I am a busy working mother with four small children all under the age of 7 years. At times, I certainly feel the “mom guilt” when my children are asking me to stay and play as I’m heading off to a meeting. And unlike many working mothers I know, I’m lucky that my husband is a stay-at-home Dad—the primary caregiver for our children during the day. I can trust that he’s on the same page as me and will treat our children with love and respect while I’m away.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t know the woes of daycare and other caregivers. There was a time in our lives where we did send our children to daycare and even had an in-home nanny at one point. I had to let some of the control go when it came to what those caregivers provided to my children. I also had to be OK with the things that I could miss out on—new words, first art projects, new interests.
It’s healthy for our children to develop trust and emotions for caregivers outside for their immediate family. But how do we ensure that our children feel loved and appreciated even when we’re having a busy week (or just busy life, in general)?
I concentrate on these three things: delivering on promises, giving affirmations and being generous with my affection.
1. Delivering on promises
A child’s memory is like none other. If you say you’re going to plant flowers with them after work they sure as heck will keep you to that promise until you make it happen. I make it a point to stick to the promises I make to my children. If I say I’ll chaperone a field trip, I schedule that event right in my calendar just like any work meeting. Likewise, if I know I’ll have a hard time following through on a commitment, I’m very honest with my children. I let them know the things I’d like to do with them but that once in awhile, those things may need to wait depending on the other commitments I have during the week.
2. Giving affirmations
It is a rule in our house that when 5 p.m. comes, we have dinner together. As a family. During our family dinner (no matter how chaotic it may seem with all our kids trying to talk at once!) I ask my children about their day. I listen to what they learned about in school. I talk to them about the strengths they have whether it be that they were a good listener that day, did well on a spelling test or shared nicely with a brother or sister. I think it’s important to always let my children when they’ve done something well.
3. Being generous with affection
There’s no shortage of hugs and kisses at our house. And I will admit, sometimes I feel annoyed when I’m requested to hand out a hug and a kiss to each child even if I’m just running to the store for 15 minutes. But I’m also well aware that at some point, those hugs and kisses will be fewer and far between. So, while the getting is good, I make sure to hug, kiss and tell my children I love them every single day.
All working mothers need to figure out what is the right balance for them. What works for me may or may not work for you. We can all sense when our children might need extra love and attention; carving out special time for our family is really what it’s all about.
So, what works for you? What are three words or messages your children hear every day?