As every parent knows, it can be hard to find the time you desperately want to spend with your kids while still fulfilling all your adult responsibilities. For many years, I have worked with parents to help them resolve this conundrum—after all, there are only 940 Saturdays between your baby’s birth and her 18th birthday! I coach parents in what I call “no regrets parenting,” strategies for making the most of those 940 Saturdays so when kids move on to their young adult lives, parents aren’t left with regrets about how they spent their time during those precious years. I’ve received hundreds of thoughtful letters from parents sharing their own creative and practical ideas for “no regrets parenting.” I was particularly struck by a recent letter from a new parent, Stephanie Shestakow, of Horsham, Pennsylvania, about how she shares meaningful time with her baby while still getting done what needs to get done in a busy household.
Here are excerpts from her letter, which she gave me permission to share:
“When my son was first born, I'd sit him in his bouncy chair and go about my business—making dinner, making his bottles, washing dishes, etc. I'd turn my back to him, obsessed with an endless "to do" list. Then, I thought, wait a minute. I can be making special memories with my baby just by including him in my daily tasks. So I started showing him the different utensils, how to turn on water, how I wash, dry, and put away. I make his bottles and show them to him, put his hands around them to pretend to "shake" the formula. I show him the food I buy at the store as I put it away, moving his hands to feel texture, showing him color, maybe even putting some things under his nose! Of course, this is all a lot of work. It would be easier to sit him down in his chair, or put him in his crib, and go about my tasks, but I switched my thinking from ‘he's just a baby,’ like there wasn't much I could do with him, and now I involve him in everything. There are so many ways to make memories with a baby in the everyday things. It takes more effort but it's worth it. The day feels much fuller and richer and doesn't go as fast. He's only 3 1/2 months old, but already I'm worried the time will go quickly.”
Stephanie added this wonderful approach to turning minutes into moments with kids of all ages:
“I've tried to bring a "vacation mindset" to everyday life. It dawned on me that when I take a vacation (this could apply to a weekend, a special event like a wedding day, etc.), I set everything aside and truly focus on being in the moment, taking in everything, not letting things like negative thinking, conflict, or judgment get the better of me and take me out of the moment. Do I spend every day of vacation worrying about my problems? No. Do I spend my vacation getting upset each day that the time is going to pass? No. I'm drinking it in, seeing everything new. I think this is hard for people because a ‘vacation mindset’ seems like a hedonist mindset or a non-goal oriented mindset, but really it's not. I keep asking myself, ‘What is it about knowing there is a finite about of time that makes people set everything aside and be in the moment?”
As much as you can, try to adopt a “vacation mindset” in the time you spend with your kids. Thank you, Stephanie, for allowing me to share your sweet letter!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. He is a Parents advisor and the author of books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting, 940 Saturdays, and Miracles We Have Seen - America's Leading Physicians Share Stories They Can't Forget. Visit his website and blog at harleyrotbart.com and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.