How Much Time Should I Spend with My Kids? (It's an “Evolving” Process)

Amanda Clark-Rudolph

How a Fight Club Quote Relates to My Writer Mom Life

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“Evolve and let the chips fall where they may.” — Fight Club

Okay, I know it’s strange to start a parenting article with a quote from Fight Club, but it perfectly describes how I adapt to the amount of time I spend with my kids.

Parenting is an ever-evolving journey, and I’m still trying to find the balance between being there for my children while also encouraging them to become self-sufficient human beings.

Attempting this balance isn’t an easy feat, and my philosophy continues to change as I adapt my life around raising two young boys.

For example, I never thought I would become a work at home mom. But after giving birth, everything I thought was important in life shuffled around like a deck of cards.

My teaching career took a backseat, and forget balancing plates, mine - shattered. So, after having my second son, I reorganized my life and became a work at home mom.

A decision that was, and still is, one of the best decisions I ever made for MY family.

I quit my traditional job because I was a stress case. It was too much. I was irritable, exhausted, overwhelmed, and knew something had to give.

I LOVED teaching, and I was fortunate to be at a spectacular school, but for me, all of that still wasn’t enough because deep down it’s not what I truly wanted anymore.

Research suggests that it’s the quality of time spent with your children that matters — not the quantity, and I know many women who manage to strike a healthy balance. Not perfect, but healthy.

But I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t spending quantity or quality time with my kids. I was just too damn tired.

I am well aware that EVERY mother faces hardships. I’m well aware of my blessings, but we all have our limits. If you know you need to make a change that benefits you and your family, and you’re able to make it, DO it.

With two kids, my teaching job, and other family tensions, I had met my threshold. I knew I needed to adapt my game plan and do what was best for me because that would, in turn, benefit my family.

Only seeing my kids for two hours a day during the week, and being an irritable basket case for those two hours wasn’t cutting it.

I wanted more.

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So I traded in my traditional job for a work at home one. My 2-year-old son went from being at daycare five days a week for 10+ hours a day to being home with me — all of the time.

A lot changed. At first, I was happy to always be present. If my toddler needed food, I got it. If he needed to nap, I put him to bed. If he wanted to dance, we rocked out to the Toddler Time station.

But I soon found that he never wanted me to leave. And he even had a hard time when I would go for a quick trip to the grocery store.

And in a way, this terrified me, and made me a bit crazy! So, like that Fight Club quote says, I knew we needed to evolve… again. We decided to keep him enrolled in daycare two days a week.

Why? I was home, right?

Ha! I wasn’t getting any work done with a milk guzzling baby and my awesomely spirited toddler.

What works for one family may not work for another. We found that two days of daycare could build social skills and help our nugget understand that mommy wasn’t going to be by his side every single second.

I wasn’t taking breaks for myself. And although working at home cut down some stress, I still needed more help, and I’m not ashamed to admit that.

Yes, I loved my new job and the freedom it offered, but it was still a job with deadlines. My freelancing life wasn't a hobby.

Working at home comes with its own set of challenges.

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Furthermore, adjusting to caring for two children took more energy than I could have imagined. So daycare for a couple of days was a big help. I still had the baby but completed a lot more on those toddler-free days. All while my tyke socialized, made crafts, and sang the ABCs.

I also worked for two hours in the backroom three days a week. This arrangement worked for a little while. Spoiler alert: As babies get older, they become more active, and require more attention as they grow. Who knew?

When I worked at home, even behind closed doors in the back room, my husband would continually interrupt me by bringing in the baby to nurse, and my toddler would take his Tonka Truck and jam it against the door.

Go figure — loud banging was not the rhythm I needed to concentrate.

There came a point when I wasn’t getting much done anymore. The boundaries between home and work: a blur.

What happened next? The stress started rising again.

At this point, I knew that my husband needed to step up and be more self-sufficient with the kids, and I needed to let him.

But this transformation wasn’t going to happen when I was working in the house. Both my husband and toddler knew I was there, in the next room, and they called upon me often. The temptation to get mommy was just too great, and truthfully, my job wasn’t valued as much as it was worth.

I finally accepted that those two hours were always going to be interrupted if I didn’t hightail it out of there. I was either with the kids or working, and I often found myself multitasking by doing both. “Me” time didn’t exist again.

One day I woke up and knew that it was time to make a sustainable change. We needed to evolve again. I decided that not only did my sons need to learn how to get along without me at home sometimes, but my husband did too.

I had become like a cup of water under a steady faucet — overflowing. I needed some help scooping some away. Or better yet, I needed to turn that sucker off.

I needed to delegate (always a weakness of mine) and set guidelines.

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When I woke up that day, I knew what I had to do to benefit my family.

For two hours a day during the week, this work at home mom needed to get out of the house. That’s right. Just like I used to physically leave for a traditional job, I needed to leave for my “at home” job.

My husband also needed to be in charge of the two kids — not just one — when he could. I needed to go to Starbucks, the library, or even a parking lot down the road to focus.

I needed to start pumping again, so my husband had milk for the baby, and I could be 100% childless for two hours each weekday. It’s the only way work was going to get done. Getting away was a necessity for me, but I needed to make an effort to make it happen.

This is how I would get my work done, reduce stress, and involve my husband more. This change also would bring back value to a vital job that wasn’t seen as one when I was still available in the back room.

Even though I had gone from a full day of work to two-three hours (side note these hours have increased since writing this) I still needed to get dressed and tell everyone I was physically leaving. My son needed to know that I was going away then coming back. For me, this was the solution.

So that’s what I did. According to research, children imitating adults' behavior is a universal concept. And what kind of model would I be if I didn’t take care of myself and didn’t delegate?

That could end up carrying over to my children. And what if my toddler sees that daddy isn’t around both kids on his own and that mommy always has to be called upon? That’ll carry over as well.

My husband and I are not only raising two boys. We’re raising future husbands, future fathers, and future men. A tall order. And we’re doing the best we can.

My family constantly evolves.

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Daddy had to be self-sufficient with two kids. And mommy had to be self-sufficient by focusing for two hours solely on work instead of domestic duties.

How families choose to distribute their time with their children is different based on their personal situations. But for us, I needed two hours a day away, and daddy needed two hours a day in.

And let me tell you the results were astounding. The first noticeable change was I ended up getting a lot more work done. Here’s a shocker — when I had all my attention zoned in on writing for two hours, I completed so much more than being interrupted ten times.

I also no longer felt like I was continually trying to play catch-up and multitasking around my children. Since I got around four times the amount of work done — in those two hours — than I had before. I had more time to focus on just the kids. Although I still had to work around them sometimes, it was not nearly as much.

I found myself less stressed out since I was in a decent place with work. It was also easier to put down the computer mid-sentence and go outside.

Additionally, I was in a better mood. Everyone noticed that I had more patience. I wasn’t as irritable with my children… or husband.

I finally began modeling the behavior of an independent adult who could handle it — most of the time.

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Another change was that my husband gained more confidence. Part of the reason he wasn’t with two children by himself was that I was always there.

In a way, I was lingering. I rarely left. So not only did I find some assertiveness that benefited me, but this evolution helped my husband too. He began to enjoy his time and learn more about his children.

I love my husband, but this independent time wouldn’t have entirely happened if I had not left. He had to see first hand how much work it was being fully alone with a 7-month-old and a 3-year-old.

There also was a significant change in my son. At 4 o’clock, he knew that mommy was leaving for work, so he would give me a kiss. Then I’d say, “I’ll see you later.” And he’d run away to play with his Tinker Toys.

He then knew that even though I wasn’t there, he didn’t need me for a little while — just like Dr. Phil said on one of his shows, he knew that I would come back.

I’m well aware that there are women out there who stay home all the time with their children. There are also women who work from home. And there are women who work full or part-time outside of the house.

There isn’t one right answer.

I have learned that I just need to evolve based on the needs of my family and me. The expression, “You do you and I’ll do me” means so much more to me now than it once did.

One of the most powerful studies I ever read was done in the UK and found that that the mother’s happiness is what matters most. Researchers asked mothers if they were happy with their partners. Then their kids, ages 10–12, reported how happy they were in their family situation.

Seventy-three percent of the kids were happy if their moms were satisfied with their partners. While only fifty-five percent of kids were happy if their moms were unhappy with their partners.

Mama’s happiness is essential.

Stopping my traditional job was a positive step for my family and me, but it ended up not being enough.

Regardless of how many hours women hold a job in or out of the house, there seems to be an imbalance for many when it comes to the home. And depending on the severity of the imbalance, a mother’s super high-stress level can affect the kids.

Parenting can be tough, and we’ve got to find limits to decrease the burdens. It’s one thing to feel overwhelmed once in a while and another to feel like you’re drowning every day.

Removing myself from the house during the week and having my husband watch both kids alone has improved our relationship. It has also resulted in an eye-opening experience for us both. And these vibes have carried over to our children.

We still have a ways to go, and we’ll never find a perfect formula. But we’ve found a better one than before.

I’ve discovered that improvement, opposed to perfection, should always be the ultimate goal.

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Our family uses two days of daycare for our toddler a week. And for two hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, daddy’s on duty with both kiddos. We have family time at night and on the weekends, and then there’s mommy time while my husband works.

Maybe two hours sounds low or high to you, but this is what’s working for us right now. And our children are learning to be independent of mommy which is important to me.

But circumstances change. It’s not always going to be this way. For starters, our youngest is so close to crawling, and that’ll change a few things. But we’ll “evolve and let the chips fall where they may.”

And through it all, I’m going to pay attention to when that cup starts overflowing again, and I’m going to do my best to take care of myself.

If I do this, it’s not only me, but my family that reaps the benefits.

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Hi, I'm Amanda - a freelancing mama who writes about family, travel, holidays, and more! In addition to freelancing it up, I'm a Content Coordinator for neighborhood magazines. My favorite pastimes: Writing, slurping lattes, and playing freeze tag with my two sons.

Ocala, FL
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