Monday, January 12, 2015

Guest Post || Work Hard, Play Harder

Jess is the mom of two boys and the creative mind behind Give Me Strength where she shares her hilarious and encouraging stories of parenthood.

Balance is the key to so many things in my life.  As a working mother, I have to be away from my kids for approximately 45-50 hours each week.  I work hard.  When I am home, I want that time to count more than anything.  So, I play harder.

As the result of juggling work and motherhood for several years, I’ve come up with some ways to help achieve a sense of balance in each area.  I would love to be a stay-at-home-mom, but that is simply not an option for me.  In order to stay on top of my responsibilities and enjoy every moment I can with my kids, I work to incorporate these things into my daily life.

Leave Work at Work
This has not always been easy for me.  I’m a perfectionist and so I am constantly reviewing things in my head or questioning whether or not situation was handled appropriately.  The last thing I want to do is bring my baggage from work home with me for the evening or weekend.  My kids don’t care about what happened during my work day, nor should they.  They are just excited to see me and I them.  By letting go of ‘work mode,’ I can focus solely on my family when I am with them, and that’s beneficial for all of us.

Plan Ahead
Meal planning and activity planning can be a real lifesaver.  If it has been a rough day at the office, I don’t want to come home and then have to decide what to make for dinner.  To the best of our ability, my husband and I try to discuss what we might want to have for dinner throughout the week so that this responsibility is easier to handle.  

As the boys get older, they want to do different things.  This is where activity planning is helpful.  During warmer weather, we are outside all the time.  We take walks, jump in the creek, and dig in the sand/dirt.  When winter rolls around, it can be much more difficult to add some variety to our activities.  We will plan movie nights where I will rent a movie they haven’t seen and we’ll share snacks. Sometimes we will bake something simple together. Lately, they have really been into building forts.  We’ll see how big we can make the fort or if we can make them in different parts of the house.  Planning ahead doesn’t mean that the activity that you do is elaborate or expensive – that’s just not reality.  It’s just about coming up with ways to have fun together.

Independent Play
I used to feel guilty about encouraging my kids to play independently.  I felt that because I was away from them at work most of the day I should be right by their side for the 4-5 hours we had together each evening and all day long on the weekends.  Then I realized that I wasn’t doing them any favors.  I was becoming their entertainer and it was exhausting and frustrating.  

When I am making dinner or cleaning up after dinner, they are expected to find something to play with on their own.  Thankfully, they have started to enjoy playing with each other so they are able to do that together if they want to.  This has saved my sanity.  I play with them as much as I can, but there are just times when things have to be done.  I am not there during their naptime, so I have to have a little bit of time to get things in order.  

It’s a win-win for all of us.  I can catch up on things, and they have learned to entertain themselves as well as play together.  There are times now that I will be playing with them and they will suddenly decide to play in one of their rooms and I’m not allowed.  I’ll ask why and they’ll say, “We’re going to do boy things!”  

One-on-One Time
Each day, I try to spend at least ten minutes with each of my two children individually.  If I can spend more time than that one-on-one, then that’s even better.  I have made ten minutes my goal because it is attainable no matter when they wake up from their naps or go to bed for the night.  My youngest son usually wakes up from his nap first.  We will snuggle, read, or play with a toy of his choosing during this time.

My oldest son goes to bed about half an hour later than his brother.  The time right before he goes to bed is usually our time together.  We will color, read, bake cookies, relax, etc.  Many times we will just talk.  I love hearing what he has to say.  Now he will tell me, “I need to have a good conversation before I can get any shut eye.”  This is also known as a decent excuse to delay bedtime.

By spending time with them individually, I want to show them how important they are to me. I tell them that all the time, but putting it into action drives the point home. Plus, I think it is really beneficial to show a child that they have your undivided attention.

Helping Hands
I mentioned earlier that there are things that just need to be done either during the course of the day or at different times of the week.  Being a wife, a mother, and a home owner come with a decent amount of responsibilities.  Yes, there are some things that are too dangerous for my children to help me with at their age; however, there are many things that they are capable of doing.  If I need to dust, I give them a cleaning towel and show them what I want them to do.  If I am doing laundry, I will hand them the clothes out of the washing machine and they will load it into the dryer.  They love to help out, especially if they get to run the vacuum.  We are still spending quality time together while simultaneously crossing things off of the to-do list.  Not only that, but they are of the age where they are responsible for cleaning up after themselves.  They will clear their spot at the table and are also expected to put their toys away.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when getting them to clean up is like pulling teeth, but we stick with it.

Keep in mind, this is how I try to balance work and play.  These are ideal scenarios in my world that obviously don’t always happen.  Balancing a career and motherhood is a never-ending work-in-progress.  Just work hard, but play harder!

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