Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Scheduling "Awesome Mom" Time

I was talking with my husband the other day about some of my parenting woes when I said, "You know, I just really wish that I could schedule a specific time for parenting, a devoted hour each day where I would be this awesome involved mom, really play on the floor and do fun activities or whatever. And then, when the scheduled time is up, I could be 'done' and spend the rest of my day focused and uninterrupted on my other projects. I know that's ridiculous, but with my personality I'd be a much better mom that way."

Then my husband said, "You know, that's kind of exactly how parenting is for me."

And then I wanted to throw a book at him, because it's true. He has a couple of scheduled hours each week (Saturday mornings) where he's the super fun and focused Dad, making pancakes before taking the boys to the zoo or the Children's Museum or building elaborate cities out of blocks on the floor or whatever, and then when the time is up he goes back to work or whatever other project and is kind of "done" for the week. This is not to say that he's un-involved, or even gone the rest of the time (although he does have a busy work and church schedule), it's just that when he's doing his Dad thing, he's all in, and when he's doing something else, he feels no guilt about being totally focused on that.

Now, our parenting situations are different in that I am the primary caregiver 90% of the time (yes, I have a nanny, but only for school hours), and my children need me to be available pretty much at all times to meet their needs (potty training, nursing, teething pain in the middle of the night, etc.). But I did realize, after thinking about this conversation and some of the data from my time diary experiment, that I could probably benefit from following the example of my husband and "schedule" more intentional parenting time.

Here's what I mean. One of my personality quirks that was really highlighted by my time diary experiment is that I like focused chunks of time to do one thing, get really lost in the flow of the activity, and then check it off the to-do list before moving on to the next project or activity. I am not a great multi-tasker. When I try to do two things at once, I usually feel unfocused and frustrated. Unfortunately, at least for me, a lot of parenting is multi-tasking. When I do stuff with my kids, it's either interrupting a different activity I'm trying to do (reading, cleaning, cooking, etc.), or it's a transition activity I try to get over as quickly as possible so I can move on to the "real" activity I have scheduled. I usually always plan to do something on my own agenda, and then get frustrated when parenting responsibilities interrupt my plans.

While the interruptions are frustrating, what I realized this means on the flip side is that I never give my kids focused attention. I never actually plan to just be with my kids.

So what I've decided I need is scheduled time to devote to intentional parenting. Scheduled time when I will be an "awesome mom." I'm not sure exactly what this "awesome mom" time will entail. I go back and forth on whether I want this to be an mom-directed activity time, where I choose some educational or productive activity, or whether I want this to be a kid-directed activity time where my son gets to pick what we do (essentially agreeing to get beat up in the physical wrestling and aggressive boy-play my son so desperately needs), but I do know that I want "awesome mom time" to be a time where I really focus on the following things:

  • Patience, endless patience
  • No yelling or harsh reactive disciplining
  • Fun and energy
  • Laughs and giggles
  • Physically present with my children

Then, even if the rest of the day feels like endless interruptions, or I lose my patience, or I yell and react poorly, I will know that for at least an hour that day, I was an "awesome mom." I think this could go a long way for not just helping me be a better mother, but also for helping me reframe how I view efficiency and my schedule as a mother. I know that I work best in chunks of time, so I need to give myself a chunk of time to be my best mom-self, and then not feel so guilty when I devote other chunks of time to other activities.

This plan starts today. If it goes well and makes a difference, I'll report back in later. Do any of you do something like this scheduled "Awesome Mom" time? What do you do that makes you feel like a good, focused parent?


  1. I've been trying something like that for the past year. I felt really frazzled in everything, because I'd get distracted in anything I did: If I was playing with the kids I wouldn't be totally present, something would catch my attention that I should take care of it, so I would, then when they'd come begging for me to play, I'd feel so conflicted and guilty because the time with them before wasn't really quality time, but at the same time I couldn't really be expected to play all day long. Then I saw this TED talk ( https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_killingsworth_want_to_be_happier_stay_in_the_moment ) and I resolved to be more present in whatever I was doing and started 'mommy/nessa and mommy/jaxy time' for half an hour each day. I let them pick what we do, but sometimes I'll try to persuade them to pick something I'd rather do. We're not always great at remembering to do it everyday, especially with summer throwing off the nice schedule we'd created, but it feels good when we do do it. I don't have to feel guilty when it's time to go off and do my own thing or home things, and its amazing how much I enjoy each child when it's just me and them, and they're not fighting for attention. Good luck!

    1. That was a fascinating TED talk, thanks for sharing. And yes, being present in the (scheduled) moment with my children has made those moments happier, and relieved the guilt of feeling like I *should* be playing with them all day long.

  2. I have read Amy McCready's book and listened to a webinar from her Positive Parenting workshops. This is her number one tool to help with behavioral and discipline problems--focused time with each kid. She calls it "mind-body-soul time", 10 minutes twice a day with each kid individually to truly focus on them and do what they want to do. Number one rule is to put away your phone and really listen and connect. The idea is that if you preemptively fill the child's attention bucket, then they won't demand attention through negative behaviors as much.

    I've tried a modified version, giving each kid 15 min, setting a timer. They get to choose the activity, but I make suggestions too. It doesn't get done everyday, but I've noticed I feel better about my day as a mom when I do make a concerted effort to spend quality time playing with each individually.

    The tricky part is what to do with the other child/children during mom time. With three kids, I can have e.g. Mommy-Natalie time while the other two have Kate-Andrew time. This gives everyone focused, special sibling time too. Labeling and timing it (and ideally scheduling it in) has helped me feel more intentional as a mother.

    1. I'll have to look up that book. Interesting that she says 10 minutes is enough time (although I suppose that's good news if you have large families). Right now I do combined Awesome Mom time because Henry's not old enough to pick activities, and Josh doesn't mind if Henry's along for the ride, but when they're older I'm sure it will be nice to have focused scheduled time for each individual child.