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August 12, 2019
This weekend I was so bored. No, seriously, I planned a trip with my family for the express purpose of removing distractions, de-stressing, and getting back to basics.
It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. We went glamping in Mount Hood National Forest, away from the city lights and our daily demands. The highlight of our trip came when my daughter and I, bored out of our minds after spending a few hours in a boat catching no fish, decided to go on a hike around the large lake where we were staying.
The first half of our hike was awesome. She pretended to be a horse for the entire first mile, neighing
My body ached but I realized, as we sang our way along the path and I felt the sweat drip down my back, that we were having one of those memorable moments you look back on once your child is grown, those special times you can’t plan, they just happen.
My daughter started asking me questions about how to be a better friend, we had this deep discussion about why her sister annoys her to get her attention, we even talked about some fears she’d been thinking about as she prepares to start the school year again. I carried her some of the way and she skipped, ran, and walked a long portion, too. As we made it to the finish line, 3.2 miles later, I wasn’t thinking about my shoulders or my back, I was thinking about how lucky I was to be the one there to listen when my daughter started talking about the things that really mattered to her.
I was thinking about how, even though I believe staunchly in moms taking time to care for themselves, I also want moms to know how intentionally our kids need us to make room in our schedules for them, too. Our kids may not need us to spend our every waking hour with them but they do us to spend a substantial amount of time with them. A few moments here and there are just not going to cut it. They don’t deserve our leftovers. Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg gets real on this subject in his book, Building Resilience in Children and Teens:
“In our harried, over-scheduled lives, we often talk of making quality time for our children. I agree—a few moments, when parents are truly present and undistracted, can be most meaningful. At the expense of saying something unpopular, though, quantity matters too. All parents are stretched to make ends meet and fulfill their multiple obligations, but we need to make available as much time as possible for our children. To some extent, the quality of our time with them is influenced by the quantity of that time. I’m not suggesting that you quit your day job. I am saying that there will be more opportunities to listen if we spend more time with our children. We won’t always be there for the crises, triumphs, or heart-to-heart moments, but the more time we spend with them, the more likely we will be available to listen during a significant moment. Enrichment activities are important, but never forget that time with us is the best way to enrich their lives.”
When we do prioritize moments to intentionally focus on our relationships with our children, practicing Special Time is one of the best ways we can make the most of it. Special Time can mean setting aside twenty minutes per day to remove distractions, get on the floor or sit at the table with our kids, and play. We let our kids lead us, refrain from using any judgement statements (good or bad), and spend time doing what they want to do. [As opposed to
This doesn’t have to be complicated. When your child is a baby, this may be as simple as you getting on your hands and knees next to his activity mat. When he’s a toddler, it can literally mean playing with toys on the floor. Set a timer, turn your phone off—make this time only about you and your child. As your children get older, floor time can morph into mommy-son dates to the coffee shop or mommy-daughter dates to the pool. When we remove the distractions of the outside world and focus just on our children for discrete periods of time they can count on, we build a foundation of memories and mindfulness, ultimately building resilience and connection.
It’s tempting to phone it in with our families when we get home from work or make it to the weekends. Have you ever driven up to your house after a long day at the office, parked in the driveway, and then let out a heavy sigh as you thought about rejoining your kids? Sometimes, whether we like to admit it or not, it’s easier to show up emotionally at work than it is to show up emotionally at home, especially when we’re tired or if our kids are going through an especially rough developmental phase.
Consider taking a few minutes before you walk inside your home to reset, letting the hours that came before you fade into the background as you prepare to greet your kids and spend time with them. Maybe that hesitation to leave your car is there for a reason. It’s a reminder you need to take a beat before you move on to your next commitment. When we arrive home even a little more rested and ready to parent, we’re better at the task.
When the weekend arrives, commit to simplicity. Don’t overschedule yourself or your kids. Leave opportunity and time for spontaneity. Choose family activities that encourage play, adventure or discovery when possible. Avoid stacking games, errands, and appointments when you can. While it’s true that you can’t always choose when your daughter’s soccer games occur, you can choose to only sign her up for soccer, versus soccer and chess and piano and gymnastics, all in the same season. Resist the urge to squeeze in so many activities over the weekend that you and your kids are run ragged by the time Sunday night rolls around. Remember, the best parts of life usually happen in the in-between moments and down beats, when we’re taking it slow.
I’m all for finding contentment wherever life finds us, in using mindfulness to appreciate the beauty of right where we are instead of wistfully wasting our lives away on what we’d rather be doing or need to be doing but, sometimes, having a family happy place can get us through some pretty rough patches. I have two magical family happy places seared in my mind that my brain flips to on the regular.
In one, I’m lying in a hammock on the beach in Hawaii. It’s me and my baby daughter. We’re giggling and softly swaying as we look up at the blue sky and the palm trees. The sound of ukulele music wafts through the air from our condo, where my husband blends homemade Pina Coladas and plates fish tacos from the local food truck.
In the second, I’m snuggled in my bed with my husband and my two kids. We took a day off work. School’s out. We’re playing Stevie Wonder on our Bluetooth speaker. The sheets and the covers feel so soft and snuggly. It’s raining outside and peaceful inside. We’ll probably make waffles at some point. We have nowhere else to be, nothing else to do. We’re just here, with our people, in our home.
Snuggling up in my bed is completely realistic. I could have a “four peas in a pod” moment most weekends with my two girls and my husband if I made it a priority. It just probably won’t be as prolonged or as peaceful as I’d like. Inevitably, one of my kids will complain that the other one is taking up too much room, the other one will steal half the covers, my husband will realize the waffle maker is broken and World War Three will break out between my kids as we decide over alternatives like pancakes or French toast.
Swinging on a hammock with my kids on a tropical island takes more effort to achieve but is worth pursuing. Sometimes we need to physically remove ourselves from our day to day lives. Sometimes we need a real vacation.
Plus, getting away—not necessarily to a foreign country or to an island, but to just about anywhere that promotes relaxation, communication, and maybe a little boredom, matters for families, too. Vacations not only allow us to take a step back from the drone of life
Family vacations are an amazing way to model self-care and to get out of our day-to-day grind. This doesn’t have to drain your bank account. Camping and cheap motel beach trips are often just as good, if not better, than high-stress, multi-plane adventures.
Boredom, space, time. Think about how, as you round out this summer, you can take a few more moments than usual for yourself and for your kids to get bored. It’s where all the magic of being a mom happens.
Grab the book! Out March 17, 2020.
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