When I kept my time log for the week I recorded how much time I spent playing with my kids. I was particularly curious to see what those numbers were. I generally have the feeling that I should always be playing with them more because, you know:
- these precious years go by so fast
- no one ever looks back at their life and wishes they played with their kids less and did more dishes
- one day my kids won’t want to play with me anymore (woomp woomp)
- fill in another 700 reasons here
So I hoped that tracking my time would put some of those feelings in their rightful place- either “Yes, I do need to spend more time playing with my poor, neglected kids” or “Nope. I am doing a-okay in that department. Off to browse facebook some more!”.
What I found is that I spend enough time engaged with my kids that I can go ahead and stop feeling guilty or worried that I’m not doing enough. This is based on a very complex algorithm that I couldn’t possibly begin to explain, involving hours spent together, fun had, boredom experienced, and an overall gut feeling. Don’t bother challenging it because it is pretty much airtight.
Before I go on, I should define what “playing” meant for my week: doing puzzles, going to the library and reading books, playing with the baby and watching the big kids do a tumbling class, going outside so the kids can ride their bikes, playing Hungry Hippos (we got it for Christmas), etc and so forth.
Some of that is very engaged/all-in playing, like when we do a puzzle together or I read to them. Some is just me watching/commenting/occasionally texting a friend while they do their thing- like ride their bikes around. I counted it as “play” if the priority was engaging with them and having fun together.
Here’s what did not make the cut as “play”, even if we were doing it together and they were having fun in some way: mowing the lawn while the kids played outside, lowering the crib mattress while the kids “helped” (I use that term loosely).
See the difference?
Let’s get down to the numbers, since I know that is what some people are curious about. I spent about two hours a day playing with my kids during the week, and more on the weekend. This number was higher than I thought it would be, and represents an atypical week for me, which I’ll explain later.
Here is my bottom line: I’m pretty happy with this amount of time. I might have patted myself on the back when I realized it. When I think about the average day with my kids I hear myself on repeat, saying “Not right now. In a minute.” and “Sorry- I can’t. Maybe later.” So to look back at my time for that particular week helps me put that vague maternal guilt in its place. I actually do hang out with and play with my kids. So stick it, Maternal Guilt!
Also, I am pretty militant and unwavering and DO NOT CHALLENGE ME UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES about naptime/room time every day. I feel okay about holding them to that quiet time when I see that I am also investing in time together. It’s not just me telling them to shush all day.
As I mentioned, time spent doing “play” was pretty high during this particular week. The following week would have shown more time spent, say, cooking or doing other things and less time playing with my kids. My time log week happened to be one where I felt sick for a couple of days, so doing a puzzle with the kids felt better than trying to shoo them away and GSD.
This exercise was great and I’m glad I spent the time and energy to do it. This topic- how much time I spend actually engaging and playing with my kids- was one thing I was really curious to find out. Considering I’m home with my kids almost full-time, I usually feel like I spend most of our time together herding them around or just managing them. It is freeing to see it right there- on paper- that we do more than just that.
I’m curious- what would you want to know about where your time goes during the week?