Parenting is the toughest jobs in the world, only made tougher when you have to work a day job as well. Time Out Kids spoke to two parenting experts to get their advice on the tough issues that as parents, we all want the answers to.
Rachel Waddilove, Childcare expert and Author
How much time is enough time to spend with the kids?
Children need time on their own. Don’t feel you have to be occupying your child all the time, it is so important for your little one to learn to play on his own. So, there is no perfect amount of time to spend with your kids as all families are different. If you are working full time then the most important time of the day to be with your little ones is at bed time. Meal times with your children are also important times to be together.
I don’t get home in time to feed and bathe my kids before bed – I don’t like missing these moments but should I be concerned about missing them?
I believe it is important for mum or dad to be at home at bedtime. This is one of the most important times of the day for your child. If you are struggling with this issue then it is worth talking to your boss about it and see if you can get some flexi hours, especially when your children are young. I know many women have to work late and it is an awful pull on your emotions, but try not to feel guilty about it. When you can be at home for supper and bed time make sure you have fun with your children so you are building good memories into their lives.
Can the bonds kids form with home help be detrimental to a parent’s relationship with their kids?
I do think the bonds that children make with home help may be detrimental to the parent’s relationship with their children. I often come across families where the mum feels that the children are closer to the nanny than to mum. It is really important to talk this through with your help so that jealousy doesn’t raise its ugly head. However over the generations many children have been brought up by nannies and have grown up to be perfectly well balanced adults.
Although a lot of parents work the same hours, kids are sometimes clingier with one parent than the other when they leave. Why is this?
Very often children are clingier with mum than with dad. The reason normally for this is that mum has been the main carer, and the child wants mum to be around.
How can parents make their kids feel secure and loved when they are away from them for 10 hours of the day?
When you are at home with your children do spend time with them chatting and making them really know that you are listening. The art of listening is not always easy especially if we are stressed and overtired. Children know when they don’t have our full attention, so do learn to look at your child and really listen to him. Ask him how his day has been and who he has seen and what he has been doing, let him know that you really are interested in what he is telling you. Spending time with him/her at bedtime will also make them feel loved and secure. Often children will talk about their day when they are going to bed. Reading stories at bedtime is a great thing to do. Making up stories is even more exciting! When you settle him down to sleep tell him you love him and give him lots of cuddles and then leave him to settle to sleep.
Carmen Benton, Parenting Educator
It can be tricky to maintain a good work/life balance these days since so many parents are working – what are your tips for maintaining a good balance?
Ask for and accept support from others. Don’t try and be a super parent and get it all done yourself.
Be selective about the school events you support and attend. You don’t need to be a super parent by attending all school events and functions and supporting every school project. Decide on what is realistic for you and try and share this with your co parent.
Learn to say NO at work. Parenting is a full time project and this will limit the number of projects you can take on at work.
Ensure you prioritize yourself. Parent yourself. You must eat well, sleep well and reduce your own stress. These are only things you can do for yourself. No one else can.
Increase the fun in your life. If parenting and working become chores and there is no time for fun this will impact on every aspect of your life.
There already aren’t enough hours in the day so what happens when I just really do need a break? When I have time away I feel like I need to spend every second with my kids to make up for the other times – I feel so bad about taking time just for me.
Guilt takes up a lot of energy and does not serve you well. You must look after yourself as your children need the whole version of you and not a stressed out half version of you. If you show them you prioritise your own needs, you are modeling this for them and that lesson is a valuable one in life.
What are your tips for ensuring the time we do spend with our kids is real quality time?
Ensure the children lead this time. Ensure they have your full attention, turn off ‘devices’ that will distract you. Make yourself fully present. Even if you feel your thoughts wandering, bring them back. Talk with your child and listen to them. Try not to use these times to teach or guide - this is about connection. Observe your child’s wishes and activity choices and learn as much as you can about your child. Give positive feedback and encouragement. Listen intently to what your child says and give feedback on what they said to show you listened. Have this time with each of children one on one when you can. Try and make it fit into your daily routine. Keep it short and sweet. 10 minutes per day can go a long way.
Obviously, returning to work is difficult for any parent – what is your advice for coping with the guilt many of us feel?
If you find yourself experiencing guilt seek support around this. Are you sure you have made a decision you are comfortable with? If so, then you need to allow yourself time to adjust and for your other family members to adjust too. Work hard to remove the guilt from your life. Accept your decision and embrace this new beginning for your family. Can you focus on the positive aspects of you returning to work? Support your children to see these too and allow yourself and each family member to express their feelings and allow each person to feel.
Once we’re back at work, how can parent’s best deal with separation anxiety and get on with the job in hand?
If your children are in a safe and secure environment with others who care for them and their needs, separation anxiety will ease. Also ensure you say goodbye to your children and remind them you will be back. Give them a kiss on their hand to hold onto all day, or tell them if they need you to close their eyes and hold their heart and you will feel their love. These same gestures of love enable children to feel safe and secure. If your child’s separation anxiety goes on for a long time, then you need to consider if they are in a good child care situation.
When parents do have time at the weekends to really bond with their kids, what are the best activities for doing this?
Sometimes the best activity can be the old fashioned ones. Staying home and cooking together, making a picnic, going out in nature such as to the beach, watching a family movie together, doing a craft, making a hut, going swimming. We need to ensure we are not keeping so busy doing things that we can miss the opportunities to hug and talk and just be together. Guilt can make parents over parent and overindulge our children. We can spend all our time entertaining them and buying them things when really what they want is just our focused time when we are really present and calm and encouraging.