I’ve really been trying to focus on giving Olivia my undivided attention. Parents, you know how it is; you’re “playing” with your kids while trying to answer some e-mails, prepare dinner, or tackle whatever needs to get done at the moment. It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time with my daughter, but, like most parents, I have a million things to do and very little time in which to do them.
This morning, when I walked into the office and overheard a co-worker say that he had watched three movies the day before, I gasped and nearly fell off my chair. How is that possible? I can’t remember the last time I had more than 20 minutes of downtime, and the last time I attempted to watch a movie, I didn’t get past the opening credits before I fell asleep. (In case you’re wondering, this co-worker is single with no kids.)
Watching movies, going to a movie, or even watching one hour of uninterrupted TV is definitely a luxury in our household. Whenever I do have a few minutes to spare, there’s always something that needs to get done.
I’ve realized that in trying to be the best mom, employee, wife, friend, etc., I’m very rarely being present in what I’m doing. And I try to be in-the-now most when I’m spending time with Olivia. Sure, she can entertain herself with all her toys or with the dog and the cat (her favorite play dates), but I’m also aware of how important it is for us to just sit and play together.
My husband is great at this. When he cooks, he gets her involved. He plays with her, and you can tell that he really isn’t thinking about anything else. In that moment, it’s all about her.
I take for granted that she doesn’t realize when I’m immersed in other things while still trying to play with her. But kids are a lot smarter than we think. There’s a time and place for multi-tasking, right? While I play with my daughter, dinner is on the stove, I’m folding laundry, checking e-mails, and trying to throw in some squats in there, too. I’m simultaneously planning the rest of the night: eat dinner, clean-up after dinner, clean-up toys, bath time, bedtime, pack Olivia’s bag for daycare, prep food for tomorrow, spend quality time with husband, walk the dog (or should we go for a run?). The list goes on.
I think back to an Oprah show I saw recently (while I folded the laundry and cooked dinner). Guests of the show were stressed-out moms who made careless, and even fatal, mistakes. One mother, a respected assistant principal in an Ohio school, accidentally left her 2-year-old child in the backseat of her car while she went to work. When she got to the car it was too late, and her daughter had died. Recounting the 2007 event, she discussed how she was overwhelmed with work, raising two small children, and wasn’t thinking clearly. Hearing her, I felt sympathy, not judgment, and thought how this really can happen to anyone. Part of her healing is being present, focusing on the now, and not letting things overwhelm her.
The mother’s to-do list really never ends, or like my mom always says, “A woman’s work is never done.” Maybe I just have to realize that and remind myself more often that Olivia is growing up faster than I’d like to admit. Yes, she’ll appreciate a clean and organized home, but she needs some quality mommy time, too.
Yesterday I dedicated my free day just to hanging out with Olivia. We made all of our meals together, went for a walk, and played with dolls. I even laid down with her at naptime and stared at her while she slept, one of my favorite parenting moments. My e-mails were answered at my leisure, and needless to say, the house didn’t fall apart. As she gets older, I realize how important it is for her to feel a connection with me, a real, solid connection where she knows I’m there, not just physically, but supporting her in what she does. She really is my biggest priority. Next on my to-do list: get a mother’s helper.
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