How much time do you spend with your kids?

October 15, 2018


Lately I find myself worrying constantly about whether or not I spend enough time with Coco and Theo. It's so bad that I actually had a really vivid dream last night in which I was having a heart-to-heart with an acquaintance over work schedules as a mom, and it was so emotional for me that it woke me up! It is true that I have a lot going on. I'm working quite a bit, I'm going to grad school two evenings per week, and I have a few side projects that I really care about and want to devote my time to working on. Plus, both kids go to school five days per week. So when it boils right down to it, we have evenings and weekends, and it feels to me that we spend a lot of time apart.

In response to this worry, I do what any normal person would do and I compare myself to others. Unlike 99.9% of situations that involve comparing, when I do this, I actually feel much better! J and I have really family-friendly work schedules and we're all home together by 4:15pm at the latest. I have the flexibility to walk Coco to and from school a few days per week and by the time I leave after dinner to go to my classes, Coco and Theo are getting ready for bed and will be asleep just a short while later anyway. We are fortunate enough to eat dinner together every night. And on the weekends, we have been doing some pretty great stuff. We went to Greenbluff to pick pumpkins one weekend, put all of our Halloween decorations up another. In the past month, we have walked to the park, taken the bus downtown, gone for bike rides, and walked to our favorite neighborhood pizza joint.

So why am I worried?

I guess a huge part of it is that when I envisioned motherhood (before becoming a mother!) I always imagined myself being a stay-at-home-mom. I thought that I would walk the kids to school and then take care of everything at the house and have a gorgeously clean home and everything would be sort of perfect and idyllic like a Little Golden Book or Leave it to Beaver. On some level, I still want that. But, the fact is, once Coco was about two and a half, I was really starting to lose my mind as a stay-at-home mom. I was horrible at structuring our days and creating a routine for us, and life felt chaotic. I remember craving a work environment with other adults, and a strong desire to get back to using my brain on a regular basis.

As it stands right now, I like working. I like getting dressed for work and feeling put together; I like using my brain and I actually like being busy. The problem is, I also need a lot of alone time spent recharging, reflecting and writing. I try to consolidate my work hours, errands and tasks into the hours when the kids are at school. That way,  the rest of the time, I can be with them, which feels right because I love them so much and they matter so much to me. Except sometimes, when I find myself so depleted and exhausted that I just wind up being irritable and grumpy when I'm with Coco and Theo, and that is the absolute worst!

I've had to accept that motherhood is a constant balancing act. Despite my biggest fear being that I will look back and regret not making the very most of this time, I have to realize that maybe I should be more afraid that I will look back and wish I had been more engaged and refreshed when spending time with my darlings.

Both Coco and Theo have begun to have more playdates and social life away from home. It's a bittersweet transition. On the one hand, I am grateful to be able to have an afternoon that is quiet, in which I can hear myself think and regroup. On the other hand, I want them near. I want to overhear their playing in the next room, even if we're not doing something all together. And I definitely want to make more trips to the library together than we do.

I'm curious, how much time do you spend with your kids? Do you feel like it's enough? How do you take time for yourself that doesn't take away from your time with them? Please share! I would love to know all about it.

Join the conversation!

  1. My youngest just started K this year after doing a year of pre-k until 12:30 all last year. I liked that routine of taking him to preschool and picking him up. I was still a stay at home mom but one who got a glorious 4 hour break!

    Now with him gone every day until 3 and his dad driving them both to school, I feel lost. I am a stay at home mom with an empty house that hates house work. Ha! I realize now how much I did with them outside of the home vs. keeping a house tidy.

    Now I don't know what the next step is. I don't want a full time job, I want to pick them up at 3 every day. But my brain is atrophied and I am bored and aimless. Should I go back to school? Get a part time job? Start writing? Or waste an entire morning researching facts of all the disparate interests of mine like I have been doing since August. LOL. Send help!

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    1. I hear you on wanting to be there to pick up at 3 every day. On the days that I can't, J can and that makes me happy. But it's so hard to find part-time work that is fulfilling during school hours! I feel your pain. Keep me posted. xo

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  2. Motherhood is a huge balancing act, and I think our roles (and ultimately what we decide to do) can evolve over time. The most important thing is that we're feeling sane and doing what we feel is right, whether that is working or staying home with our children. That's wonderful you have a family friendly work schedule, as I feel that's a rarity in American society, especially when I compare how it is in Switzerland with parents cutting back on the % of work while children are little, which really seems ideal.

    As for my personal situation, my son has been going to an after school program at his elementary school for the last 3 years. The program runs from when school gets out at 2:45 pm to 6:00 pm. It works out well due to both my husband and I working full time. He adjusted quite perfectly to the program, and it's quite common to do this in our area (we live on the outskirts of NYC). At first I felt guilty that he was spending so much time at school (9+ hours), but he's quite social and loves his friends. He also thrives on being on a schedule. During the program he's great about getting his homework done first, then they have a snack and play outside or inside, depending upon the weather. I truly think it's not the hours of time we have with our children, but the quality of time we have with them. For example, when I pick up my son from school, I put down my phone until he goes to bed for the night so we can talk, make dinner together, and not have any distractions or something that comes between us. We have special nights, such as on Fridays we have a "pizza movie night" where we make a homemade pizza and watch a movie together. He loves knowing what to expect each Friday, and is SO extremely excited when I pick him up, which makes me very happy.

    On the weekends my husband and I split up duties in terms of cleaning and taking him to various soccer games/birthday parties/etc, and when I have my free time I try my best to first do something for the household, then for myself, whether that is reading a book, taking a bath, or going for a manicure. It's so important that we take care of ourselves too!

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    1. Oh this is so rational and good, Stephanie! I love the idea of it not being the hours, but the quality of the time we spend with them. Absolutely! Phone-free time is probably the biggest thing of all. You have completely inspired me to be deliberate about making my time with my kids phone-free. (I already am feeling stressed because I like taking photos of them and stuff...so putting it away seems impossible, but this idea is really powerful. I'm going to find a way!)
      Did you also live in Switzerland? I agree with what you say about parents cutting their work percentage. It's so humane and sustainable to reduce work a bit with small children - for men and women, thereby sharing more at home. Technically I work part-time, but I have extra hours I work freelance and so it all adds up to full-time. I'm okay with it, but I wish each day were more consistent. The different routines M/W/F and Tu/Th seem hard for the kids.
      Thank you again for chiming in! It sounds like you've struck a really nice balance and it gives me hope. xo

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    2. Phone-free time is just so good. At first it seems impossible, but once I put it down (or hide it in another room, or leave it at home when I go out), I happen to not even think of it. It's such a freeing feeling that I'm not 'connected' 24/7!

      To answer your question.. I lived in Zuerich from 2009-2014. My husband is Swiss, and we go back once a year in the summer time for about a month to visit family and friends. It's wonderful, but keeps me missing it when I'm not there.

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