So I did something wild a few nights ago — keeping in mind I am an average working mom of three kids so wild probably isn’t really wild. This wild thing I am referring to is spontaneously taking all three children (ages 7, 6, and 2) to the pool, after work, and it wasn’t even Friday (I told you it was bonkers). I got home, looked at the three of them on the verge of meltdowns, glanced at the disastrous mess in my house, and said, “Grab your bathing suits; we are going to the pool.”
Now, I’ll confess, part of the reason I did this was because I didn’t feel like cooking dinner, but I also truly just wanted to have some fun with them. They seemed liked they needed to do something exciting and out of the ordinary too, and I can honestly say, even though we only stayed a couple hours, we had SO MUCH FUN, probably because it was unexpected, and my kids are used to regimented week nights of dinner, homework, activities and bedtime routines.
While it may not seem like that big of a deal to others, it can be super hard to pick up three small children and go somewhere after a long day of working. I usually need to make dinner, clean up from the day, start laundry, make sure everyone has what they need for the next day, etc. Not to mention who feels like doing anything complicated at 5 p.m. whether you have been working or not? It’s the time of day where everyone is just tired, and unwinding, especially me. But here’s the thing: my kids really only get quality time with me at 5 p.m. so lately I have been trying to suck it up, chug some coffee, and be a happier person for them after work.
5 p.m. me is the first version of me they really get time with all day. It’s really our first opportunity to sit down and hang out, talk, laugh, and do all the things I can’t do during the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying my kids don’t have a great time all day playing with friends and doing activities, whether it is at camp, with a nanny or at school. That doesn’t take away from the fact, however, that most of our one-on-one time starts when I am literally leaving eight plus hours of usually stressful and intense work with clients and colleagues. Before I had kids I would de-stress after work by going to the gym, running, meeting up with friends or just vegging out on the couch, but now that’s not an option – I have to start my most important job, being a mom.
Most days during the school year the kids have activities, so we are rushing around trying to get everyone ready for those, but I have learned quality time does not need to be extravagant. Sometimes it is just 30 minutes of jumping on the trampoline, or riding bikes. Sometimes it is taking two kids to the playground while the other is at soccer instead of doing work or laundry.
Of course, I am a huge proponent of the kids being bored, mustering up their own creativity, and figuring out how to entertain themselves, so I am not saying anyone should be over planning and orchestrating “magic” all night long. It’s just that I usually go straight from my tasks at work to my tasks at home, and I think my kids got lost in that shuffle. I have started to realize that if I spend even just a tiny amount of one-on-one time with them during this time frame after work, they are happier and the rest of the evening usually goes so much more smoothly.
All that being said, here is the really, really important thing – if I make an effort to carve out quality time with my kids when I get home, even if it’s just 30 minutes, then something else absolutely has to give. I can say this with 100% certainty, because we only have so many finite hours in the day. Most moms already have their days planned out to maximize efficiency and there is literally no more time and, trust me, I am not giving up anymore sleep.
What gives in my house is a home cooked meal or tidying up the house. This means we eat take-out or sandwiches more often than not, or there are toys strewn about everywhere for days at a time, and I have learned i have to be okay with that.
I get it, we have to make time to do those things too (chores, errands, dinners). But in the grand scheme of things I have learned that I have happier kids when I spend even just 30 minutes after work having fun with them, and I am a happier mom when I let some of the other stuff go. So chug that coffee (or maybe a glass of wine), order that pizza and pull out a board game – you may find the kids aren’t the only ones that are happier.