By Kylie Dawson
If you’re like me, you want to spend quality time with your children, time where you are present, time that contributes to creating connection and a healthy relationship. But, you also have a range of responsibilities, priorities, tasks and obligations, and you also need to make time for yourself and other relationships. Whilst figuring out how to balance your time, and where to direct your energy, is probably going to be a lifelong challenge, I have provided some ideas below that might provide some help.
Tip 1: Determine what your priorities are
If you get 10 minutes in the car on the drive between work and day care, or on the way to the shops, use your voice memos to record yourself thinking about what you want to prioritise. Maybe family time is something you want to prioritise, and you want to commit to having a family meal together every day or going on a family walk with the dog every weekend. Thinking about it, verbalising it, and documenting it somewhere visible can be helpful and can assist with keeping it more at the forefront of our mind during our busy day.
Tip 2: You can’t do it all!
There are only 24 hours in a day, you are only one person, and you have lots of competing priorities, wants, desires, obligations, and tasks to manage; you can’t do it all! It can be super hard to say no to events or people, it can also be hard to say no to things on behalf of your children, such as the third birthday party of the weekend, but often it is doing these exact things that will help give you time to invest in your priorities.
Tip 3: Schedule quality time
You could consider scheduling in quality time with your child. For example, 6:30-7am each morning is “Daddy-Daughter Time”, and your daughter knows this because you call it “Daddy-daughter time” and tell her it is your special time together. During this time, you switch off your phone, follow your child’s lead (within reason, because letting the bathtub overflow to turn the bathroom into a swimming pool is not recommended!), and remain present and focused on your time with them. This is a real “quality vs quantity” approach; your 30 minutes of focused, intentional interaction will bring you and your child much more joy and connection than two hours of distracted time together.
Tip 4: Create relationship-building, memory-making rituals
Perhaps Friday nights are “Movie and Pizza Night” and maybe Sunday afternoons are “Cheese platter and Games” afternoons. Or maybe on Monday nights when your partner goes to the gym, you have an early dinner with the kids and then you all go on an evening walk around the neighbourhood with a torch to spot night time creatures. Or when you go to pottery classes every second Sunday, your partner takes the children for babycinos and toast at the local café before going to the park. Just having one or two rituals that you, and your children, can rely on can be really beneficial.
Tip 5: Establish set times where you turn devices off
Maybe you agree that from 4:30-6:30pm in your home, all devices are switched off and put away somewhere, remembering that most things can probably be managed without you for two hours. But, you can set your phone to allow calls to come through from certain numbers, or if a specific number calls you twice in a short span of time, and these settings can be useful if you have an elderly parent, or a situation you need to be contactable for. This is a super hard one but sticking with it can result in big differences.
Tip 6: Make time for yourself!
This might sound strange when you are trying to spend more quality time with your children, but you won’t want to spend time with them if you are exhausted and haven’t had 2 minutes to yourself in a month. After work, and before picking your child up, you could park under a shady tree round the corner from day care and listen to a 5-10 minute guided mediation. Or maybe the first thing you do when they are down for their nap is have a cup of tea and just sit for 10 minutes.
And finally, remember, Bluey’s parents are not real! Chilli and Bandit are great parenting role models, and they encourage us to play more with our children, however, I am not sure the show would be as popular if it had the parents trying to meet their children’s requests for play whilst juggling work, feeding the cat, raking out the guinea pig shelter, cleaning the house, buying groceries, caring for older parents, helping babysit nieces and nephews, baking cakes for the fete, negotiating screen time with children, making breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and making sure people have clean clothes to wear (and anyway, that could never fit into a 7 minute episode). So, give yourself a break, know you are doing your best, and that that is all you can ever do.