One of the biggest struggles of any busy parent, especially those parenting multiple children, is finding time to spend quality one-on-one time with each child. This can become even more overwhelming when you feel like you have very little free time. As a mom of six children, I feel the constant pressure of my to-do list combined with a heavy dose of mom-guilt over the desire to spend time with my kids. So how can you have that quality time with your kids even though it feels like you have no time to spare?
One way to create some quality time with your kids is to be intentional about making it a priority. If I happen to have some alone time in the car with one of my kids, I do not let the opportunity for conversation go to waste. If my son wants to talk about Minecraft (again), which is one of my least favorite topics, I choose to listen because it is important to him. I may not fully understand what we are talking about, but he is usually happy to answer my questions and this lets him know that I take an interest in his hobbies. If my daughter lets me know she would like to spend some extra alone time with me, I make it official by putting it on the family calendar. This way it is more likely to actually happen and that time is less likely to get booked with another activity or appointment. Try scheduling one dedicated day, like the third Tuesday of each month, to have some alone time with your children.
Let it Go
While many of my tasks are time-sensitive, there are also quite a few that can wait, such as laundry or dishes. Yes, we don’t want the dishes and dirty clothes piling up so that the family has nothing to wear or eat off of, but on most occasions, it can wait an hour or even a day before they have to be washed. Your child will notice what you think is most important – them! Plus, there is the bonus of getting to put off your housework a little longer. If your chores truly cannot wait, ask your child to help put in a load of laundry and then ask if he would like to play a game, read a book, watch a movie, or bake some cookies while the washer runs.
Put Down the Phone
Our smartphones are convenient but they also take up a lot of our free time, both for parents and kids. Set aside an hour or two a week to put the phones in time out and just talk to each other. Some families may also find it helpful to make mealtimes a no-phone zone. This is a great way to spur conversation without distractions. If you find your conversations in a lull, try a would you rather question. For example, “Would you rather never have homework or never have to eat food you didn’t like? Why?” Not only will these get conversation flowing, you might also find out some things you didn’t know about your child.
Create a Helper
If setting aside chores and errands isn’t an option, ask your child to come alongside as a helper. My kids have helped me cook, do laundry, run errands, match socks, and rake leaves. Often our best conversations are while we are working on a project together. Not only will you get your chores done and spend time with your child, you are also showing them the value of hard work without even trying.
What we spend our time doing shows our children what we value. With some extra effort we can sneak in moments of quality time with our children that add up to a strong relationship. When we are intentional and make our kids a priority, it will not go unnoticed by them.
Sarah Lyons is a mom of six children, including eight year old triplets. She lives in Kansas City with her family.