Sometimes it can feel as though life is moving forward at a break-neck speed. There’s no time to enjoy and just be for a minute. Forget trying to do anything for yourself — like reading a book for fun, trying your hand at a new hobby, or even just working out and showering regularly. So finding or making more time to spend with your kids may seem impossible. However, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we can probably find small pockets of time scattered throughout our days that we could be using differently. And perhaps, if we could make up our minds to be more intentional about the time that we spend with our children, we could feel less guilty about taking advantage of these “stolen moments.” But how can we maximize our time? How can we be more intentional?
1. Plan and prepare, then prepare some more.
Preparation is the only way we will be able to use our time more efficiently. This has been a tough lesson for me to learn over many years. I am the world’s greatest procrastinator — in part because I am also a perfectionist. (I am embarrassed to admit that sometimes I need the drama of an impending deadline to get me moving.) What do I recommend? Keep a planner, if you don’t already, and consult it regularly. I have gotten to where I like to plan out my day the night before — I pack lunches, snacks and lay out clothes every night after dinner. Backpacks, nap mats, and any other necessary items are ready and waiting by the front door. This helps to reduce some of the school morning struggles.
I also try not to have more than three major items on my to-do list each day — outside of meals, school drop-off and pick-up, dishes and laundry, regularly scheduled naps. You know, the non-negotiables. I make a tentative schedule for when these items are supposed to happen. That way, I don’t become overwhelmed amid the daily chaos. And my chances of actually accomplishing something increase exponentially.
Preparing a tentative schedule for the day has the bonus of helping you better identify pockets of time that you can use to spend some special, intentional time with each of your kiddos. Even 10 or 15 extra minutes with your baby can make them feel on top of the world!
2. Multi-tasking can be your friend, but it can also be your foe.
Choose the correct times and activities. Are you playing with your toddler? Probably not a great time to (also) reorganize your hall closet. Or, if your kids are anything like mine, you will end up with blue ballpoint pen ink all over your beige suede furniture.
Be present; play intentionally. Give your child 20 to 30 minutes of undivided attention. Then, when she’s napping, feel free to tackle that closet (or the giant pile of laundry). You will feel better about how you’ve spent your time, you will probably finish the task more quickly as you won’t have been distracted, and you will have filled your little cutie’s love tank.
The best way to multi-task efficiently? Combine something that takes no mental energy with something that requires (some) attention, like cleaning up the dinner dishes while quizzing your elementary student on this week’s spelling words. Let me reiterate, this does not mean disappearing into your smartphone or answering emails at the dinner table. This brings me to my next point…
3. Put down the phone and all the other electronic waste.
Technology is a double-edged sword. All of this STUFF that’s supposed to make our lives simpler and easier has added its own clutter. In fact, for many of us, all of the STUFF has made us less effective. Take a long, hard look at yourself. Are you spending too much time consuming media or using a device? Better yet, ask your children what they think. Little kids don’t lie. At least not about this kind of stuff. (They may lie about eating their vegetables, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Every now and then, my preschooler will come into my home office and (forcefully) shut my laptop — that’s usually my clue that it’s time for a break. Other times, she has taken my smartphone out of my hands, and yelled “no more, mommy!” Yikes. That is NOT the kind of parent I want to be. She’s four — she’s bound to start remembering some of this stuff.
Getting lost on Facebook or Pinterest seem like a small thing, but it can be a huge time-suck. I promise the world will not end if you don’t catch up on your newsfeed every five minutes. Instead, put down the phone, turn off the computer, and build a lego castle with your kid. That, by far, is time well spent.
If you can relate, here are a few ideas that have worked for me.
- Try deleting (or taking a break) from the app or device that seems to be sucking the most time.
- Silencing or shutting down these devices for a set period of time (every day) can also help. I constantly have to remind myself — especially as a work-from-home mom — that boundaries are important, and it’s perfectly acceptable to take time for myself, my husband, and my girls. Otherwise, I will end up wondering where my life, and all these precious busy years, went.
- Disappearing from social media isn’t an option for me nowadays (it’s my livelihood), but limiting the amount of time I spend is. Deciding that I am only going to work and use social media during specific hours has made a world of difference. Of course, there are always exceptions, and I am only human. But being more intentional has definitely helped with some of the time-suck and makes me a better parent.
Time is a gift. I don’t want to waste it or fritter it away. Pinning 20 pictures of my dream bathroom is not more important than reading a story to my daughter. When we are more intentional with our time and make or find more time with our kids, we are not only enjoying these little years more fully, but we are leaving a lasting (and loving) impression on our babies.