It’s about Quality Time, not Quantity
Maybe you’ve rolled your eyes at the cliche “quality over quantity” a time or two. I have, too. Trying to rate what is truly “quality” can be tough, especially when you’re stressing about the “quantity” of time you actually don’t have!
This life lesson may be something we all know we need already, but when you have children, that lesson is very in your face, especially when you are working from home.
Life Doesn’t Fit Into Perfectly Closed Boxes
As an entrepreneur, I have to say there are times that I can look with envy at the person with the traditional job who clocks in, works their shift, clocks out and completely leaves work at the office. When you have your own business, freelance, or any other variation of entrepreneurism, it’s hard to draw that clear line in the sand.
Work and play can seriously overlap. This is a double edged sword, but can also be pretty freakin awesome, since my work is scheduled around the life I want instead of the other way around.
There Are Days…
I struggle with the fact that I’m working from home and juggling two jobs. I feel pulled when I see all of the family playing together and I’m behind a computer screen. But I’ve figured out something super important: working from home is so overrated.
Let me first say that working from home does not guarantee that you will get to spend more time with your family. Sometimes, it is more a slap in the face of your family that you are there but not focused on them. Because, of course, the whole entire world revolves around your tiny little angels, right?
Those Self-Centered Children
To a child, they are the whole world. Try to just empathize with them – they are experiencing a whole new world on a daily basis. The first five years of life – think of all you learn and start to do! The next five…adding in the realization that there are others out there who have their own emotions and perspectives on the world. And then the next five…figuring out how to mesh those two together and learn and go in harmony with others!
That’s a broad generalization, and this is clearly a rant I’ve run down – but this will get me back around to my point. Young children simply live the life of wonder and awe that happens when you are experiencing something that could be the best – or the worst- on the whole world on a regular basis.
Quantity Is The Issue!
So getting back to working from home. In all their innocence and wonder, small children, especially, are completely oblivious that their parents may actually have something to do that does not involve entertaining them. So they barge in and you:
- Shout “not now – I’m working!” and shove them out the door
- Stop and listen and then get caught up in helping them that you lose the rest of the day and don’t get whatever you needed to do accomplished.
Again, two broad brush strokes, but essentially the extreme to a common them:
Multitasking can result in you being a 'jack of all trades, master of none.'Click To Tweet
Now you are stretched for time, your patience is thin, and you haven’t really accomplished anything.
Focused Time = Quality
Time block. That’s it. That’s my solution, and that’s what I highly recommend to each and every one of you. It is much, much better to be the parent who is looking into their child’s eyes than sitting next to them on the phone going through your emails while you “hang out”.
I’m the first to admit that it’s hard, especially when, sometimes, it’s flat out boring or annoying jumping into their play (oh yes, I did just say that, and you aren’t the only one who doesn’t really want to “play” all the time).
- So here are a few tips to navigate time with your children so it truly is quality time.
- Give yourself permission to not be “on” all the time with your children.
- When you really need to work, literally separate yourself from all distractions. Turn off your phone, your iMessages, and any other alerts. Close yourself off – shut the door, go somewhere. Don’t be around your children, unless you are willing and able to handle interuptions (for example, I secluded myself to write this blog. But posting it in wordpress and creating graphics don’t require as much thought for me, so now I’m sitting outside enjoying the sun while the girls pop in and out to show me their awesome pictures).
- When you do focus on your kids, make it valuable for both of you. Stepping into their world can be beautiful. But just because your child loves to play “cheetah” and run on all fours through the house for hours doesn’t mean you have to fake enjoyment in that to connect with them.Click To TweetFind things that are mutually rewarding. Take a walk together. Cook together. Do a project. Sometimes we feel forced to play only in a 3-year-old’s world, and they would jump at the chance to do something “grown up” with you.
- Quality time doesn’t mean only loose play time. It can be 1-1 talks in the car. Sometimes it’s reading a book or running errands together. It’s focused attention on your child, where they know you are truly present. You can still accomplish grabbing that item from Target, but maybe it’s couched in a date with your daughter and you spend time browsing the toy aisle with her just for fun, and grab a hot cocoa from Starbucks on your way out. I’ve had some pretty fun shopping experiences with the kids where I may have tackled the errands, but we spent a lot of time giggling and trying on clothes, checking out toys and simply exploring a store together.
- When you work, work. One hour of focused, undistracted time may allow for two hours of time to be with your children.
- Clear your head. Dump out the list of to-dos in your mind. Get it on paper or knock out a few to know that you’ve accomplished something so you aren’t looking at the clock and feeling it looming over you. It can wait.
- If you are pressed, put parameters on your time together. Even taking 5-10 minutes to stop what you’re doing and connect with your child may fill their bucket enough that they are able to then play for a stretch without you.
What are you doing in your home to instill that quality time?
How are you balancing work and family?
Be intentional about your time, and look for opportunities to simply invest in your children. Some days are better than others. Kids are resilient and can be very forgiving. But it takes some deposits in their own lives to establish that security in your relationship. Then they can allow you your space to get things done. They know you place a priority on them and they will have their time with you as well.
Your action step this week: Try “Talkie Time” with your children. Set a timer for 5 minutes and just have a focused conversation where you let your child lead it. You don’t have to make a big announcement, just sit with them and let them know the attention is all on them. Five minutes is longer than you think, and it’s amazing where that path may lead. My kids love “talkie time” as their special chance to be fully heard and connect on a daily basis.