very little time for her husband but she felt satisfied.

Then 2 years on Gina became pregnant with her son. Once Dominic was born that balance shifted and Gina found herself feeling guilty towards Emily and Dominic as she felt she wasn’t giving anywhere near enough time to either child.

Gina was experiencing that classic moment when she realized her work life balance had tipped and she had no idea how to re-address this balance.

I know Gina and thousands of other parents feel terribly guilty about being so time starved but yet they can’t just pull more time out of the bag -there ARE only 24 hours to a day.

So instead I suggest working parents focus on what they can do to make the small amount of time available with their kids, count.

I’m going to suggest two ways of doing this.

  • The first is to have consistent, quality time with your kids rather than quantity time.
  • The second is to have a positive attitude towards your own wellbeing.

So how does the time with your kids become quality rather than frenetic or anxiety ridden time?  Firstly take a good look at the times when you are at home, before and after work and week-ends.  Much of that time will be taken up with domestic necessities whether cleaning, cooking, shopping, home admin tasks, catching up with friends and family, or if you’re lucky relaxing and having a hobby.  So instead of fitting in kids time around that, carve out and schedule some slots when you can consistently spend 15 minutes with your child. (Outside of normal bedtime routine if possible).   It’s better that your child knows you will for example spend 15 minutes with him/her each Mon, Thu and Sun -every week at 7am (or 7p.m.) than leaving him wondering when ‘s the next time he’ll get your undivided attention.  This may not seem like a lot of time and I’m definitely not saying don’t spend other periods of time with him/her. I’m just emphasizing the importance of scheduling this time and making it a priority as if it were an appointment with your boss or colleague. This gives your child security and if you spend lots more time with him outside of this scheduled time-that’s a bonus.  It may feel contrived and not spontaneous but busy parents have little time for spontaneity which is why it’s important to be realistic and let your child know when it’s going to happen.

The key here is that the quality time – which you should both label as “special time” or “quality time” or “Our Time” should have the following key components:

  • It is a commitment only broken by emergencies (or if you have to travel or if you’re ill!) So make it realistic. If it can only be 10 minutes once a week, it’s better to do that consistently rather than always promising you’ll find time and never managing it.
  • Special time means putting away all mobiles (yours and theirs!) and no screens. Your child may want special time to be sitting together watching a favourite programme -do this another time and resist this for special time. You want special time to become a relaxed and hopefully playful and creative time not passively watching TV or playing a computer game.
  • Take turns to decide what to do so he/she gets to learn what you enjoy doing too, as long as it’s age appropriate and you can both enjoy it.
  • Don’t use it as a time to quiz your child about their day as they may resist wanting special time in the future. Chat about your day first to encourage them to talk but don’t question as this can seem intrusive to children especially if they have a closed nature.Hopefully if special time is consistent, your child will want to use it to share.
  • Make an ending time which your child knows about in advance so it doesn’t end up in a battle with your child wanting more, with you then arguing, and him complaining that it wasn’t enough time. Remind him/her that the next special time or Our Time is already scheduled in your diary.
  • One child at a time. Teach the other to play independently or make sure a partner or grandparent is around for the other child and do not let them spoil it.  Be firm and remind the one interrupting that they also have special time and they would not want their time interrupted.

The second way to make a difference to time starved parents is for you to care about your wellbeing so that your attitude is positive.  If you’re always complaining about how stressed you are and how time starved you are in front of the family, you’re ruining the small space of time you have. If you accept your choices with an upbeat mind set, your children will be a lot less anxious and stressed about you not being there much.

I remember my own mother working very long hours but she enjoyed her work so much she was always happy to be home but equally happy to go off to work. She didn’t hide this joy at her work, and therefore didn’t seem to particularly feel guilty. Maybe she did but she hid it, and I always thought it was perfectly normal for Mum’s to be out of the house for long periods of time and not to be there when I got home from school. The atmosphere was generally positive so I easily accepted it as our norm.

So here’s how to take care of your wellbeing:

  • Feel positive, not guilty!
  • Share with your children the good aspects of your work as they will accept that you enjoy your work life
  • Be conscious of the fact that you are a role model so your moods affect theirs. If you are angry and resentful about the choices you have made they learn anger and resentment.
  • Be conscious of your emotions, find an outlet if you need one, but stay as calm as you can at home. It’s not their fault you’ve chosen to work!
  • This period of them being so demanding and needing your attention is relatively short in the span of our lives. By the time they are independent you’ll have time back again. So hang on in there!
  • Every evening write down 3 things -bullet points, keep it short, about what’s been positive about being a parent that day. (Yes you can think of 3!)
  • Try and appreciate something new each day
  • Read “The Secret”. It helps you manifest the positive in your life. (If it isn’t the right book for you, find one that is, that reminds you to feel positive.)

So stop blaming being time starved on having little time. You can’t change that.  Focus on what you can change -the consistency and quality of the time you do spend with each child, and your attitude and wellbeing.

Author Bio:

Bebe has a BA in Child Psychology and an MA in Education. She has been a counselor and coach for more than 30 years and is a Performance Consultant for Talent Dynamics ( a business coaching tool to help people and teams get into flow).  She is also a licensed parenting educator having trained with Positive Parenting, Parent Gym and Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting.She has a Master Practitioner qualification in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming, (a personal and business development programme), as well as qualifications in teaching adults (CTLLS – Certificate of Teaching in the Life Long Learning Sector.)

Bebe runs 3 businesses, Parenting Coaching Now helping parents with the everyday challenges of raising children, a wellness coaching business called Energize Your Business as well as being an independent consultant for a network marketing wellness company. She is married with 3 children and has 2 cats.

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1 Response
  1. Inger

    Whilst I concur with the author’s views on making time with the children quality driven I do feel that 15mins 3 days a week is a little lacking. Yes we are busy, yes we women have important, numerous roles to fulfil and infinite tasks in juggling the work/family balance. However, I also feel that pressures at work to do more hours, are often unproductive and a waste of our time. As we look to streamline our homelives, I believe the workplace must be held to account also. I have lost count the number of times I was delayed leaving the office because others had not been efficient earlier during the day and I was left managing many tasks often crreated in a blind panic at 30mins before home time. I was doing 10 hour days to cope. One day I stopped and thought why are others inefficient working practices allowed to affect my work and as a follow on, my home life? I was tired, stressed and in my view – less productive. I decided that it was pointless bringing it to the attention of management as they were the main culprits. So I started managing the situation delicately by a few reminders about work outstanding, the best course of action to achieve results and re-enforced this would mean they wouldn’t be hounded for answers after-hours and thus giving THEM a better work/life balance. It has worked a treat and I think a win-win for everyone. Including the business output. I agree with focusing quality time on your children but work mustn’t dominate. Work to live, not live to work.