Do you feel like retiring from parenting?
I have my moments when I feel like retiring from parenting would be a great choice for both myself and for my kids. I got home after a long day of work yesterday and the kids were fighting and being incredibly loud and destroying the house. I just didn’t have it in me to parent. If you are a parent; you know exactly what I’m talking about. I feel guilty that sometimes; I’m not more interactive, patient, fun, engaged and everything that a parent is suppose to be. I find myself fantasying about an adult vacation away from the kids and then feeling guilty for thinking of such a thing.
Is it bad to want to retire from parenting somedays?
I feel like it’s normal to feel like retiring from parenting, at least in our culture. It’s exhausting just putting food on the table and getting kids to soccer practice. I have to remind myself of a parenting class I took about 5 years back in which the professor asked the class how much we think the average parent gives each of their children undivided attention. I guessed something like 8 minutes a day with other classmates guessing anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour a day. He replied that according to a study he researched it was less than 37 seconds a day. He then quoted numbers of hours kids spend on electronics, social media, and watching TV in the 8–14 hours a day range. He then proposed the question, who is raising America’s children? I think back to this professors statements when I’m feeling guilty for being a tired and exhausted parent. It reminds me that my mission is not to be perfect in my parenting but to be more connected to my kids. I desire to be the primary influence in my children’s lives; not the media or xbox.
How do you connect with kids in our current society?
My wife and I have made a few commitments that are helping us connect more with our kids and bring the average undivided attention time up and the media time down. Here are a few things that we are doing below. We are not perfect at the list below and we still feel plenty of guilt and want to retire often; however these things do help us feel more connected and bonded to our children.
- We eat meals around the table or on the floor when a chair is broken with our kids (without electronics). It’s surprising how many family have stopped doing this at least with the TV off.
- We hold a family meeting on Sunday night to discuss family matters, goals, concerns and we ask for the kids to present family activities that they would like to earn. The kids love having a say in the home. We will use the activity that picked to be something we all do together later in the week and during the week when they act out we remind them that only if they play nice, do their chores, and be obedient will they get to go. We’ve had to work out some kinks in the activity as some kids are better than others; for example our 3 year old was naughty most the week and the other kids did great so when we went to trampoline park for the activity he had to sit in timeout for a few minutes at the beginning of the activity while his siblings played. It was really hard for him but he did much better the next week.
- We read scriptures and stories every night before bed. We let the kids pick their own stories and then we will often telling them a bedtime story or do a guided meditation to help them relax. (Kids thrive with structure, it’s more work to let chaos rule bedtime.)
- We do a daily walk or scooter/bike ride. This helps kids get their wiggles out and show off their skills to their parents as the say, “Look what I can do.”
- We kill frustration with kindness. Last night my 3 year old was so hyper and yelling and fighting bedtime like a wild animal. My natural feeling is to lock the door and walk away, but we don’t do that in our family. It’s bad and borderline abuse at some levels. Instead I placed some calming doTERRA oils on his feet and gave him an extended hug and told him how much I love him. Studies show that 45 second hugs or longer actually release oxytocin and create calming and loving feelings. He fell asleep shortly after.
- We see our children and as children of God. When I’m frustrated, mad or angry I do not seem to see others in a positive light and I’m scary to my kids. Children are excellent feelers. If I recognize that I’m talking to an angel, a child of God and I put my head around that. I tend to put myself in a better spirit and contention leaves me. I will sometimes put on Mormon Tabernacle or Cello music to change the mood of the home and help myself connect to a more excellent way of seeing my children.
- We ask our kids about their lives and encourage them to talk about what matters to them. Kids are very interesting and they say amazingly funny and inspiring things. Slow life down and ask question like a reporter. Kids open up and thrive when they feel like their parents are actually listening to them.
- We let our kids see us cry. Children need to know that we have emotions too. When they see us cry or show emotions then they know it is okay to show emotions and learn to manage them too. There are no bad emotions, only mismanagement of emotions.
- We laugh together. Kids do crazy things sometimes and families need to laugh. The line between madness and happiness is often very thin in family.
- We go to church together. It may seem simple and obvious, but it helps nourish family relationships when we spend time talking about our heavenly fathers family and learn how God would have us treat each other.
- We simply play together. I find that if I can play with my kids around things I enjoy, it’s so much easier. I like to play soccer in the front yard with the kids or jump on the tramp with them. I like to wrestle and shoot nerf guns with them. I like to ride bikes and shoot basketballs with them. I struggle when exhausted to to do these things, but it really does help us feel more connected and involved in their lives.
- We do yard work together, even when it takes super-long! I’ve allowed my boys to help push the lawnmower around with me for years. They love it and often follow me around with their little play mowers. It’s simple but important quality time. They also learn the value of work as something that can be fun to do.
- We cook together. This is another messy and time consuming thing, but having my kids stuff spinach in the morning smoothie also encourages them to drink it as they took some stewardship over making it.
- We clean together. Kids love getting the mop out or follow along with a spray bottle and a rag. Even my 11 year old will chip in and clean if it means he gets to stay up a little past bedtime or earn some coin.
- We go to bed with an imperfect house. My wife and I used to stay up after bedtime for hours to make the house perfect for the next day. We still clean but not like we used too. Instead we are more willing to clean some with the kids and help them take ownership of household duties, or course at a realistic standard for their ages.
- We use kind words with each other. We encourage our children to communicate with each other instead of telling on each other. We teach them emotional intelligence so that they can understand all these crazy emotions they have. (See John Gottman’s work on emotional intelligence for more information.)
- My wife and I go out on a date every week; even if it’s just grocery trip or a quick dinner. Gary Chapman describes in The Five Love Languages book that couples can not survive on leftovers from yesteryear’s. We make fresh weekly memories that allow us to connect and we also try to get some alone time after the kids go to bed each night to decompress and support each other.
- We believe in self-care. Aside from date night, we each do things we love to recharge. I love going on runs, doing yoga and catching a sports game or movie once in a while. My wife loves singing karaoke, running, yoga and playing her guitar. You must make time for the things you love or else you will burn-out.
In summary, we do our best to focus on progress in quality time and not perfection. It’s a pretty common feeling to feel like retiring from parenting when things are crazy, but shortly after that feeling passes, my kids are still my world. I love them more than pizza and ice cream. Please feel free to add your own thoughts or question in the comments below. I would love to hear your stories and ideas for quality time parenting.