Time keeps on ticking: Getting the most out of time with your kids
How did they get so big? Didn’t we just leave the hospital the other day? The boys are somehow already six months old and I can’t believe it. Not only is the time flying, but it’s getting hard to remember things at the beginning with the boys. Looking at pictures from the first few months, I can’t believe the boys were ever so small. With paternity leave over and work taking up more time, it’s hard to find the time to bond with the boys most days. With them starting daycare in the new year, I know I need to find ways to make the most of limited time with them. Here’s how I’m planning to do so.
In January, after a nice weeklong holiday break from work, the boys are starting daycare. After extensive research and visits to many, we picked a great one. After an orientation visit this week, we felt better than ever about the decision. However, with them starting, I know I’ll see even less of them. On most days I get home just in time to change them and put them to bed. In the morning, they are just waking up when I leave for work. Other than the weekends, I feel like I hardly see them. I think most working parents feel this way at points throughout parenthood. It really hit home at the daycare when we saw a 3-month old who looked minuscule to us. We could barely remember the boys being so small, though we know they had been, and even smaller.
During my paternity leave, opportunities to spend time with them abounded. We took them to Connecticut, visited an aquarium, a zoo, countless parks, and took two walks nearly every day. Now, getting in a single walk at night is often not possible due to the time I get home. All day long I was alone with the boys and we built a strong bond. During my leave the boys slept much more often than they do now, and had fewer hours of fun playful behavior. Now, when the boys are playing with stuffed animals on their mats or sitting in their chairs cracking up, I just want to spend all day with them every day. Walking out the door has certainly become harder.
Making time with the boys is a constant battle that must be waged, mostly against myself. Taking a cue from Lean In, I’m doing my best to force myself to get in early, and leave by 5:00 every day. I know it’s mostly self-inflicted pressure that makes it hard to leave, and so I try to combat this. It can often be difficult in a tech company where many people come in later and stay late. 5:30 and even sometimes 6:00 meetings aren’t uncommon. By coming in early and getting my run in before heading up from the gym, I beat some traffic, get my run in, and get a bunch of work done before the day gets going. It also makes it easier to get home and just focus on the boys until they go to sleep. Then it gives me time at night to get more work done if needed.
Making the most of weekends is another way to ensure time with children. These become the only days available to spend the whole day together, so it’s important to make every minute count. With infants, you don’t really need to set an alarm clock, but it’s good to get in the habit of getting up early on weekends too. Staying on a consistent work out schedule on the mornings during weekends is something that I haven’t excelled at, but if you can do it, it’s another good way to squeeze more usable hours out of the day. Getting out of the house is also a way to make the time you do have feel more productive and useful. Keeping busy also has a way of making the time feel longer in retrospect, but go by faster. By bringing the boys shopping with us, to restaurants, breweries, and on walks, we not only accomplish our weekend goals but also maximize time with them. It’s also a good way to get them used to eating the same time as us, behaving in public, and that our lives don’t revolve entirely around them at their beck and call. Plus they get to spend all day with both mommy and daddy.
Walks in the park are also a great way to spend weekend time with kids. A walk in nature inspires reflection and conversation — just ask Henry David Thoreau. It’s a good way to disconnect from the demands of social media too. Plus, you’ll get the health benefits of some exercise and the fresh air. Your kids, if walking will get the same, and if not will at least see you being active and will thus be more likely to pick up healthy habits themselves.
A seemingly obvious, but underutilized way to spend more time is to use your vacation. A staggering number of Americans do not use all of their vacation each year and end up losing it. Think of this time as an opportunity for your company to pay you to spend time with your family. Plus, you’ll come back more relaxed and productive. Vacations can involve travel, but they don’t have to. The goal here is just to take some days where the primary focus is spending time with your kids. On our upcoming holiday break, we are staying at home, but venturing out a few times to do child friendly activities — and of course a few breweries where the kids are welcome. We’re also planning some day trips into New York City for Christmas themed fun like the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, Bryant Park’s Holiday Village, and NYC’s newest Michelin star restaurant. On other days, we are taking a quick car ride to restaurants we’ve been meaning to try out for a while, hikes we found on a child friendly list, and taking planned days just at home with the boys.
Getting away is another great way to maximize time together. Traveling far can be a challenge with little children, but the effort will definitely be worth the experience for the whole family. Planning ahead is critical. Figuring out the logistics for the plane or car ride early on will save a lot of hassle and stress while traveling. Do the same for daily activities. While traveling to Connecticut for a few days, planning activities that required quiet around feeding times saved us and our sanity.
You can also plan vacations around activities you know work well with your children. Since the boys enjoy walks and nature so much, we’re planning a trip to Norway where there are tons of opportunities for hiking and seeing stunning nature. Another nice thing about vacation time with little children is that they tend to go to bed very early, meaning you can put them down and then have some time to do something less child focussed or just recharge from the day. Sure you aren’t going to leave them alone and go sightseeing, but having the time separated helps break up the days.
It’s never to0 early to start thinking about making the most of your time with children. Time has a habit of sneaking by quickly, so if you don’t, it may escape from you and you’ll be left looking back wondering what happened. Use the resources you are given, don’t be afraid to keep your weekends busy and to use all of your vacation. In the future, the memories you make with your children will be what you remember, not the extra hours worked or the time at home. Make the most of that time, and you’ll make memories and a stronger bond with your child too.