The New York Times published an article a couple days ago that America’s mothers are in crisis. More than 1 million have left the workforce. For nearly a year now, most of our kids have not been in school so many of you have been simultaneously managing kids at home while struggling with pivoting your organizations and keeping them afloat. Are there enough hours in a day? In my family, we’ve got 4 kids: a high schooler, a middle schooler, a third grader and a newborn. I just returned to work last month. How do we maximize our presence with our kids in times like these? I’ve told Becky many times I never give parenting advice unless asked. She asked, so here I am! I have a lot I would love to share with you (even mapped to the Impact with Integrity course!), but for now I know you’re busy so I want to give you just 3 quick parenting tips that take under 15 minutes. I’m not saying your kids only need 15 minutes, but 15 great minutes is better than hours of broken promises.
1) Does your face light up?
First thing is, what do your kids see when they walk into the room. Do they see you wondering if they’ve done their homework? Or that they’ve interrupted your Zoom call? Or does your face light up? How someone responds to you when you first walk into a room can mean so much more than the care you think you’re giving when you’re asking what they need or staying on top of their schedules. Toni Morrison explains it so beautifully with Oprah. So the first thing is, show them you are glad to see them!
2) Instead of breaking hours of promised time, how about a 3 minute dance break?
I talk to many parents who feel guilty that they’ve promised their child an outing or several hours of play time that they end up having to cancel due to work emergencies. There were years when I was a 100% single parent supervising 3 programs (all in constant crisis mode) with no family nearby. Sometimes my toddler son would bat the phone out of my hands before he could talk. Then there was the time I was at a restaurant taking care of an emergency placement of a foster child when a stranger scolded me for being on the phone instead of enjoying dinner with my son. That stranger didn’t know what my work emergency was, but I felt terrible nonetheless. When I got home, my son and I took three minutes to dance to Sara Bareilles’ Brave.
I’ve got videos since I married in 2018, of me, my husband and stepkids and son dancing in the kitchen. Just one song at a time. Our newborn gets a 15 second song we made up sung to her whenever we’re taking a breather. It’s not a lot of time. But it is happy, makes memories and makes our kids feel we’re still here. Dance parties don’t have to be all night long. A few minutes at a time can do a world of good! Here’s an oldie but goodie of my son making up a laundry song and dance.
3) In the time you do have together, do something you actually enjoy!
We have a rule in our house. We don’t read books to our kids that we don’t like. If you actually can’t stand Barney or that game your child loves, don’t spend the precious 15 minutes you have on something you don’t enjoy! I know this may seem counter to loving your child by not entering the world they are in, but quality time is not quality when you hate it! My family gets a smiling mom when playing a card game or a few rounds of Connect Four vs frustrated mom who can’t figure out the controls or the ground from the sky in a video game. My mom never played board games. Some of my best memories with my mom were joining her to watch Dallas and Dynasty! Those hours of nighttime soaps for her were huge reliefs not only because she was teaching middle school all day but her commute was sometimes up to 2 hours through ice and snow each way. These breaks should feel like breaks for you too.
Perhaps some day in the future we’ll have more in depth tips on how to not spend your days nagging or reminding your kids and raising them up to take 100% responsibility as we at the Billions Institute teach in the work environment. But in the meantime, we hope your family is healthy and well and that these tips may have been helpful because we’ve still got a few months at least to go getting through this pandemic. If you’d find it helpful, maybe Becky and I can talk about these in an upcoming podcast!
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