One-on-one time is a hot commodity between a parent and child, and it is something my spouse and I struggle with regularly. There is never enough time and I definitely could use more arms, legs, and brainpower when it comes to doting on my four children.
It sounds crazy, but for us sometimes doing something more (like coaching or volunteering) actually leads to extra one-on-one time. My husband and I also divide and conquer a lot which means one of us takes a kiddo and leaves, while the other holds down the fort at home. Instead of focusing too much on one-on-one time, we will also pair up the kiddos into smaller groupings which leads to more individualized attention.
It is a guessing game in the end, but hopefully some of it is working.
My husband coaches a lot of my oldest daughter’s sports, so by default he takes her to practice. This means I am usually at home with the younger three, while he gets some solid one-on-one time with her as they drive to and from practices in addition to learning sport fundamentals.
My husband is no Coach K or Joe Madden, but he volunteers because it is a way to connect with our kids outside of the home. Coaching also involves a designated schedule so that the time invested does not get put off to a later date. This is important because there are so many times he and I have good intentions of doing special things with our kids, but they get pushed back due to bad days at work, household problems, being tired, etc.
Divide and Conquer
There are many occasions when my children and their extracurricular activities dictate that my husband and I split up in order to cover it all. I try to monopolize these times evenly so that my kiddos are not feeling lost in the mix of it all. So far, I am very lucky that my baby boy is a chill, go with the flow snuggle bug. He has been regulated to my hip during a lot of events this past year, so much so that loud crowds have become his best white noise.
Sometimes I send my husband to our preschooler’s wrestling club with the baby, so that I can hang with our middle daughter during the odd hour or so before her big sister gets home from a friend’s house and the boys return from practice. It’s not a lot of time, but the quiet household with just one kiddo to care for is good for everyone’s sanity and heart. It may require the other parent to do some heavier lifting, but we all try our best to make it work.
My husband would probably enjoy wrestling club better without a diaper bag and seven-month-old in tow, but he does not question my methods. More times than not I am the one at a practice or game with multiple kids. It is usually the best (and only) option, and even though our younger kids will not remember any of this…they do get some quality time with me as we wait and watch together from the sidelines.
My oldest daughter and youngest son seem to get more individualized parenting due to birth order circumstances. My oldest tries everything first which means she has our full attention because we are learning the system with her. My youngest is not self sufficient yet, so what he needs he gets no matter the time, day, or inconvenience. Therefore my middle children have gotten pretty good at taking one-on-one time whenever they can get it. Sometimes one will ride along for carpool and drop-offs just so we can chat in the mini-van. My middle kids are also the two who frequently volunteer to make an evening or weekend grocery run with me. Taking them along may slow me down with errands, but in the end the company is usually worthwhile.
Pairing Them Up
Just the other day I asked my oldest if she wanted to go to Target and grab lunch, just the two of us. Winter break was almost over and I wanted a little extra time with my girl since her dad was home. When it came time to leave, my oldest invited her sister to come along, so our duo instantly became a trio.
It ended up being the best, and I think we hung out more by adding a third wheel. My oldest is a reader and with no sibling distractions, she would have been perusing a book in the car while her and I drove around the city. My other daughter also likes to read, but without the brothers in tow we females all started talking and never stopped through our entire car ride. The conversations went on through the process of buying discounted holiday wrapping paper and milk. Our lunch date was awesome because we fit comfortably at a small table, which is a rare feat for our family. It was an afternoon that just clicked with no drama and no tantrums. My husband in turn got time with his sons that involved remote control cars, building blocks, and making messes in the kitchen. The pairing up of kids, in this case, led to more quality time. (But rest assured, there are times it absolutely backfires!)
I try to make time for everyone and at the end of the day I know in my heart that what I am doing is enough for us all…but now if the voice in my head would just agree and cut out the parental guilt. There is never enough mom or dad to go around due to busy schedules and kids ranging in age from newborn to nine-years-old, but I would not change a thing about this wild and crazy life.
How do you make it work when it comes to one-on-one time with your children? We would love to hear your advice. Please leave a comment on our website or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.