For Parents Who Feel Guilty For Spending Less Time With Their Kids — Here is One Way to Banish That Guilt

Guilt-ridden expensive gifts are passé. This isn’t. I didn’t plan to write this- words tumbled out.

Photo by Dakota Corbin

First, I thought — my mom was being nice.

“Don’t feel guilty about NOT spending time with my grand-daughters. Time doesn’t matter. Memories do.” Those were the sage words of my mom.

As I let her words soak, I connected the dots.

Recently, after an exhausting day at work, I arrived home — a little happy to beat the traffic and embrace the inviting arms of my living room sofa. Slouched.

My 9 year-old had something to share. We share a common bond for math. This time, it was about the magic of zeros after a decimal. She dazzled me with pictures on how 0.08 and 0.80 differ. It was different from how I was taught. Riveted, I listened. I was too tired for a dialogue. She understood. The conversation lasted for 5 mins.

Later that week, My wife and I sat across her teachers [Houston schools have two teachers in 4th grade]. Conversation veered around math and I smiled. I parroted my daughter’s learning on decimals. Her teacher beamed, “looks like you learned a new strategy. ” Indeed, it is a strategy. Never thought of that word in a school context before. Now, I can.

Back home, when I relayed back the conversation – there was a smile on my daughter’s face. A smile that is hard to explain but easy to decipher — “daddy, you picked up what I said and I did not even notice.”

Total physical time for the conversation with her teacher and relay back —another 5 mins.

In this time capsule of 10 mins — possibly, the only meaningful one that hectic week, I co-created memories with my daughter.

I am not the only one. Disney parks got my mama’s advice right — on a mega scale.

If I count the minute-by minute happiness on a hot, crowded summer day in the park, I am better off sitting on my couch at home.

But, in memory, the Disney visit might be the highlight of the year. Why?

Disney visit had peak moments that couches can’t bring — adrenaline rush from space mountain rides or my children’s beaming face when Mickey makes an appearance on their side.

Professor Dan Heath in his book, Power of Moments, sums it beautifully — memories are a collection of peak moments not average, minute by minute activities.

Disney understands this — feelings are in full flow during peak moments. And all those feelings create memories.

In a similar vein, my mom has a zest for wedding pictures. For her — the richest magic, the most gratifying memories you will ever chisel are born from your most extraordinary joys.

She aptly calls those pictures — conduit for memories.

Memorializing memories.

During the peak years of our earning potential, our kids grow rapidly. The guilt of working parents lingers — “could I spend more time with them?”

Somewhere along the way, I found the powerful narrative in the stolen moments with my kids. Not guilt ridden big gifts. Not the physical length of time. Just simple ways to engage, enthrall, captivate or simply –entertain for a few giggles.

As I glide through the store aisles, when I see the words M&M in bold– I chuckle. My daughters are excited especially my 6-years-old.

For her, M&M may be about gobbling up a few chocolate gems. For me, it reverberates with “Magic of Moments”

Children may forget what you did for them on a minute by minute basis. The memories that linger are how you made them feel during the peak moments — small, wholesome, genuine moments .

In that nuance, I seek my solace. At work, we get paid for our time and years of service. At home with kids, I am a seeker. A seeker of simple moments that are life’s hidden treasures in plain sight that hum a blissful lullaby.

A lullaby to celebrate what matters — a vibrant, jubilant rainbow flush with colors. A metaphor that tickles my daughter’s senses. And ignites a chirpiness within me that many parents can relate.

Peak moments don’t take time. Be on the lookout- cherish them, savor them and watch your guilt melt away.

Monday morning blues are passé. The guilt free, stolen moments with our kids are emphatically in.

Karthik Rajan.

P.S. This blog is a tribute to every working parent who feels, “wish I spend/spent more time with my kids during their early school years.”