In 1998, Philip Patterson published a book with, what I thought to be a very catchy title, Right-Sizing Your Life: The Up Side of Slowing Down. It is essentially a book that shows you how to get out of the “fast pace” and simplify your life.
Paterson asks his readers, “Are you working to live, or living to work?” and he goes on to give wise but practical advice on how to live a balanced life, redefine success and focus on what matters most. This seemed to be an appropriate title for my article, so it is to Mr. Patterson, that I must be thankful for the title, and inspiration of this article.
Balancing work and family has never been a more difficult task for parents. Their schedules at work and home require then to meet more goals than seems possible to achieve in the time they have. Their “leisure time” is filled with self-improving activities and social obligations that don’t always feel much like leisure.
Many parents also feel that they have to constantly get more done in shorter periods of time. With so much going on in their busy lives, how do they let their children know that despite the time pressure they are faced with, each child is still valuable and loved?
Certainly, the answer can only be this: by slowing down and doing one thing at a time. Needless to say, it is easier said than done because it means making changes in our schedules, giving your complete attention to what you are doing with your child at the moment, and consequently, this may require making significant changes in how you approach life. This is hard work. But is it worth it? If you endeavor to make time work for you, not against you, yes, the effort would all be worth it.
Parents could start by first – rethinking their schedule. Instead of fitting family time into your existing daily schedule, try setting aside a certain amount of time each week for your family and then organizing the rest of your schedule so that your family is left intact.
Setting aside special time for just you and your child, even just 10 to 15 minutes, spells a world of difference for a child. But this means, mobile phones and the television are completely turned off and your full attention is devoted to your child. This sends a clear message to your child that you enjoy simply being with him/her.
It is also important to remember that it is not so important to a child that you spend time with him/her as it is that you spend time alone together. If you give only part of your attention, your child will not be satisfied and will try to push to get all of it.
Often, after a busy day running errands or after a long day at work, parents don’t take a moment to refocus before entering the house and greeting the family. They need to give themselves time to shift gears. Children don’t share their parent’s hurried pace, so before entering the house, they need to take a deep breath and think about the kind of encounter they want to have with their children.
As parents, it is normal that we may get annoyed with our children’s pace, too. And when this happens, it’s time, guess what: It’s time to take a break! Have the kids go out with yaya, or send them over to a grandparent or sibling, while you clear your head by putting on some quiet music, or just enjoying a hot tub bath, and focus on the mood we want to experience with our child. When your child comes back, you will be energized and able to give your full attention to him/her once more.
Of course, there is no such thing as perfect time management and despite our efforts, it is impossible to be completely successful at keeping schedules under control. Sometimes, time manages us: emergencies crop up, surprises happen. But adding unnecessary pressure on yourself when life throws us a curve ball will just make matters worse.
What is important is to always keep in mind what you really want from time spent with your child. And I’m guessing that would be a loving, healthy and long lasting relationship with your child.
So, take a deep breath, and enjoy all the up’s that slowing down may offer you.