You might remember that last week I set a little goal for myself to dedicate 60 minutes a day to one-on-one play with the girls.
My biggest goal of this challenge? To turn off technology while I was focusing on quality time. I wanted to challenge myself to live in the present, to practice focusing fully on the three little girls that make my life pretty special (and in such a way that they knew that they had my undivided attention).
So that’s what I attempted. I spent time each day turning away from my iPhone (and with that work and personal emails, text messages, Instagram updates), and turning towards the girls.
I’ll admit this right off of the bat – my initial challenge mentioned that I wouldn’t count one-on-one time that was already a part of dedicated routines around the house (cooking dinner, reading stories at bedtime). But that was near impossible, and what I learned is to take those sometimes mundane tasks and find ways to make them extra engaging (I’m already making dinner, after all) so as to appreciate them more.
I was a bit surprised (and a little relieved) when I saw the comments and discussion that came in after posting the challenge last week. Most of the moms that shared their thoughts announced with surprise at the amount of time that I was challenging myself to. I’m sure working moms felt the time to be an incredible crunch in their day when, as one mom pointed out, she only has 2.5 hours of time with her kids post-work and pre-bed anyways (and there’s still dinner to make and the pj routine to get through). 60 minutes is overwhelming. And I totally get that. I’m sure stay-at-home moms probably thought the number a bit low (this week I observed one mom at the park who stayed in the sandbox with her one-year-old for an hour straight, totally engaged in his world. I was really impressed.)
Here’s what I learned:
1. 60 minutes is a long time! I literally timed myself the first few days just to get a gauge of what my current habits were. I most succeeded in tuning out the ‘noise’ when I broke that hour into chunks. Sometimes that was a twenty minute chunk after breakfast, sometimes that was a five minute chunk during the crazy of a busy afternoon. It’s amazing what five minutes of engagement in the middle of a busy sretch can do.
2. I nixed the rule to not count routine activities within two days. Once I counted our cooking time, activity book or coloring time, reading time and park time, I focused on making those activities centered more around the girls. For example, during meal prep I encouraged Liv to scoot up a chair and help me build the salad. While adding fruits and veggies we talked about what we were doing or our day.
3. I didn’t become discouraged when I couldn’t meet ‘my goal’. This was an experiment after all, and if some days we spent a full morning with a play group but there was no mommy-time, that was okay. If I had to answer work emails for four hours straight and had to skip the park, so be it. If I was sick in bed, I abandoned it all together.
4. I was able to focus on activities I dig! Art projects, reading new library books, going on walks, taking the girls on little Starbucks dates when I had just one with me. I wanted to engage in what the girls wanted to do, but we parents are crafty about being able to shape that.
I loved reader Frannie’s comment about quiet observation and “wants nothing quality time”. Janet Lansbury explains that it’s not so important that your quality kid-time is actively engaging, it’s more that you’re just present. Towards the end of the week this was ever true for me.
Sometimes for me setting a goal (amount of time, pounds, number of items, etc depending on the challenge) helps to keep me focused on building better habits. Having this minute goal to reach each day encouraged me to creatively find ways to invite more play. Not so much as any sort of strict rule, but more as incentivization.
I will have to come up with a new strategy when I’m back to work full time (this won’t work then!), but for these next few weeks I’m liking the idea of building habits of encouraging myself to use the free moments that I do have (whether they were two or 30) to ignore distraction and to enjoy the play.
Hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and President’s weekend!