Reclaiming Time as a Working Parent
It seems like the dream for every working parent to dedicate all their 24 hours towards their child? Imagine being able to wake up, make some pancakes with your kid, watch them play, discuss their favorite TV shows, do some art and crafts, take them out to a fast-food joint of their choice, wind down and tuck them into bed; all while not worrying about work.
It is beyond difficult for any parent to leave their child at home while they work. The parent is never truly at rest. At work, they wonder what the child is doing and if he/she is safe. On holidays, the parent has a plethora of household chores to take care of. Not to mention, taking care of the child’s social wellbeing, education and health. Often, one dissipates into this never ending monotonous and painful cycle that affects not only their physical health but also their mental health.
Parental Guilt is a real-life silent struggle almost every parent goes through. Feeling guilty for not spending enough time with your children, overworking to provide for and losing out on the child’s little achievements, not actively listening to your child and more. It is unavoidable but it can be fixed! Conventionally, one parent was the stay-at-home mom or dad whose primary responsibility was child-care. However, as we evolve into an equal and driven world, we see a lot of children whose parents are working. This leads to the child having to stay at home, alone, for long hours or be taken care of by a nanny/sometimes grandparents. It isn’t uncommon and neither should a parent feel guilty about it. But how does a parent’s job affect the lives of the children?
Quality of Life: The world that we live in has a monetary requirement that only a certain amount of people are able to accomplish. At the end of the day, every parent wants to earn enough and be in a certain position to be able to provide for their family’s needs. A household with a larger income is bound to be able to afford a multitude of things.
Independence: There is a possibility that a working parent’s child is slightly more independent from a young age as compared to a child whose mother/father is at home. The child themselves feels that they are in authority which is a great confidence booster. They are also in charge of tasks that one’s parents would otherwise do for them. Like, serving food for them after coming back from school, asking them to take baths, regulating play-time, etc. When a child is allowed to be their own little masters, they are more likely to do things in a humane and regulated fashion.
Valuing time: As a working parent, every moment counts when you are with your child. Parents recognize that they have a limited amount of time before they go back to hustling so they are able to value time more actively than others.
Although, there are some cons:
Lack of bond: Most parents sense a strong lack of bond with their children during their ungodly teens. However, the terrible teens may come a little sooner for working parents. Since the parent is not around the child may start to connect more with their caretakers (grandparents/nannies/babysitters) than with the parents. And for those children staying at home alone, they may start to disconnect from their parents and start enjoying the time they have alone instead.
Behavioral changes: psychologically, it is easy for a child to start feeling like no one cares for them and they are their own boss. This may lead them to act differently around their parents. A lot of times children will lock themselves in their room, not listen to their parents and not want to be a part of family gatherings. The beginning of a toxic child-parent conflict which may carry on for decades in some cases.
When one works around these issues they can be avoided or resolved. The key is to make sure your child understands where you come from and ultimately feels loved and cared for. In the process of being an authoritative parent (strict, yet nurturing) or authoritarian parent (strict and commanding) parents usually forget the core ideal – being a parent to your child. Allow your child to see your emotional side, they should be able to connect with you instead of being scared of you.
How does one solve this? Reclaiming time. Reclaim the lost time by using some of the following methods:
- Knock your work life out once you clock out. Avoid the calls, unless absolutely necessary.
- Try to connect with your children in a personal/friendly way, share stories with them, tell them about your children (not as a learning), ask them about their friends. They feel loved and honestly, they enjoy the attention they are getting.
- Spend quality time with your children – every day. Do things they want to do, no matter how silly and time taking it is. Play a game, watch a show, build a fort, ding-dong-dash (not always) or paint nails. This will help build a connection and trust.
- Indulge in school without schooling. Of course, you are worried about your child’s future but avoid bringing up the school, marks, expectations with every conversation.
- Make open-ended conversations with your children, this allows them to make you their safe place. They should be able to share their opinion with you without being judged.
- Time is indispensable. Juggling between a million roles needs some time management to divide tasks, prioritize and limit yourself from overworking. That leaves you with added time at home with your children.
- Use timeboxing as a way to spend more time with the kids while still doing chores. Set up a timer for 30 minutes of cleaning, once your phone buzzes, go bake cookies with the kids. It won’t matter if your living room is a mess, but what will matter is if your children are not sitting there with you after a few years!
- Allow your children to take up some responsibility. Maintain a daily chores list for each member of the family. You can ask them to clean up after dinner, fix the beds and other such daily homely tasks. The inevitable parent guilt may kick in but it only teaches your child to contribute and reminds them of authority.
Eventually, the disconnect and gap will be bridged by some impeccable memories and honest discussions.
It is incredibly difficult to maintain a job, house, children and relationships all in this one life. Being an adult comes with financial independence and a side of constant stress. This stress seems to only double when you have a child with whom your bond is receding. We have to learn to forgive ourselves, try as much as we can and sometimes (a lot of times) take little breaks. Reclaim time with your children in a soft, slow and systematic manner. The ‘I love yous’, ‘do you want to watch a movie with me’ is just as important as the ‘eat your vegetables’.
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