Tag Archives: priorities

Can you spend too much time with your kids?

Real Simple magazine recently reported that as of 2010, mothers (working and SAHMs) spend an average of fourteen hours a week on childcare—up from ten hours a week in 1965.

To which I say, um, what?

I realize I might be in the most time-intensive phase of parenting right now, where I still have young children at home, but I spend nearly fourteen hours a day with my children. And even if I my children were older and I were working, I would still have at least four hours a day in their presence on weekdays, and at least that on weekends.

I’m guessing (slash hoping) “child care” here means more than just “spending time with your child,” since I also have a hard time imagining mothers in 1965 shunting their children off for all but 85 minutes a day. I’m not “caring” for my children every single second of the day, but I’m still mothering them, whether the TV is on, whether they’re playing in the backyard, whether I’m on the computer—I’m on the clock, doling out food and punishments and advice. (So how is that not child care?)

But according to the Real Simple article, even two hours a day of caring for your own children is too much:

One study suggested that children who are the center of their parents’ universes may grow up to become more neurotic adolescents. The Free Range Kids movement, started by author Lenore Skenazy, has gained traction by advocating for unstructured and less-supervised play. Elisabeth Badinter, author of The Conflict, suggests that motherhood need not be a full-time profession. “Some parents believe that a good mother puts her child’s needs before everything else—and that’s not healthy,” says Badinter. Nor does it make us the best role models. After all, if our ultimate goal is to have our kids find personal fulfillment, perhaps we should lead by example: By putting ourselves at the top of our own to-do lists.

Wait, seriously? Somehow we’re saying that spending more than an hour and a half a day caring for your child is not only making them the center of your universe and putting yourself last, but also creating neuroses and makes us bad role models?

I think we’re conflating several very different things: taking care of our children, spending time with them and not making ourselves a priority. A very young child will not be able to tell the difference, but I would hope that an adult could. The difference isn’t something you measure in minutes: it’s measured in a mother’s mindset.

Yes, my children are my top priority and the biggest segment of my day right now. Honestly, whether you’re working or staying at home—heck, whether your children are infants or adults—if your child really needed you, would you say, “Oh, honey, I’m having my me time. I’ll help you with that impending peril/broken arm/unplanned pregnancy during your allotted two hours”? Is that really the way to be a good example of personal fulfillment?

Yes, we want our children to find personal fulfillment, and (obviously, I hope) we all want to find that ourselves. HOWEVER, I personally feel that exemplifying personal nirvana isn’t the main goal of full-time parenting. I have taken charge of my children’s formative years because I want to teach them the most important things in life—how to treat other people, the way to find true happiness (hint: it’s not by focusing only on yourself!), and the things we believe that will take them there—and that’s important enough to me to be willing to put in the time necessary to accomplish it.

A mother finding fulfillment in motherhood—in life—can put herself neither first nor last. Her children’s needs will come before hers quite regularly because she recognizes the level of commitment motherhood warrants, but she’s not going to forgo all meals until her children are independent, successful and grown.

She does model someone who sets personal goals, always learning, and devotes personal time to her own sanity and development. But she manages to do that in a very careful balance, managing her priorities and most of all her children and their physical and emotional needs. And importantly (to me), she looks for that personal fulfillment in the time she spends with (and caring for) her children, too. It is never easy, but it is worth it.

What do you think? What’s the difference between spending time with your children and “child care”? Can you spend too much time with your children?

Photo credits: watching timer—me!; multitasking dad—Henrik Betnér

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Why I quit working

I was very lucky to be able to work at home up until just before Rachel, my third, was born. In some ways, it was the best of both worlds: I only had to put in a few hours a day, I helped with our expenses, I got the opportunity to exercise my mind and (kind of) associate with other adults (though I don’t know of blog comments “count,” especially with some of the ugly conflicts there that still bug me).

On the other hand, I almost never regret leaving the “workforce.” I liked my job and my boss, but I was spending waaay too much time on the computer. It hasn’t gotten all the way better, unfortunately, but I’m glad that I don’t have to be online for those hours a day anymore.

Over on the Power of Moms recently, I read an article about Telena Hall, who went from full-time WAHM to mostly SAHM. She still receives some resistance for her decision, but I think she has a great perspective on the working/nonworking debate:

I continue to work on a much smaller level and I still associate with the same women who were once my peers (and are now my superiors). They continue to encourage me to work more and move back into management. They often remind me of the money I can earn, or influence I’ll have in that position. I have to remind myself that I have the greatest influence over my children, and that one day they will grow up to influence the world. I came to realize that quantity time could not be replaced with quality time. My children needed BOTH.

There are many wonderful opportunities we can pursue as moms and as women. In stepping down from my position was I saying it is wrong for a woman to work? Not at all. It was simply a matter of dividing my time and prioritizing accordingly.

Telena concludes, quoting a church leader, “A woman need not sing all the verses of her song at the same time.” There are seasons in our lives, and after reviewing her priorities, she decided that this season was the time she needed to be with her young children, and maybe in another season, she might return to working—or not.

For me, it wasn’t a big change in my schedule to free up those hours—but it made a big difference in terms of my stress levels (for a while). I continue to struggle with some things I miss—like feeling valued, etc., which is kind of funny since I know my boss valued me, but we didn’t have to communicate all that often—but I know that putting my family first, above a nebulous, difficult to achieve and easy to lose “feeling,” is the best bet I can make right now.

What do you think? What are your priorities? How have you changed your schedule or life for them?

Photo by Sean Dreilinger

Motherhood is enough of an accomplishment

I’m typing this on a bouncing laptop. It’s on my knees as I rock Rachel’s bouncy seat with one foot. She has just one fussy time every day: 8 AM to 1 AM the next morning. All it takes to calm her down is to hold her constantly, frequently while bouncing her, and feed her every half hour.

I hope it goes without saying that my house is a little trashed, and I’m just glad the other two are getting along really well these days.

I’m handling it okay, actually. I like holding her, and she’s not that heavy, and usually I can sit down while I’m doing it. We have a television, and it won’t kill the kids if they watch it. I’m used to living in my messy house and raising the next generation of couch potatoes 😀 . Plus, in a few weeks, Rachel should be able to spend more than two hours a day out of my arms. (I realize, of course, there is no guarantee here, but I’ll keep hoping.)

My arms do get a little tired, of course—I do look forward to Ryan coming home so I can get up and do something. And that, I think, is the major drawback: I can’t get anything else done.

Naturally, I have a long list of things I’d like to do, not the least of which is stop watching so much television, but also feed myself and the rest of our family, vacuum for the first time in *mumblemumbleweeks*, and, say, use the bathroom. (Reading and writing are high on my list, too, but a little less necessary, I guess.) (A little.) Holding a baby, even one that can often be held comfortably with one arm, makes it hard to do much of anything.

But it’s okay. It’s okay if Rachel cries for a few minutes while I use the bathroom, or make sandwiches. And it’s okay, too, if I don’t accomplish everything that I’d really like to beyond those basics—these are precious days, and frankly, I’m already doing enough. I’m raising three kids and trying to meet their needs. And if right now, that’s all I can squeeze into a day, it’s okay.

At least, I’m trying to convince myself it is 😉 .

What do you think? Do you ever have unrealistic expectations for yourself? What do you do to try to fix that?

(Happy anniversary, Ryan!)

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A good woman

Think about a good woman you know—your mother, a friend, a neighbor. What does she do that makes her so good?

For me, it’s not so much what the good women that I know do, it’s how much. As Proverbs says, a virtuous woman “looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” I’m always impressed by the women around me who take the time (because they don’t just find it!) to care for their families, and for others around them; women who seem to always be thinking of others and providing for them; women who still worry they’re not doing enough.

These women have busy, full lives—and perhaps surprisingly, they always end up worrying they’ve neglected something or forgotten someone, or that they need to cram more into their lives of service.

Last week at the LDS General Conference, General Relief Society President Julie B. Beck agreed that good women simply have more to do than their lives can fit:

A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do. Life is not calm for most women, and each day seems to require the accomplishment of a million things, most of which are important.

I definitely have that part down 😉 . It’s Sister Beck’s next point that I’ve been struggling with a lot lately:

A good woman must constantly resist alluring and deceptive messages from many sources telling her that she is entitled to more time away from her responsibilities and that she deserves a life of greater ease and independence.

Sometimes, the more I fret over whether I’m doing enough, inside my home and out, the more I shut down and try to escape from even the most basic of my responsibilities. (Usually by wasting time online—and I don’t mean something even as productive as blogging. I mean the kind of time suck where after two hours, you can’t really remember what you’ve been doing.)

Sister Beck points out that the best way we can be a good woman isn’t to try to accomplish everything, and it’s especially not to focus only on ourselves. While we definitely need to remember to make time for ourselves (or there won’t be anything for us to give!), we have to focus on our responsibilities and prioritize as well.

So what do you think you can let go of? Can you tell the difference when you focus more on yourself—or too much on yourself?

(In case you’re wondering, Sister Beck says that the best way to prioritize is through personal revelation from God about what is most important and best for us and our families.)

Photo by Tom Goskar

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Throw yourself into your work

Be sure to check out my guest post on literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog today, The Top Seven Things Every Aspiring Author’s Website Must Have!

stepping_stonesI know it’s been a while, but I haven’t forgotten about our path to fulfillment!

One of the things that helps me to just relax and enjoy motherhood is doing just that. When I get down on the floor and let myself play with them—not worrying about how much I’d rather be writing or whether a new story or comment or email has come along—is not only (at least mildly) entertaining, it makes me feel like a good mother. Woot for a sense of accomplishment.

Now, this is hard for me, because I don’t really find my kids’ games all that stimulating. (They’re under the age of four; I’m not. It’s okay.) But placing that priority on my children and their play helps me to get my priorities in order.

kids-january-2009-005On the other hand, I’ve found activities we enjoy together—reading, for example. And even when the play isn’t something I would have chosen (I grew up with three sisters! I don’t know how to play cars!), I find that the best part is often watching my kids play, imagine and interact.

I can’t do it all the time, and I know that we have to always strive to take time for ourselves, but when I do make the effort to throw myself into my work as a mother, I actually enjoy it more and worry less.

What do you think? Have you found benefits from playing with your kids? What do you like to play?

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Life as a juggler

carol_bartzCarol Bartz is a busy woman. She’s a CEO (again), a breast cancer survivor, a community volunteer—and, oh yeah, a mom. While her children are now grown, she’s had all these balls in the air at the same time,

Five years ago, when she still had children at home, Business Week interviewed her. Toward the end of their article, they highlighted her commitment to family:

Bartz showed up for a board meeting one night with a hugely swollen leg. Turns out, she had rushed from work to her daughter’s soccer game and slipped, twisting her ankle. She hobbled to the game, then limped to the board meeting. Because the . . . freezer had no ice, she ended up sitting with a bag of frozen peas on her foot. But she carried on as usual, Nierenberg says. . . .

Bartz encourages her employees to have a life outside of work as well. Autodesk’s staffers can receive several hours off a month to help out at their children’s schools. A few weeks ago, Bartz taught 60 or so of her employees’ kids, who showed up for the company’s bring-your-kids-to-work day, how to execute a real business handshake (hand should not be limp, look the person in the eye).

How does Carol Bartz juggle all these roles? The interview hinted at that as well—but I think the two biggest keys are perspective and priorities.

First, she placed her family as her highest priority:

Ever since her daughter, who’s now 15, was in elementary school, Bartz would sit down with her at the beginning of each school year and promise to come to certain school events — say, a Christmas concert or the Halloween party. “I don’t care if the Pope comes to Autodesk, I’m still going to spend that time with her,” she says. Recently, she canceled a business dinner to attend her daughter’s first prom.

juggle_ballsSecond, Carol recognized that she wasn’t going to be perfect:

I have a belief that life isn’t about balance, because balance is perfection. Rather, it’s about catching the ball before it hits the floor.

I may not be a CEO, or even employed outside the home, but I take encouragement from that counsel. And you know what? Sometimes even the best jugglers drop the balls. What do they do? They pick them up and keep practicing.

How have you caught the ball before it hit the floor? How have you continued after dropping the ball?

Photo credit: juggle balls—Dani Simmonds

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