Like many mothers, I find myself frequenting feelings of guilt regarding my parenting style, especially when it comes to the amount of quality time I actually spend with my girls. I LIKE to do many things, and I HAVE to do many things, that take me away from my kids and leave me too depend on the television as a source of entertainment and distraction.
Lately I’ve had a strong desire to change my patterns of inadequacy and find a balance between wants, needs, and shoulds. I’ve sat at the computer for hours, searching for tips on the Internet, I've written out lists, schedules, and ideas, and have even tried ignoring certain duties on certain days at the expense of having to do double duty on the morrow.
What I’ve found through all of my trial and error is that I HAVE to do my chores in order to stay sane. I HAVE to work out every day in order to feel like a person who is still alive and will continue living. And I HAVE to pursue my own hobbies in order to feel like a unique and worthwhile individual. But at the same time, I HAVE to care for the needs of my husband and children. In essence, that feeling that “something has to give” is the only thing I can afford to get rid of.
So where does that leave me? Right where I always should have been… at the point where I have to turn my children’s activities into a regular part of MY day. This isn’t necessarily the easiest solution, but it is an effective one. For instance, cleaning the living room by myself might take 15 minutes, while cleaning it with Brooklyn’s help would probably take 30 minutes. But that is 30 minutes that I spent doing something WITH her instead of DESPITE her. There are dozens of tiny chores we do throughout the day that a preschooler is both willing to, and capable of, helping with. We (and by “we” I mean “I”) need to take those opportunities to multitask, to teach our children about life, to spend one-on-one time with them, and to eliminate our guilt.
In case you can’t think of anything you could do WITH your preschooler by yourself, I put together a list of some of the things I’ve been trying with my girls. I hope it gives you some good ideas and helps you to get rid of some of that excess guilt!
- Teach your children about colors by letting them help you sort the laundry
- Teach your children math skills by letting them help you make dinner and measure all the ingredients
- Take a walk with your kids to go get the mail and let them play around while you’re at it
- Let your children be a part of your workout (such as your free weights!) Or let them work out with you!
- Read while your kids read next to you. You can have a snack bowl between you and both be wrapped in blankets. Very FUN!
- Craft while your kids craft. Set up a separate table for them with their own craft while you are working on your projects.
- Let your kids rinse dishes while you load the dishwasher
- Let children hold the dustpan while you sweep
- Play the vacuum monster game (Tell kids the vacuum will eat their toys if they don’t put them into basket protected by magic)
- Have a special Toy Box for your kids to play with when you are on the internet, or let them play video games while you are on the computer. (This only works if they ONLY get to do those things while you are on the computer.)
- Let your kids mimic you (allow them to play the ukulele while you are practicing guitar, write while you are writing, clean when you are cleaning, etc.)
- Run at the track while your kids run around. You can get a full workout and still keep your eyes on your kids!
- Weed and plant the garden together (have a special section for them to tromp around and get dirty without disrupting the plants)
- Let your kids tell YOU stories at bedtime while you get the younger kids ready for bed. Its amazing what they come up with and it helps them to develop better imaginations.
- Turn off the radio in the car and sing songs together while you drive.
These might seem like overly simple suggestions, but when you think about it, if your first steps are too big you’ll burn out before you do any good. It reminds me of Bob’s mantra (from What About Bob?) to take “baby steps”. As you slowly learn to involve your kids in the things you already do, you will be simultaneously training yourself to be more creative with them and to be a more active and involved parent. And who knows, if you keep moving forward, you may even reach super mom status…eventually!