If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money – Abigail Van Buren
I sold my business 4 months ago, and I have been home full time with our children since then. This is the only time, since being on maternity leave when they were babies, that I have done this. Being a working mum has been my choice. I’ve always thought that I wasn’t very good at being a stay at home mum, I’m happiest when I’m busy or working on a project and I’ve always wondered what I’d do all day whilst the children were at school. When I was a teacher I always admired the mums who made it their ‘work’ to busy themselves with their homes and their children’s various activities. Their children had lunch boxes full of home baked treats and mums that coordinated drop-offs, pick-ups, sports and music practice like pros. A friend who knows me well, asked me if our decision to homeschool the children was directly linked to my desire for a project to do in the absence of paid work outside our home. I don’t think that the link is about me and my needs to be busy, but more a result of our plans to travel with the children, and our desire to see our children educated in a way that is more in line with our current thinking, and a craving to spend more time with them. At the moment it’s only me who is home with the children full time, and we eagerly anticipate the day when our house sells, so that Simon can quit his job and join us.
Despite our busy work schedules over the years, Simon and I have tried to find ways to spend quality family time together. Like all working parents though, this has not always been easy. Simon leaves before the children wake, and isn’t home until after 6 each evening and I was working 6 days a week in the shop. When Lucy turned 11 last year though, we both decided that what we really wanted was even more time with our children. Suddenly it felt like they were growing up very fast and if we didn’t make a serious effort to make time together the priority, then their childhood would pass us by. We understand loud and clear, that not all families want to do what we are doing, quitting our jobs, selling our house and travelling together, but there are practical steps that every family can take to spend more time together, and things that we have learnt over the years, which will make a big difference to the quality of the time that you spend with your children.
- Eat dinner together – at the table, with the TV off. We have made this a simple evening routine every night since the children started eating solid food. Each night, we are able to discuss our day together without distractions from the television (or mobile phones) and we cherish this time to get tho know our children better.
- Attend their extra curricular activities – (or least as many as you can!) I will admit, this one hasn’t always been easy, and sometimes Grandma had to attend in our place, but from 6am swimming practice on Saturday mornings, Netball in the rain and School concerts, we did our best to schedule our work around these things. We found this helped to motivate the children to participate, and allow them to feel that they were sharing their interests with us.
- Take them to places that aren’t necessary just for kids – One of our children’s favourite restaurants is a Sushi one. When we go, there’s hardly ever other kids there, and perhaps that’s part of the appeal, (and they love Sushi!). By not always taking them to fast-food, child orientated places our kids have learnt how to behave in adult settings, how to enjoy different foods and they feel more ‘grown up’. Not to mention, Sushi is far more enjoyable than McDonalds for us!
- Watch kids movies with them – Disney isn’t just a baby sitter. One of our favourite activities to do together is make a big bowl of popcorn and watch our favourite Disney movies together, even if we’ve seen then a hundred times! We can all quote our favourite Disney lines, let’s face it, sometimes the jokes are more adult orientated anyway! Simon has also enjoyed sharing his favourite films, Star Wars and the Indiana Jones movies with Oscar.
- Play the Wii with your kids – I have to admit Simon is better at this than I am, but by playing games with the kids we’ve had fun spending time with the kids doing things that they enjoy, instead of letting the Wii steal the kids away from us.
- Put the computer in a communal area of the house – We are very fortunate that our study is in a busy traffic area of our house, and we keep two PC’s in there, one for adults and one for kids. Not having computers in children’s bedrooms is extremely important to keep them safe on the internet, but we have found it to be an added bonus that the children have shared their homework and interests with us simply as a result of being in the room with them when they went online.
- Exercise with your children – This one has been a lot easier for me since I have been at home full time, but I wish I’d done it earlier. Instead of just taking the children to swimming lessons, now I swim with them 3 times a week. We are having a lot of fun, and keeping fit together now, and I love it!
- Read with your children – This is not only important for your children’s reading development, it is an excellent way to share interests, discuss themes and indulge in imaginative experiences together. We all love Harry Potter, and we found that the children are far more interested in reading if they can discuss the plot and characters with us.
- Make things with them and for them – whether it be a DIY wood construction, Lego, or a tray of cookies, making things with your kids is a great way to spend time together and an educational experience as well.
- Include children in your plans – It is wonderful to hear from the children what they would like to do on Our Global Adventure and the places they’d like to visit. By including them in our plans, the kids are not just being pulled along for the ride, but they know that the experience is for them too.
If I could visit my young pre-children self though, the one piece of advice that I would give myself is to spend more time and less money to be with them. By living in a smaller house with less things there never would have been the need to work so much. Kids won’t remember that they had a great house, all the latest gadgets and a room full of toys long after they leave home, but they will remember that you were always at work and not in the house with them. Unfortunately I don’t think that as adults we realise that the reason our parents weren’t around is that they were busy working to pay for all of these things for us. As parents it’s so easy to fall into the trap of working harder outside the home so that we can ‘buy’ our kids the very best, and yet the smiles on their faces when we stop to spend time with them should be evidence itself of what kids really want 😉