I hear that phrase all the time, but I still do not really know what it means. When our blog received feedback from our survey, many of you requested to hear more “working mom” stories. In particular, you wanted to know how other working moms were striking this mythical thing we call work-life balance. I wish this piece was going to provide you those answers. If I had them though, I would have written a book that Oprah would tweet about, and I’d be a billionaire who didn’t have to balance anything other than how to fit in a trip to both Aspen and the Hamptons this summer. Instead, I’m going to share a few things I have found have helped me increase the value of the time I spend with our children.
Use Your Commute Time to Connect
During my busiest season, the time I spend in the car with the kids is the most time I spend with them all day. When my three year old is in the car, it tends to be her doing most of the talking. I have grown to be a better listener as a result. Her stories often start, “Ummm… Mommy, one time when I was a little girl….” Of course, she also asks a million “Why?” questions. I try my hardest not to become frustrated with this and to treat it as our opportunity to share our thoughts on a topic. “Mommy, why does that lady have a red car?” “Maybe she likes apples that are red and wanted her car to match,” I respond. “No, Mommy. It’s because she likes red. It’s her favorite. Can I get a pink car with polka dots?” And off we go talking about everyone in our family’s favorite colors. I learn that she no longer thinks pink is her favorite color because she also likes purple, but she will let me borrow purple because it is nice to share. When it is just the baby in the car, I find myself narrating my drive to him or going through my to do list with him. I don’t think he really understands what it means to “move one client relationship closer to trusted advisor status,” but if I say it in a loud and funny voice, I get his approval, and he gets to hear lots of new words.
Leave Love Notes
I recently went to New York City for a continuing education class. The night before I left, I cut out little slips of loose leaf paper and found a bright pink marker (because pink is still actually her favorite color). I wrote little notes with drawings and scattered them around the house in places I knew she often goes. In the bathroom by her toothbrush, I left a note that said “You are as sweet as perfume.” I placed it on top of the perfume she always selects for me to wear and instructed her daddy to give her a spritz when she brushed her teeth in the morning. She could recreate our morning routine even if I wasn’t there to do it. One that said “you fill my whole heart” was waiting in the mail slot that she opens each day before she walks out the door. On her chair was a note that said “I love you to the moon and back” with a little picture of the night sky. The first thing she told me when I reached my destination and called home was that she loved her messages. It was such a fun way to connect with her while I wasn’t there.
Get the School Scoop
Our daughter’s school sends home a daily “scoop sheet” that tells us about her day. It is a great way to stay connected and bring the lessons she is learning home with us. They will share what books they are reading or songs they are singing, and they also tell us what her favorite part of her day was. We read her scoop sheet as a family each night, and her eyes light up as she sees us connecting to what she has done that day. School is hard work for her, and we try to place value in the things she is doing. If there is a new song or a book, pick it up or learn it and incorporate that into your bedtime routine. It has helped our daughter to know that we appreciate the things she is doing while we aren’t together and ties them into the time we do spend together.
Take Your Child to Your Office
This may not be possible for all types of employment, but if it is allowable, it sure can be fun. I have taken my daughter to work with me on a few tax season Sundays. She likes to use my calculator to make “tickets” for my colleagues, and she loves to color with highlighters. She particularly enjoys going through all of my personal things and recognizing the pictures of her herself that surround my workspace and pointing out the artwork she has created that adorns my walls. I have found that showing her where I am all day and demonstrating that she is a part of my working world has given her a sense of comfort in knowing that we are never truly apart even if we aren’t together.
Set Up Play Dates Just for You
I have great intentions of exploring new things in our city, but more often than not, we fall into a rut of our neighborhood routine. It’s not that that time can’t be valuable, but it doesn’t always feel special. At three and a half, my daughter is obsessed with calendars. She likes to see the pattern in the days of the week and to think through what is happening today, what happened yesterday, and most excitedly, what is happening tomorrow. So, we have started setting up play dates for our family and adding them to the calendar. This allows her the excitement of adding something to the “what is happening” category, and it encourages me to find fun and unusual things to explore with her. For instance, in two weeks, we will be seeing a play at a local theatre performed by kids for kids. Having that to look forward to, we have spent the last few days talking about what a play is and how the stage my look and what kind of costumes the kids might be wearing. We have added a whole new dialogue about a subject she has yet to experience.