1. Carve out time, however small, every day
When you are missing large quantities of time with your children, you need to be careful that the time you do spend with them is quality-based. Little moments matter. Carve out time and use it wisely. Remember when those moments arrive, to really listen to your kids. Be present with them. Turn off your phone. When you are home, be home and leave work at work-- don’t let it distract you mentally from being with your family.
2. Plan Ahead
It helps to make lists of things that have to be done daily, weekly, monthly, and yes, even seasonally. Look at the year as a whole and ask yourself what responsibilities you can foresee ahead of time, both at work and at home. Birthdays and holidays, for example, come every year; they don’t need to be scrambled for as an unexpected event. Plan in advance and touch-up when the time comes. For your daily routine, do as much as possible the night before, after the kids are asleep. Set out clothes for the next day, pack lunches, keep your keys and cell phone in the same place every night. Have a plan for breakfast, and try to be up and have it ready for the kids before they wake up. If things are staged like this, you will feel less hurried and you will be able to focus your energy on moments with them.
3. Ditch the TV, Facebook and other Time Wasters
This may not be a popular tip, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t vital. The reality is, you can’t do it all and do it well. Something has to give. Sacrifices are being made whether you choose them or not. So ask yourself, when your children only have one childhood, would you rather sacrifice time with them, when they need you, or sacrifice superficial entertainment and time wasting activities? If you are making the most of your time with your kids to just be with them, then anytime after that should be focused on laundry, food planning, bills, etc. If you feel like you don’t have time for it all, it’s because you don’t. Facebook and television are sensible casualties.
4. Embrace the dinner table
Make family meals sacred. Dinner together around the table is a valuable opportunity and should be seized whenever possible. Make it a habitual priority to share a meal without distraction, ideally once a day. Connect as a family. Talk about your day. Make plans and exchange ideas for activities you would like to do together in the future.
5. Record yourself
Your children crave you. They need YOU. If you can’t be there, give them something of yourself that they can feel close to you with during the periods you have to be apart. Record yourself talking, singing or reading their favorite book. Hallmark, for instance, offers a series of recordable storybooks. It will never take the place of them needing you there in the flesh to read to them, but in the moments they are missing you most, it will give them something to hold onto. Likewise, if there are important milestones, occasions or events for your child that you are unable to attend, ask someone to video tape it for you. Most importantly, make sure your child knows you took the time to watch it. These gestures are tangible for a child to hold and feel loved.
6. Construct a Family Calendar
Organization comes more naturally to some, than others. As a working mother, the need for organization is unavoidable. Create a family calendar to avoid scheduling conflicts, misunderstandings, and minimize stress. Keep it in a central location and use it for all appointments, deadlines, projects, and even chore charts. Undoubtedly there will still be times when things get shuffled or don’t run according to plan, but it will give you a much needed guideline as you navigate life. Stay flexible, but set goals and keep track of commitments together.
7. Limit activities!
Our culture pushes far too many choices and events down our throats. It actually robs us of vital bonding time, and it robs your child time to create, explore and experience their childhood. Don’t fill their time with things to “do.” Instead, create space to teach them how to grow and be. Consider the important concepts offered in books such as “The Hurried Child,” by David Elkind, as well as the vital reflections found in the pages of books like, “Breathe” and “Rest”, both written by Keri Wyatt Kent. These books and others like them, give the insightful perspective of explaining how harmful and backwards it is when we over schedule. Don’t make over scheduling an option. Just say no. Limit your kids to one after school activity. Yes, just one. Less, really is more.
8. Make a Two-Way Letter Box
Decorate a shoebox, an old mailbox, or any container, and designate it as a special letter box between you and your child. Leave notes in it for them often. Encourage them to leave notes and pictures in there for you. You can even put in a picture of yourself at work with a sign that says “I miss you” on it. This will enhance your bond while you are apart and build on the moments you have together.
9. Cook and Plan Meals in Advance
Make kid-friendly meals in advance or cook something quick and easy. Utilize a great crock-pot recipe book, and make new meals out of left overs. When you cook, make extra to stretch out for multiple meals. Quality meals are important, but there are plenty of resources available to streamline the process of meal making so you can stress less and enjoy your meal time more.
10. Create Family Traditions and Activities
Nurturing your family dynamic and opening opportunities for everyone to bond is crucial. Luckily, there are simple, no-cost ways you can make this happen. Family game nights, weekend walks, and holiday traditions like making cookies, will build awesome moments for family bonding. Create activities that fit into your schedule and show enthusiasm so everyone learns to cherish and look forward to them. The rituals that build closeness in your family don’t cost anything. Cuddle time, bedtimes stories, trips to the library and even yard work, can be made into special time. When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter what the activity is, as long as you do it together. Remember what matters most, and keep in mind that of all the balls you are juggling, family is the only one that should never be tossed aside.