When I read that Madonna supposedly has 15-minute appointment blocks in her schedule for one-on-one time with each child for singing, homework, cooking, it sounded crazy to me. But how many parents have mobiles grafted to their ears, even navigating vehicles, slipping out of meetings with clients … getting through the day managing their offspring?
Maybe Madonna’s strategy is wise? We recommend to managers they have lots of short, set one-on-one times with staff. At least 15 minutes dedicated listening without interruption is one of the best gifts you can give to anyone, let alone your children. Is this really so hard to achieve?
Technology has multiplied our output, no question, and the demands placed on us have accordingly increased. You probably feel like one of those mice on a wheel, scurrying endlessly as the wheel whizzes around. You’ll have noticed by now that when you mention your hyperactivity to others, they feel the urge to “top” this by claiming they are even busier. Most of us are now experiencing workplace Olympics, and while some thrive, others are drained. And what is happening to our kids? Do they simply not see us enough or see us too drained to be a wonderful interactive parent?
What kind of “competition” is this anyway? In the meantime, your children are growing, developing and forming impressions of you, no matter how much you airbrush matters or worse, when you snap at them to “Just deal with it!” Would you have wanted a whirling dervish for a parent when you were growing up? The answer is mostly likely “no” – it was good, wasn’t it, to come home and have a non-judgmental chat with someone who’d good naturedly put aside their responsibilities and to-do list, and who cuddled up with you, or sat across some afternoon tea while you talked about the day. No hurry, no fuss, and no sense that they had something better to do. (OK, they may have conveyed that to you, but everyone will, in varying amounts…)
Times have hastened since then, and deep-seated guilt about parenting never really goes; it’s built in (and perhaps is a survival of the species mind control device).
And these days working grandparents mean the grandparents are likely not retired and still chasing wild ambitions. So even grandparents might be juggling their grandkids!
Here’s what you can do when juggling children and work:
- Love and treasure them and let them know it – small gestures are plenty
- Not endless shows of compensatory goodies, but a few minutes rough and tumble (for boys) and a sprawly chat with your girls (if they sidle up to you – that’s when they’re wanting it) or maybe go for gender mixing and do vice versa!
- If you can’t talk with them then and there, give them undivided attention when you tell them this and make that time for the chat. Stick to it, and give them more time if they need it. Don’t let a worried look go behind closed doors on either side.
- Don’t interrupt them, even if you know what they’re going to talk about. Do you like being second-guessed all the time? Give them space to be who they are, and to express themselves accordingly.
- Don’t be an angel for Facebook and a devil at home. Don’t be fake, and keep private stuff away from social media platforms. Don’t BS your children. Live in the real world, and not in some tricked-up la-la land of your own devising. IN FACT, step away from Facebook and spend that time FACE TO FACE with your kids.
- Giving time is an investment that reaps dividends – crying time-poor (for nearest and dearest) means that they one day may have no time for you when you most need it.
- Don’t preach reduction in screen time when then you are also glued to your screens. Walk outside the door with them, go to a park … plan a weekend hike or a holiday, plan big time with them. Get fit with them, get fit for you and for them!
- Slow down when you can. That’s vital for you – and your children. Take every opportunity. Really look at them and listen to them.
- If you do a lot of business travel make Skype or Face Time a regular slot, but have an unanticipated surprise topic or story – so it is never same old same old…
- Plan a game that is interactive fun and creative with your kids. Don’t wait to be creative for a birthday party display to other kids and families.
- Take time off work to go to sports, attend a special competition, be an involved parent – someone they are proud of.
You may be surprised to find that those intense dedicated moments don’t last too long anyway as the child bounces away, replenished – and you? (Oh, that’s right – there’s work to be done, but now you feel a bit sleepy.)
When you feel good and your kids feel good you revive yourself and you become much more productive, and the guilt factor evaporates!
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.