Monday, March 14, 2011

Time Well Spent

One of the biggest concerns I hear from people who are considering a larger family is the potential lack of individual time with each child. The more kids you have, the less time there is to spend with each one alone.

I really used to pooh-pooh that idea, probably because I was a touch defensive about our family size. Why do the kids need to see more of me? Unless they are in school, they are already with me all. day. long. Preferably physically attached to me in some way. I just don't know how much more time we can spend together.

But what I started to realize was that time spent with me in a herd is not the same as a little time with just me. Was I cheating my kids out of their personal time? Did that mean they would turn out to be stingy, grasping adults because their personal needs were not met? Was the world right? Are small families superior because of their ability to spend more time with the kids? Oh crud.

Thankfully, I've managed to observe a few things about these kids that I am home with all day.

I was wrong about the personal time. Kids need it, at least a little bit of it, from each of their parents. Maybe this doesn't extrapolate to all families, but I can really see the need for it in mine. And not just for the kids who are in school all day. Even the little turkeys home with me still need some one on one time.

But I was not wrong to give my kids all these siblings. My kids are as kooky as kids the world over, but what they do know is that they are not the center of the world. They know that you don't automatically get your own room, or first dibs on the bathroom, or the last waffle, or the new sweater, or the prime seat in the van, and that's good. Minor adversity prepares us for major adversity.

So where does that leave us? I have all these lovely children, with whom I am privileged to spend my whole day (and yes, I really do feel that way. This time goes so fast, and I know too many women who would give their eye teeth to spend more time with their children to be ungrateful about that).

Despite all that, I can see the benefits of spending some private time with each child. How?

In my experimentation, I've found that the current baby generally needs less alone time than anyone else. That's because babies naturally suck up more of my time anyway. They are the first to be picked up, the most likely to be coddled or soothed immediately. They spend an inordinate amount of time in my arms compared to the other kids.

For the rest of the kids, I was surprised at how little private time they needed. Maybe that sounds stingy, but I don't mean it that way. I had visions of having to spend tons of alone time with each child, but it turns out that a little goes a very long way in the morale department.

For Sally, all it takes is a drive every Saturday to dance class. We'd be making the drive anyway, but whenever possible I make sure that it is she and I alone.

Every Tuesday, I try to be the one who picks up Francie from riding lessons. Sometimes we'll stop at the library, but the key is really the empty car.

I tell Fiver to jump into the car if I need to return something to the mall or make a run to Target.

And my little Bun has created his own private ritual. I have taken to grocery shopping every Monday after dinner because that's now the best day for our schedule. Bun noticed and he started asking to go with me.

At first I resisted because I already dislike food shopping and I like to get it over with as soon as possible. As much as I love Bun, having him tag along slows me down. But I relented, and it has turned out to be a very good thing for both of us.

We work on his speech as we go through the aisles, and I've been surprised to learn that he knows all his numbers and letters, including the letter sounds. For so long he hasn't been able to communicate what he knows, and now the flood gates have been opened.

Last week, as we were waiting in a very long checkout line and I was worrying if Bun was getting too tired, he rested his head on my arm and said, "Mom, you are the best girl ever."

I'm lucky they didn't have to call a clean-up crew as I melted into a puddle of weepy love right there. Seven months ago, this kid couldn't even call my name. And I never would have heard his little profession of love if I had had one or two of the other kids with me.

I realized that private time does not mean anything elaborate or fancy, it just means private. The luxury is not being interrupted by anyone else.

I'm sure this comes as no surprise to all the more experienced moms out there, but carving out special time with each child wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. And even better, my efforts have turned into a joy that I treasure.

PS: All of this goes for Rob, too. He takes his turns alone with the kids because they need time with their dad. It's something that society thinks we can forget about, but it's to our children's detriment.


  1. And now I am crying because of what Bun said. So sweet! Dang these pregnancy hormones...

  2. You are right on here, Aimee. Children do need alone time with their parents, but a family with fewer children has too much of that time and I think those children never learn (or at least not very well and not early enough imo) that they are not the center of the world. Your children will love the time they spend with you precisely because it is special.

  3. Anonymous10:24 AM

    I think they need alone time with the lawn mower, the trash, the washing machine...

    Husband of the best girl ever

  4. Travis is much better about giving the kids one-on-one time with him. I am so ready to be alone that I too often put off taking a kid with me to do some errands. But I'm working on it. I find that the kid/s who need it most will find a way to let us know and we give them what they need in that moment. Their needs change over time and some can go longer without that alone time than others. It is a balancing act like so much of our lives, but well worth the effort. Thanks for the reminder to be more mindful about this.

  5. I love this post. I know exactly what you mean too. The kids need a break from the chaos too. I love our little rituals with the kids that are one on one. Anthony is really good at asking for it when he needs it but the rest need me to discern when/how much they need.

  6. We discovered that "vehicle" time a few years ago. We live about seven miles out of town, and I have learned heaps about our kids in those short, but numerous, ten-minute drives. Even with our strong, silent-type middle child! We have also taken just one child out for breakfast before school for a special one-on-one time treat, but that only works for pre-teens - trust me on that!

  7. Look at your pretty new design! :)

  8. Anonymous10:03 AM

    OOooooh, I love the new design. Especially since it's presently snowing here. You give me hope!

    So true about alone time. I treasure errands on my own because I feel so efficient, but date time is far more important with the kidlets.

  9. "A parent's love is whole no matter how many times divided."
    When I saw this quote I thought of you. :-)


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