Just before Mother’s Day, we talked about a tricky subject, parenting guilt. For a lot of us, it’s such a natural part of life that we don’t necessarily even notice it. Guilt over mistakes, not being as amazing as that other parent, over missed moments because our illness eats away at our life. We have a lot of regrets.
But that’s something we don’t have to live with. It is possible to find those moments to connect with our kids even when we’re in a bad place. It is possible to parent without those missed moments. Even without regret.
Full disclosure here, this post was totally inspired by a book I recently read, aptly titled No Regrets Parenting by Dr. Harley A. Rotbart. It’s a great book full of easy, quick advice. It’s designed to be read in bits, a self proclaimed “bathroom book.” I was surprised to learn that many of the tips were little things I already do with my kids… As a mom who constantly worries about my mental illness getting in the way, it was reassuring in a major way.
Needless to say, I highly recommend.
But for those who can’t afford a book right now, or just want to highlights, or just love reading my writing ;), I thought I’d put together some of the major themes here!
#1. Quality Matters
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had this thought that quality time had to mean I set aside hours to spend with my kids. Ya know, go to a movie, a game, a family camping trip, or something like that. Make sure they get hours of my devoted attention in one shot…
But, let’s be real here – that’s just not possible for me. I tend to have about 30 minutes max before I need to hermit again and recuperate. A movie may seem totally chill, but it typically means anxiety over crowds, money, and needing to pee. It also means wrangling the youngest when he inevitably gets bored 20 minutes in. So instead, let’s focus on the quality of our time together. But, what does that mean?
According to Dr. Rotbart, quality time is “meaningful and memorable time, regardless of duration or content.” Think about your favorite memories with your caretakers growing up… Were they of that one baseball game you went to with your parents. Or maybe the way they would always give you a hug that turned into a tickle fight before bed (totally do that with the eldest. I’m sneaky with my tickles!). Maybe it’s double checking your homework together, or listening to a podcast on the way to school.
Whatever it is, quality time can show up almost anywhere. And yeah, sometimes that’s gonna be on the big family trips, but it can also be all the tiny moments you were together.
#2. Small Steps Can Do A Lot
It can be really hard to find any of those moments, though, if you’re struggling to function in any basic way. When you haven’t even gotten out of bed for the day, how are you supposed to suddenly be spending time with your kids? Even a small moment?
Well, that depends on you and your kids. Allow me to share an example:
Every day when Eileen gets home from school, she needs to either check in with me or call if I’m not around (“around” meaning downstairs or home). Some days, I’m out running errands or visiting with a friend, but some days, I’m laying in bed trying to work up the energy to eat. I’ve always got my phone though, and that means Eileen gets a chance to check in. For at least 10 minutes , she shares all about her day and I don’t even have to get out of bed. This is our moment of quality time. For at least 10 minutes, it’s just the two of us.
Try finding small steps. Have the little one bring a book to your bed and read it to him. Or maybe, have them read it to you. If you’re up and engaged in the house, playing a game with them (even a quick round of Go Fish) can be awesome. And guess what! Even doing chores together counts as quality time. My littlest loves helping us clean the table. And life is so much easier when you have the kids get the groceries off the shelf.
#3. Follow Their Lead
I said it before and I’ll say it again: How you connect with your kids depends on them. What do they like? What do they already do? What are they able to do?
If you can answer those questions, you’ve got a solid start. There’s no need to manufacture quality time when you can jump in and share the time you already have. Need examples? Here:
- Kids like video games? Give it a try! They might kick your butt, but you might find you love it. And, let’s be honest, what kid doesn’t like knowing they can best their parents from time to time?
- Eileen loves to bake. So, I’ll sit in the kitchen and “supervise” as she cooks. Usually I’m just there to double check the cookies are done (she’s still nervous about that), but the rest of the time is chatting, or even reading.
- How about legos? My kids are lego fiends, which means I can just sit with them while they play. The only obligation is to ooh and aah over their creations (although, I do love building…)
Honestly, you know them better than I do. The point is that there are always moments you can share, and that’s where the bonding is.
We Can Parent Without Regret!
Let’s face it…we are always going to regret something we did as a parent. We will make mistakes, forget things, and have days where we just can’t function. But it is possible to parent without regrets in one way, and that’s making quality time.
At the end of the day, we can find a way to look back and say we did our best. It doesn’t take a ton of money or time to show your kids they are loved. It just takes awareness. Learn what they love and find small ways you can be a part of that. Or share what you love with them. Maybe even share the things you dread…like laundry. In the end, you’re showing them you care and that no matter how crappy things can get, we’re in it together.
And honestly, that’s something we won’t ever regret.
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