I feel totally strapped for time lately. The older I get, the more responsibilities I have, and it seems like every moment offers a thousand things to do--all of them "good" uses of my time.
What I've found, however, is that I find more purpose and meaning in my life when I give my children a gift they crave--uninterrupted time with Mom.
It hasn't been easy to do this, and I'm far from perfect, but here are some things that are working for us right now--even in the midst of our chaos, and even though I'm busier now than I've ever been in my life.
(1) I occasionally let my children alternate who gets to stay up a little bit later for some one-on-one time. My two-year-old demands it from me all day, so he goes right to bed after our stories, prayers, and lullabies (my FAVORITE time of the day with him...so cute). Then my three oldest take turns staying up and choosing an activity they want to do for 20-25 minutes.
One evening, my daughter Alia wanted to look through some coins her great-grandpa gave us for Christmas. He even gave us this cool magnifying glass you can wear on your head. Is that not so fun?
I had to take a turn.
We don't always go through boxes of coins. Sometimes we just sit on my bed and snuggle. Other times, we play a game, listen to music, or paint our toenails. And we don't do this every night--maybe once a week. It's been great, though--a time to build memories and really enjoy being together.
I've discovered that the activity is irrelevant. What ends up happening is that we talk about things that are on their minds--things like relationships with their friends at school, weird things they've been hearing on the playground, or the "facts of life." There are so many things my children won't say while I'm dishing up dinner or driving to the park. The setting has got to be right.
(2) We alternate "date nights" between mom and dad and each of the children.
Date 1: Dad and Alia
Date 2: Mom and Grace
Date 3: Dad and Ethan
Date 4: Mom and Alia
Date 5: Dad and Grace
Date 6: Mom and Ethan
The budget is $5, the time allotment is about 90 minutes, and the benefits are unbelievable. We talk about these dates all the time--even though they only happen once or twice a month. Our family feels close. We love being together, and we look forward to spending time one-on-one. I love it.
(3) One final thing I'll mention is that my husband and I both try to take advantage of the "little moments" of the day. Whenever our children sit down by us, we hug them and kiss them and say, "Do you know how much I love you?"
When someone asks a serious question, we try to drop everything we can to sit and answer it clearly.
When someone feels sad or misunderstood or excited to share something important, we stop and take the time to really listen.
I don't know if I'll ever be perfect at this, but the more I try, the better it gets. We're juggling messes and whining and bickering and mistakes all day long, but somehow those things don't seem to matter when the most important things are in the right place.
If anyone has any other ideas to add, I'd love to hear them. I learn so much from my online friends, and I know my children will appreciate any advice you have to offer. We all will!