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5 Tips For Working Parents Who Want To Spend More Quality Time With Their Kids

Updated: Sep 19, 2022

Being working parents with small kids can feel like everyday is a marathon. Wearing many hats and juggling between cooking, cleaning, kids scheduling, work, meetings, etc. It can be overwhelming to constantly move from one set of to-do lists to the other and find yourself physically and mentally exhausted, yet still wishing to have more time for your kids. Having struggled with that myself, here are my 5 tips for busy parents who want to spend more quality time with their kids, in happier and healthier ways.

  1. Set boundaries on your time and commitments

In this day and age where you are so easily accessible by work email and instant messages on your phone, it is easy to constantly check on work anytime of the day. Too easy perhaps. Having easy access to work makes it harder to leave work as work than ever before. It is easy to check work emails when you first get up in the morning, while you are waiting anywhere, or after kids are in bed (used to be my favorite). Constantly checking work emails is a negative habit that robs away your mental energy similar to constantly watching the news headlines. Learning what is going on, without being able to resolve it at the same moment is taxing your energy faster ever. Perhaps you just "take a few secs" to reply to this email really fast in the middle of the kids' bedtime routine, to find yourself still working on the email 10 minutes later with kids screaming in the background.

If this is you, setting boundaries around work hours can be very helpful. Many of us are not doctors who need to be on call after hours. Explore your beliefs on why you feel the need to check on work after hours, and whether those beliefs are true. Checking on work less often, but being more present when you do can boost your productivity. If you decide to change this habit (congrats!), try making it harder to access work at first. A few ideas can be locking your work phone and laptop in a drawer or backpack. If you work from home, having a designated working place or table in your home separated from the main living area can be very helpful to leave work at that space.

For those of you who struggle to say 'no', setting boundaries are crucial. Boundaries are an act of self love and an essential part of self care. Setting boundaries on commitments that doesn't serve you allow you time for things that do serve your authentic self. Many of us were raised as people pleasers where it is normal and desirable to put our needs behind others. Those beliefs are deep-rooted since we were young children, yet it is possible to change them if you choose to. Start with pausing next time you say yes to a work commitment, a meeting invite or a social commitment to wonder whether or not they would serve you. It takes practice to pause, and eventually say no rather than jumping to your default "yes".

2. Have dinner almost ready by the end of your work day

When the work day ends, our kids haven't seen us all day and have a great need for spending time with us. Now this sounds impossible to have dinner ready by the end of your work day, doesn't it? This is how to achieve this:

Investing some time during the weekend (1 to 2 hours) to meal prep can save you up to 3.5 hours during the week by combining time-consuming kitchen tasks when you have the time. It is hard to pre-cook everything during the weekend that is enough to feed the family during the week, so I like to choose some essential tasks for weekend meal prep, and spend 5-15 minutes each day for dinner. Those tasks include chopping onions & garlic, making a few salad dressings, soaking and cooking grains and beans, and roasting vegetables and meat of choice.

Utilizing kitchen gadgets like the Instant Pot and air fryer so you don't constantly stand next to the stove top or watch the oven. I personally love Instant Pot meals as I can set the pot to cook right after lunch or in the early afternoon and have dinner ready waiting for me. When the work day ends, I like to spend at least 30 minutes with the kids without any distraction, doing whatever they would like before we finish up the last kitchen tasks before dinner.

3. Involve kids in chores

According to Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of The New York Times best-selling book How to Raise an Adult, we are living in the generation of over parenting. We are living in children's focus homes. We somehow assume that parents are responsible for all household chores, and kids are responsible for studying, playing and extra curriculum activities only. Kids are learning reading and math, or soccer and baseball earlier than ever but many don't have the life skills to take care of themselves when they leave home. Yet we spend most of our adulthood taking care of chores, and there is no school that can teach life skills better than home. Involving kids in chores is a great way to build their confidence at a young age by teaching them how to take care of themselves and their environment. The theory is gaining back some awareness from the Montessori or Waldorf education approaches.

If you would like more information about why and how not to over parenting, this podcast is one of the most impactful podcasts for me out of over 400 episodes of the Wellness Mama podcast. I was over parenting my babies from the moment they were born thinking the more I can give them the better, and really spinning my wheels in motherhood. This podcast and the book How to raise an adult really changed my perspective on parenting for the better.

Quality time with your kids can be playing toys with them, taking them to the park or reading them books . Quality time with your kids can also be cooking, cleaning the house or doing laundry together. Taking away the needs to create a 'perfect' childhood or always making picture perfect memories and embracing joy from the simple everyday routine. This would take away a lot of pressure from parents to get it all done when kids are away.

My chores to involve the kids right now at age 2 and 3.5 are laundry loading and folding, spraying and wiping surface and windows, watering plants, making salads with them chopping veggies using a kid safe knife (and get surprise on how much veggies they can consume from the cutting board before dinner). It takes patience to slow down and let kids help you with chores but I believe the effort would pay off in the long run when they can take over some household tasks, and save me sanity.

4. Run your home with schedules and manuals

Writing out all the tasks to maintain your home, setting up schedules and who to complete the task or what service to use can really help lighten your load. Most of the time we try to manage our household from our head rather than having systems like at work. Having systems also means someone can take care of tasks when you are not available. As we implement tip 3 as kids are getting older, my hope is for them to take over some of their tasks in this list. Test out what type of systems would work for you. It can be a paper calendar, apps like Notion or Trello, or the day of the week method (below).

This is my example for how it looks like. When my kids were babies, having cleaning ladies every other week was heaven-sent so I could focus on caring for the babies and preparing meals. When I was back working full time with a nanny, kids laundry needs to be done twice a week and I set laundry dates to be Tuesday and Friday, sheet washing dates to be every other Friday. The nanny would do laundry with the kids to help them learn. My husband would take care of our laundry on his own schedule. Kids routine, making bottle instructions and washing machine instructions were written, so any last-minute nanny replacement can pick up the tasks if the nanny has to be out unexpectedly. Grocery shopping was every Thursday with Instacart, and my husband would go pick up groceries with my daughter. I would place the grocery order every Wednesday night, starting with the order 2 weeks before and adjust the items. Most of the time we get 80% of the same item at the store, so no need to start over every time and having to remember the list. From the grocery items, I would write out a practical meal plan for the next week. Meal prep would be done on Saturday so we can spend Sunday relaxing or meeting up with friends. Setting up these processes ensures our house is run smoothly, and we rarely find ourselves in a food or laundry emergency.

The main message behind this is "You don't have to do it all". Running a household is a team effort. Schedules and systems are ways to ask others to help you without having to keep track of everything yourself.

5. Build a self-care routine to fill your cup regularly

"Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow" - Rumi

We all know kids are full of energy. When we don't make the time to fill our cups regularly, we run around with empty cups as a detriment of our health and can't show up for "quality time" in the way we want. Many of us interpret self-care as selfish, I know I certainly did. Marketing makes it feel like self-care needs to be bubble baths, going to a spa or escaping to a vacation far away. If those things fill your cup by all means do it they are great! But in reality for many of us short on time with young children, self-care is the 5, 10 or 20 minutes routine that you do everyday to fill your cup regularly so you don't feel the urge to escape from everyday life. What fills your cup is different for everyone depending on what you are hungry for and what can fulfill your hunger. If you are hungry for quiet time, a routine with meditation or a walk in nature can be helpful. If you are hungry for connection, frequent calls to friends or family can be helpful. If you are hungry for rest, a nap or breathing break is what you need, not coffee. You get the idea.

Here is my basic self-care routine as an example. Your routine might look completely different and that is okay. Self-care started with making myself go to bed at a decent time to get a minimum 7-8 hours of sleep, so I can wake up 30 minutes to 1 hour before the kids and have my quiet time. I start the day everyday by drinking a cup of water and a 5 to 10 minutes guided meditation on the Simple Habit or Insight Timer app. I end the meditation with setting an intention for the day. Meditation has been so essential for me to practice being aware, being mindful and connect with myself and my needs. After meditation and tuning in on what I need that day, I do 10 to 20 minutes of some type of movements. Some days it is a neighborhood walk while listening to an Audio book or calling a friend. Some days it is just a quiet mindful walk outside without any distraction. Some days it is a short stretching, pilates, yoga or joint movement routine. Just a side note, I started the habit with just 2 minute meditation when my kids were babies, sliding myself out of bed quietly and meditating in the closet. That was the end of my morning routine I can afford at that point with little babies. We all start somewhere and it is better to start small and keep it consistent until we build a new habit. When I noticed how different I felt and how different I showed up for work and family, the morning routine became my favorite time of the day and I naturally expanded it longer.

Another essential for me is a 10-minute break after lunch or early afternoon. My go-tos are a 10-minute guided nap, 10-minute yoga nidra or 10-minute deep breathing exercises on the app, setting my alarm to not oversleep. For me the 10-minute was a crucial energy boost to have a constant stable energy level lasting all the way until bedtime, without reaching for caffeine or snack for an energy lift and crashing later. We often crave sugar when we are tired, but sugar is only a quick fix. Instead of resisting what your body needs, sometimes giving it the rest it needs is all it takes to feel better.

In summary, my 5 tips for working parents who want to spend more quality time with their kids are:

  1. Set boundaries on your time and commitments

  2. Have dinner almost ready by the end of your work day

  3. Involve kids in chores

  4. Run your home with schedules and manuals

  5. Build a self-care routine to fill your cup regularly

I know these tips are not quick or easy. They take some time investment and are not something that can change overnight. They are not all-or-nothing either, and it is better if you don't start with all of them at once. It might not be a good idea to involve your toddlers in the kitchen for the first time while you are trying out meal prep for the first time (guess how I know ;)). I hope these tips would allow you more time to show up for your family in a healthier and happier you. Which one of these tips speaks to you, and which one would you like to try?

If you want to make changes but getting stuck on motivation, accountability or where to start, coaching can help bridge the gap.

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, and is not intended as medical advice.

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