The next time you feel bad about not getting enough time with the kids, read this.
If you’re a working parent, it probably feels like there are never enough hours in the day to feel like you’re doing a good job — at work or at home. Life feels like a constant blur of rushed chores, quick goodbyes and general insanity as you try to hold it all together among packing lunches, sitting through meetings and navigating demanding executives and even more demanding toddlers.
Welcome to the club! A recent survey outlined by Daily Mail found that the average mom has just 17 minutes a day to herself. And let’s be real. Even 17 minutes feels generous on some days. And the true bummer is that most moms would gladly sacrifice that alone time for just a few more minutes with those cute kids they spend 8-plus (or, you know, 12-plus if you’re working an NYC job and dealing with NYC subway delays) hours per day away from.
So, how can you cope? Here are seven tips to ensure you’re maximizing those few precious minutes — or if you’re lucky, hours — you get with your kids each day.
Draw boundaries at work
Some jobs command more after-hours attention than others, and you know your work culture better than we do. But that also means you likely know where you can safely draw lines. Creating boundaries with your boss and colleagues will work wonders to preserve your evening time with your kids. For example, if you tell your coworkers you are not available between 6 and 8 each night, stick with it.
Put the phone down!
Your kids, no matter how young, will know your attention is divided when you’re trying to play with them and check your work email. Put your phone down — no, not just next to you, but out of reach across the room — and give your children your undivided attention. That is true quality time.
Respect your own boundaries
So, you’ve finally trained your coworkers and boss not to email you asking for things in the evening — but then you violate your own rules and start firing off emails while your kid is eating dinner. You’ve just ruined your whole plan! Your colleagues will see the timestamp and think it’s fair game to start bugging you again.
Make dinnertime an event
Don’t just nibble your way through dinner while watching TV with your kid. That’s not exactly the best quality time. Make it a point to sit down with no digital distractions and eat a well-balanced meal together. Use that time to talk and interact and give your kids your undivided attention.
Play like it’s your job
Get down on the floor and build a fort. Make a mess and don’t worry about cleaning it up. Pretend you’re in a magical land and everyone is invisible. Make up names and clomp around like you don’t see each other. Ask your kids silly questions and let their imaginations soar. Reinforce their silly ideas and get into their fantasy with them. In other words, even though you’re tired after a long day’s work and all you want to do is clean up, get the kids ready for bed and have maybe 17 minutes to sit and breathe and scroll Instagram, the best thing you can do is actually abandon your sense of order for a little while. Instead, immerse yourself in your children’s world. You won’t ever regret doing that.
More: 5 Ways to Make Going Back to Work After Parental Leave Easier
Make the bedtime ritual fun
It may seem like a chore — and even painfully laborious — to get through the rigmarole of bath time and bedtime, especially if you’re dealing with a kid who kicks and screams, doesn’t want to wash his armpits, doesn’t want to get pajamas on and fights sleep like it’s his sworn enemy. But you can help set the tone by making bedtime activities more fun. Don’t rush to wash; instead, let your kid play in the tub — and play with them. When they’re laughing and playing, it will be easier to sneak that washcloth under the arms, and you’ll both have a better bath time. Then, snuggle up and read a book together. Ask them what they hope to dream about, and send them off to sleep feeling loved, engaged and supported.
And remember: Quality over quantity
Maybe you only have one or two hours a day with your kid or maybe even less. Your entire time at home with them may need to be the time when they’re getting ready for day care or school in the morning or getting ready for bed in the evening. The most important thing you can do, regardless of how much time you have or how it’s spent, is to create space in your head and your heart to give them you, and to make whatever time you have together special — even if it’s spent trying to get them to eat vegetables.