Everyday life is what builds your memories, your stories and your family

What do children need the most from their parents? Many would argue that it is simply time. All children need time with their parents. If children have enough time with their parents, everyone feels connected and happy. But this isn’t always true, is it?

I have coached and known plenty of parents who spend all day (and night) with their children and yet they are emotionally distant, discontent and poorly attached to their children.

Maybe the parent is experiencing depression, anxiety or boredom, but the child feels that the parent doesn’t want to be there. This may sound like sacrilege, but many parents are better parents when they are working. Many parents are kinder and more compassionate to their children and to themselves when they are working. These parents may not find the elusive balance that everyone talks about, and juggling a million needs is exhausting, but humans thrive when doing work that matters.

So: Just because you had a baby doesn’t erase your education, passion and desire to work. Not to mention, most families must have two parents working to get by. Housing, transportation and other expenses are crushing middle-to-lower-income families. So I am not going to write, “you just need to stay home more”, because that answer is tone deaf.

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But… (yes, there is a ‘but’)

So much of parenting is found in the minutiae of everyday life

Just as spending all of your time with your children doesn’t guarantee a connection, barely being home both day and night pretty much guarantees that a connection will be much harder to cultivate.

So much of parenting is found in the minutiae of everyday life. Meal prep, getting dressed, singing silly songs, walking to car or school, drop-off routines, pick-up routines, snack, afternoon play, more meals, books, snuggles and watching a show or two. There is nothing earth-shatteringly special in that list. But everyday life is what builds your memories, your stories and your family.

Any action that increases simple togetherness results in memories and connection

Essentially, I am saying that you cannot have it both ways. You cannot want a connection with your kids but never physically be there; especially for younger kids, like toddlers, who are utterly in the here and now, in the physicality of everything.

But before you go into a shame spiral, let’s get creative about how you can increase the connection in a way that makes sense:

Meet with your spouse and revisit your priorities

Almost every parent I know (myself included) occasionally stops, looks around and asks, “Wait! What is going on here?” We don’t mean to stop paying attention to our family lives, we just sometimes get into a routine that works, and then all of a sudden, you don’t have babies anymore and routines need to change. It can be sobering to sit down together and hash out how you want to be living and parenting, but it is clarifying for both the present and the future of your family.

If one of your priorities is to ‘see the kids more’, work together to make this happen

It may take some mental and scheduling ju-jitsu, but it is worth it…

I have met some parents who would love to have the whole family together more, but their work reality means that they trade time during the week. And I also want you to look at pockets of time you may not be used to considering. The morning is a prime time for connection and fun in many families. In fact, though everyone is obsessed with dinner being the primary meal, I have coached many families to see breakfast as being equally important. They use 20 minutes every morning to check in, have a little meeting, laugh and simply be together. Even if you can’t do this every morning, any move in this direction is worth it.

See the weekends as sacred time with your children

I would set up a loose schedule, like ‘Saturday swim’ with the older kids or ‘park time’ with toddlers, and Sundays are ‘pancake day’ where everyone chips in. Remember: Fancy and expensive does not equal quality time with children. Sitting on the floor of your local library and flipping through books is as significant as a trip to Disney World.

Remember: Fancy and expensive does not equal quality time with children

Increase proximity when you are not there

Could you leave little notes for them to find? Could you FaceTime them after school or after dinner? Could you pop into day care or school or home for a surprise lunch or outing? Any action that increases simple togetherness results in memories and connection.

Finally, don’t promise to see the kids unless you know you can make it

It simply isn’t worth the pain and disappointment for your children. I would rather have you err on the side of caution than make your kids wait.

Nothing will ever be perfect, and it may never feel balanced or even easy, but the effort is worth it. Good luck!

Article by Meghan Leahy, first published on ‘Washington Post’

Author: ANA Newswire