At only 22 months old, my son,Shane, has taught me some valuable life lessons. The one, however, that sticks with me the most is he importance of having a voice. Surprisingly, this lesson can be learned in the most unlikely of places. For us, it is our playroom.
Our playroom is dedicated to him. Because we keep most of his toys and books in that room, we spend much of our time there. From the get-go, inside of simply going through the motions, I talked to him, narrating all my actions in the room: “Mommy is going to turn on the light.” “Mommy is going to turn on the music, so that you can listen to your CD as you play”. ”Ok, we are all done, let’s clean up and put away the toys.” “Now we have to turn off the light.”
As a baby, my words seemed just words. I didn’t know what effect i was having on him. However, now that he is putting small sentences together, I’m hearing that my words do effect him. When we spend time in the room, Shane now uses his own voice to narrate our actions: “Mommy and Shane turn on the lights.” “Mommy and Shane turn on the CD.” “Mommy and Shane put away the toys.” “Mommy and Shane, turn off the lights.” Even though, in the beginning those words seemed like just words when I was saying them, it turned out that Shane was really listening and taking everything in. He was making sense of it all-he was processing! What a very small but powerful voice he has! He is always reminding me to “turn off the lights” and “put the toys away”. Now, for the most part we leave the room better than we found it. And you too can take those small voices and apply them to your own lives. By using your voice, you make your kids feel included. By talking through the task, you enable them to feel more connected to the jobs you assign them. By talking to them, they learn from very early age what you are doing and why. You never know what they might be learning from you or better yet when they are listening to you. By using your voice, you are not only teaching them to perform important tasks like cleaning, but you are also giving them the skills of communication, which is powerful even if it seems small.
It wasn’t easy for me to go back to work six weeks after my son, Shane, was born, and I’m still conflicted daily by my choice. Luckily, I have met an extraordinary group of women through my local chapter of Mothers and More. Several of these women have taken the same path as me. When it came to finding a way to balance being a mom and having a career, my starting point was not about compromising one for the sake of the other. Instead, it was about finding a way to make both work and work well. Prior to having Shane, I had tons of energy to do anything and everything I wanted to do! I didn’t have to “make time” for anything but myself. I did the things I wanted to do when I wanted to do them. But now, things are different; I have to not only make and take time for myself, but I have to make time for my family: my husband and my son. I had to change my standards and reevaluate how things were done in my home. Here are some tips that work for me and they just might work for you too:
- Share responsibilities with your partner. Do you and your partner have “set” roles? What works for you?
- Be flexible. Who knew that a little baby would get sick so often and throw a wrench in your week? Hopefully your employer is one who allows you to work from home on occasion. Both Nate and I are lucky—our employers are extremely flexible.
- Have a sense of humor. I still chuckle as I recall hearing my husband discipline my (at-the-time) 16-month-old son for biting him. He said to Shane, “sit here and think about what you have done”…(seriously? Did I just hear him say that to a 16 month old baby?)
- Learn to say no and set boundaries. You just can’t be everything to everybody at this time. Set limits and stick to them. Do you “really” have the time to do what you are signing up to do? Think about it and choose wisely.
To me, work-life-balance is a moving target; it is an ongoing process that requires constant adjustments.
How do you balance work/life? Do you have any great tips that you would like to share?
Like this post? Check out Dinnertime Traditions in the Making.
When I became a mom, I hoped to have dinner prepared and on the table every night. Unfortunately, I haven’t been very good at it. Having to work a full-time job, I am just totally exhausted. And the mere thought of preparing a dinner in the midst of an already hectic week is overwhelming. I haven’t been able to translate desire into action. Typically, I get home from work and scramble to find something to make for our son. I feed him before my husband gets home from work. Later, my husband prepares our meal while I am busy unloading the dishwasher and trying to keep our son entertained. My husband and I finally sit down to eat amongst the toddler tantrums and chaos. So, I guess it is kind of eating together.
I buy into the argument that a healthy balanced dinner with the family helps children grow into healthier people. Meals enjoyed together reinforce a host of family values and send messages to our children that they matter and that family matters. I also admire a routine part of the day where families can be together free from outside distractions and stressors. It isn’t always easy to do. As chaotic as our own dinnertime is, I have some measure of control over my child’s time right now. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that things will change once he gets older. For me, there just isn’t enough time in the day. Soon, there will be schedules to entertain and practices to adhere too. BUT, I am focused on trying to encourage this tradition when he is young. Weeknight dinners are important, and we will make it a priority to eat together. Maybe I just need to start somewhere and consider the idea of starting a Sunday night dinner tradition: spaghetti and meatballs. That way Sunday nights would be protected, and everyone would be encouraged to be home. This is a tradition I think is worth working hard for and an investment in my family that I believe matters. How about you?
What do you think? Are family dinner time traditions a thing of the past or can they work in today’s multifaceted world?
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