Finding time to spend with her kids can be a challenge for a working mother.
“You’ll say the same thing …, I’m too tired today, I’ll tell you a story tomorrow night,” wailed my six-year-old daughter in response to my “… tomorrow night, sweetheart.”
I wake up every morning plunging into a whirlpool of activities that need to get done before 8 a.m. (and while I am at this, why do schools have to start at 8 a.m.?). Fix snack bags, fix lunch bags, fix hair, find hairclips, replace dirty socks, plug leaky noses, find butter, find alternatives to butter, explain “Mamma, why do we always eat bread for breakfast?”— phew!
I guess there are many working women who start their days like this. From a chaotic morning we run into a day crammed with deadlines and job requirements. At the end of the day, all we want to do is to escape alone with a cuppa coffee and a book, or to watch television. The last thing we want to do is draw butterflies or watch Teletubbies yet again.
But the reality is: we are working women. Our kids want and need our time. They need us in person.
It is at points such as these that we have to make a conscious choice — to be there for our kids and with our kids, on their terms. Yes, we want our time and our space, but the fact is that this is probably the only time of the day that our kids get to be with us. If we don’t give them ourselves to engage with, they might eventually substitute that need by engaging excessively with television, friends or other places such as cyber cafés that seem more welcoming to them than their own homes.
Let them talk, Listen.
During a visit from my parents, my mom disclosed some things my daughters had shared with her: funny stuff, friendship issues, their fears, things that happened at school or in a dream. I was unaware of most of these things that seemed to matter to my daughters. But my mom had spent time with my girls just listening to them talk. No major advice, no “Tell me what you did in school today” or “What did you learn?” She just let them talk and she was available to listen.
I figured this would be a good place to start my attempt to make myself available to my girls. Now, when I get home, I make it a point not to switch on the TV for myself until the girls have gone to sleep. When I cook in the evenings, I let them hang around me and include them in chores like cleaning vegetables or washing plates. I try not to shoo them away with a “Leave me alone!” Instead I listen as they go yakkety-yak from one topic to another.
We’ve even managed to turn the hours of power cuts in Bangalore into a blessing. When these happen, we play a board game, or read a book or just talk. The times spent together in candlelight have been some of the best times I have had with my daughters.
Tuck-in time. Story time.
I also try very hard to make sure that either my husband or I put our children to bed. I squeeze in between them (Mamma has to be equally shared, you see), have a short time of prayer—find one thing to thank God for and one need for God to meet. I then snuggle with them and tell them a story. This is really difficult, so I just build a story based on anything I see around me in their room— curtains, the wall, a photo frame, a rag cloth, etc. I have come up with some bizarre stories, but my daughters have loved them.
Another way to go about this bedtime-story process is to tell stories from one’s life. My girls love to listen to stories about my childhood, my school days, how I met their father, stories about their grandparents. It is a great way to give them a peek into family history, relationships and world they are growing in.
A few nights ago while tucking the girls into bed, my six-year-old daughter Kezia asked me, “Mamma, whom do you know I love mo?”
“Who?” I asked.
“I love you mo (more),’’ she said. She continued “I love Tiara (her elder sister) mo’ mo’ mo’, I love dadda mo’ mo’ mo’ mo’’ and I love God mo’ mo’ mo’ mo’ mo”. “Wow”, I exclaimed, “that’s wonderful Kezia, but why do you love mamma only mo’?” She was silent for a moment, and then quipped, “I want to eat momos!” (a salty steamed snack). We all burst out laughing.
I would not have been able to experience this delightful moment, had I not made a choice that night to be with my girls at bedtime in spite of being tired after a long day of work.
So it seems like I’ve got it all figured out, doesn’t it? Honestly, I haven’t. My bit of parenting and I, we both are a work in progress. There are nights still, several in fact, when I have to say, “I’m too tired sweetheart–tomorrow night?”
But if our kids have seen some consistency in what we do with them, they will be O.K. with the occasional slip in the routine. We are a team—our kids and us. We have been given to them as their mothers, and therefore every mother-child relationship is unique.
– Shilpa Waghmare
Shilpa Waghmare oversees the publishing department of SAIACS (South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies). Along with her husband Arpit, she raises their two daughters Tiara and Kezia, enjoying them and facing the challenges of parenting.