What if ... ?
An idea for working parents who struggle to fit it all in during the holidays
Originally published: Dec 6, 2017 | Updated: Dec 7, 2019
What if you didn't attend one of your child's holiday programs this year? Not all of them, just one. What if you explained to your child that sometimes, most of the time, he or she is your highest priority and that means that you miss other important things so that you can be with him or her? And what if you went on to explain that sometimes, when you know he or she is safe and happy, other things are a higher priority? Like people in need, planning for the future, or even your job.
Is it possible that action would give your child gifts that could last a lifetime? Might you give them the gift of learning to perform for others, not just you? Might you give him or her the gift of independence (if only for a few minutes)? Might you give him or her a gift they'll greatly appreciate in the future when, as a working parent, he or she knows for sure that a child can feel happy and loved without constant attention from parents?
Working parents throughout social media are in the midst of expressing frustrations that surface during the holidays every year. They're frustrated when school holiday performances and activities are scheduled in the middle of the workday. They wonder how they're expected to be in two places at the same time. They want to be great parents and they want to be great employees. They become frustrated when the system appears to conspire against them.
It might make sense to ask your kids if they think it's important that you attend every single holiday activity. You might be surprised (and relieved) to hear their answers.
Update Dec 7, 2019: Another idea: Send someone in your place (someone with more time) like a grandparent, uncle or aunt, a cousin, a neighbor or a friend who would be honored to fill-in for you. It could be a win-win!
Some parenting successes are the result of careful planning. Others are lucky by-products of struggling to maintain some sanity.
"Quiet Time" was something we established when our kids stopped going to bed early. We were just attempting to get a little time to ourselves on the weekday evenings. That's reasonable, right?
Once it became clear that the kids needed less sleep, but we still needed some time to ourselves, the term was coined and the rules were defined (and adjusted as they got older):
It worked pretty well and produced some unintended benefits; they became pretty good at entertaining themselves. And we maintained our sanity. Most nights.
Note: Establishing new routines is never as simple as it sounds. Or at least they were rarely easy for us. Like most new things, it took about three nights of effort and reinforcement and reminders before the kids understood that we meant business.
Returns and Routines
If you're planning to re-enter the workforce after an extended break, and you have kids that aren't newborns, it might help to consider the change from their point of view. Most kids find comfort in routine, so at least starting to establish a new routine, before you actually start the job, is likely to make the transition easier on everyone.
Think ahead. Chances are that you will need your kids to do more for themselves if you're going back to work. Asking them to take on more responsibilities around the house is great for them, and it should help you too.
The key to a smooth transition is to be sure that your kids have taken on these new responsibilities before your first day on the job. Even relatively compliant kids will need "practice" before new routines run smoothly. We found that our kids usually threw three "fits" in a row when we imposed new routines on them. If we could endure those "fits" (which usually were just complaints, whines or worse), and stay firm (and consistent), the new routine tended to click by the fourth iteration and the kids often became enthusiasts. Maybe we're all that way :)
Here are ideas for things most kids can be expected to take on around the house. Obviously their ability to take on various responsibilities will vary widely based on their ages.
Most kids are happy to help when they know that their contributions are meaningful; it gives them a great sense of accomplishment and helps build lasting self-esteem. This means that while they're taking on a new responsibility you need to be sure you're not hovering over them, offering too many suggestions, and/or criticizing their efforts. Let them make a few mistakes! Keep yourself busy doing something else meaningful while they tackle their new "jobs".
An important key to success is to be sure that your kids don't view your return to work as an imposition on their routines or a punishment. By establishing new routines before your return, you're likely to ease the transition for everyone and discover how your work actually helps your kids become more capable adults in the future.
Are YouR Kids TOO BUSY?
Pointer to research results published by ScienceDaily
When our kids were in school, we knew a couple who were highly respected parents. Imagine my thrill when I learned that they limited their very smart and very talented son to two (or was it three?) extracurricular activities at a time. While other parents were bragging about the hours they spent shuttling their kids from activity to activity, these parents confidently let people know that they thought some reasonable limits were best for their son.
Their confidence set the example I needed to let go of any concern I had that my own kids might be falling behind because they weren't overbooked and in constant motion. It was really helpful and comforting information during a time that I needed more help and comfort!
If you would appreciate knowing that your kids don't need to be booked 24/7, look no further than this article published by ScienceDaily: Are your children overdoing it? Too many extracurricular activities can do more harm than good. It summarizes results from a small study in England and points out that "a busy organized activity schedule can ... potentially harm children's development and wellbeing." It may provide the info working parents need to better manage their time and protect their sanity.
Originally Published: May16, 2018 | Last Updated: Jun 11, 2018
How Clean is Your House?
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
Few people I know find it easy to keep their house clean while raising kids, and we were no different. But I need some semblance of order to be able to think (and I mean that quite literally), so we kept things under control by hiring someone to come in and clean once a week. We actually started doing this the month we were married and didn't cut back to every-other-week help until our youngest left for college.
One of the biggest benefits of cleaning help is that you have to pick up your stuff before they arrive. Otherwise they'll spend too much time just moving stuff around. So one night a week (the night before cleaning day) we all engaged in a mad dash to put our stuff away. Everyone pitched in, and it always felt like a crisis. There was whining, there were accusations, and at least one of us was usually disgruntled about something. Then, when the task was finished, we rewarded ourselves with ice cream.
I get that not every family is in a position to hire someone to help with cleaning, but every family could modify this idea to meet at least some of their own cleaning needs.
It's also worth noting that the older the kids got, the less they whined about it. By the time they were in junior high or high school, it was just a thing that they did. What I liked most was that it kept things from getting totally out of control, and the ice cream enabled us to end on a good note.
Packing School Lunches
A collection of ideas to help you ensure your kids pack healthy lunches for school - With a little help from you, most kids can pack their own lunches.
Recently a working parent on Reddit asked us to provide some ideas for packing quick and healthy school lunches for kids. Here are some ideas:
The Telecommuting Challenge
Submitted by Lisa Giles - "... let your family know they are your top priority. Also let them know that your work will be your primary focus during the day until they become your primary focus during in the evening."
Almost 20 years ago, while supporting a family member recovering from a health issue in Omaha, Nebraska, my innovative manager arranged for me to telecommute to my job in New York City. Since then, I've been successfully telecommuting on-and-off for different companies while advancing my career and achieving personal milestones along the way.
During this time, I've navigated career goals, and my husband and I have also welcomed two daughters, who are now 14 and 17. Telecommuting has enabled me to bridge my mother and employee roles, although I have needed to make some adjustments along the way.
At one point I feared that I was focusing too much energy on my career. While I was “home” a lot, I didn't always feel like I was focused on my family quite enough. This fear was confirmed when my then 7-year-old made me a Mother’s Day card that showed a picture of the back of my head, as I sat at my desk facing a computer monitor. The caption read: “Company worker”. That's when I knew I wanted to make some changes.
The Pinnacle of Halloween Fun
Submitted by Mark Haselmaier
As a kid, Halloween was obviously a big deal. A costume ritual was involved. I would wear it around the house a couple of times before the big day (to make sure it worked and all), and then be near euphoria when it was finally time to reveal its awesomeness to the world.
I always considered myself lucky at Halloween because my parents took me to the store and let me pick out my own costume. Very rarely did we do stuff like that. Usually, if I wanted something, I either had to work around the house to earn enough money to pay for it, or I had to save money from my allowance to purchase what I wanted. But it felt like during Halloween my parents and I were on the same wavelength; this kid needs a costume, and it needs to rock.
So it came as a shock when just this past weekend my mother experessed embarrassment because she had to buy me costumes all those years instead of making me something more special. What? You’re embarrassed? Why are you embarrassed about something that totally kicked ass? You let me pick out whatever I wanted from the costume aisle. That was the only time you let me just walk into a store and pick whatever I wanted and then you paid for it. For a Haselmaier child, this was almost unheard of.
After further discussion I learned that the purchase of a Halloween costume, instead of the creation of one, saved a lot of time for my working parents. It seems funny to me that they were embarrassed that they resorted to a K-Mart or Walmart aisle at Halloween. For 4-year-old me (and 11-year-old-me for that matter) it was the pinnacle of Halloween fun.
Chill out parents. You may be taking things a little too seriously.
Submitted by Ann Brauch
When my daughter Kirsten was a senior in high school, she called me at work one morning toward the end of the school year very upset. She had overslept. And wouldn't you know that it was the morning of her AP Spanish exam. She flat out missed it. I felt horrible knowing that if I'd been a more attentive mother, I could have prevented the situation and the angst that followed. Kirsten was no slacker, and I hated thinking about the consequences she would endure in spite of all of her hard work.
Another mother, a friend who happened to be at school that day, overheard the teacher ball Kirsten out for the transgression in no uncertain terms. Apparently she did not go easy on her. Kirsten was and is a strong young woman, and interestingly, she didn't tell me that part of the story. She accepted full responsibility for her mistake.
Luckily all was not lost, and a make-up exam was offered and taken. I'm sure you won't be shocked to read that Kirsten went on to college, graduated, and is now gainfully employed by a software company in the healthcare field. The mistake did not ruin her life. In fact, I think she learned a lot from it. For starters, I don't think she's overslept since!
As I look back on this experience with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that it was valuable. If I hadn't had my own work and priorities, I might have prevented the situation, and the lesson might not have been learned. At least not then. In some unexpected ways, I think the fact that both my husband and I work has required each of our kids to develop a strong sense of responsibility. And that is serving them well now that they are young adults.
Submitted by Mark Haselmaier
When I was younger, I got hungry after dinner a lot. So I would ask my dad for something to eat. Sometimes he would oblige, but he usually looked at me and said, “Go get a snack. You know how to make a peanut butter sandwich or toast a bagel.”
As I think back on those experiences, I remember realizing that I wasn't the only important person or thing in my parents' lives. I learned that they had other things that were important too, and I needed to become capable enough to handle some things on my own.