I listened to a podcast or book recently that shared an anecdote about a working mom juggling four children, a successful career, and plenty of hobbies and volunteer work. The part that stuck out what how this woman used pockets of her time. She had ten minutes between pre-school drop off and elementary school drop-off and she used them to read “Box Car Children” books to her kids in the car. Reading to her kids was important to her and she found time in unlikely places for the things that mattered.
And the result? She felt like she had time for “all the things” in a busy schedule.
Those few sentences describing her habit of reading in the car had me thinking a lot about how I use pockets of my time with my kids over the last few weeks.
This morning, when I had 20 minutes before the babysitter got here to take the kids to music + activity classes, I was feeling a little bit of mom guilt. We have a busy week ahead of us and I was feeling like I wasn’t getting a lot of “quality down time” with my kids. So we spent 7 minutes reading books on the couch, all snuggled in together. And then we got dressed and I sent them out the door.
Those 7 minutes reframed my whole morning.
Spending 5-10 minutes doing the things that matter to you, whatever it is, has a big impact on how you view the rest of your day. It might not be feasible to have three hours each afternoon to lounge around with your kids, or wander through a museum, or make and decorate sugar cookies with them, but you can usually find ten minutes.
Part way into our busy fall schedule, here are a few things I’ve been using to help us all feel connected as a family. On days that include lots of outings with friends or busy events on campus, finding a few minutes to connect in the quiet of our apartment helps us all slow down (and leaves me feeling like a happier mom).
- Read a book: The closeness that comes from sitting together and engaging in a story (whether you’re actually reading or just talking about the pictures) helps you feel connected. Grab a few books and spend 10 minutes on the couch together.
- Tickle + snuggle: My kids love to be tickled and when I put everything else aside and just snuggle + tickle them for a few minutes, everything seems right in the world.
- Have a dance party: We survived the 4 o’clock hour for almost the first whole year of two children by having dance parties. Crank up Disney tunes or your favorite music and let go. Let your kids see you be goofy. Feel the music.
- Sit on the floor and ask questions: It says more about my current mothering that just fifteen minutes with my phone in the other room and being on the floor with my kids feels so intentional. That said, there are lots of other things that demand your attention when you’re with your kids: meal prep, the dishes, the laundry, cleaning, getting kids ready to go, getting yourself dressed. Making ten minutes where the only to-do item is to sit on the floor and talk, on their level, makes a difference. I’ve found I feel better giving them 10 minutes of undivided attention than a few hours of slightly divided attention.
- Build a tower: If you don’t have a chatterbox, replace the previous “sit on the floor and ask questions” with “sit on the floor and build a tower.” For some kids it is easy to have a conversation when their little hands are busy building something.
- Roll or throw a ball: This is getting repetitive but get on their level and give them your eye contact.
- Play hide and seek: This is usually my go-to when I need a few minutes to finish cleaning or get ready because I can spend the first minute they’re hiding finishing up my thing before going to “find” them. There is little sweeter, though, than the giggles that fill our apartment when someone is “found” so, whether you’re sneaking in a teeth brushing session or not, I’m going to recommend this one anyway.