A common story is the dad that works full time, or weekends, or nights. He doesn’t get a lot of time with his kids. I fall into this category myself—I work full time and so don’t have much time for the kids during the week. This is not bad! It’s a common theme that the dad is the breadwinner, and it’s easy to fall into that pattern and not make time for the kids. But it’s vitally important that you make the time. Carve out some time to interact with them on their level and give them your full attention.
What should this time look like? It can be anything as long as you’re fully present and it’s about you and your kid. Play a game in the bathtub. Draw together. Cook dinner together. Pay full attention to where you are and what you’re doing. I’ve dabbled a bit with mindfulness, and as far as I can tell, this is pretty much what it is. Be in the moment and not thinking about your job, or your chores, or whatever. Don’t be playing on your phone, worrying about work, or plopping them in front of the TV. I fall into this trap sometimes, and check my phone repeatedly instead of playing a game with Benny in the tub. But that’s OK! Parents are not perfect and are allowed to have off days.
Why is it important to carve out this time with your kids? As a parent, you’re one of the people that your kids look up to the most. They get joy in their lives spending time with you, and you can both learn more about each other. And they grow up so fast! If you don’t pay attention, you might miss some really great stuff that they’ll grow out of before you know it. Things like new interests, blooming talents, or funny mispronunciations. For me, it’s also a good reminder that I’m a strong and capable father, and am able to take care of my kids on my own.
For me, I’m lucky that my work schedule is flexible. This means that I get several good chunks of quality dad time during the week. Pretty much every morning I’ll eat cereal together with Benny (while Lily gnaws on a bagel in her high chair). He gets a red bowl—his favorite color—and I get an orange bowl. We’ll talk or draw or just silently enjoy the morning with each other. I get to sing with the kids in the car on the way to school. And bath time and bedtime are when I really get a good chunk of time with them. That’s when I can be silly and goof around with them, or relax and read a book together, or play a game in the bathtub.
No shaming here for not having the time. It’s hard to do! But I encourage every dad, even if you don’t have much time at all, to think about what time you DO get with your kids. Think how you can really make that time worthwhile, even if it’s just a few minutes before heading off to work. Or half an hour before bed. And this doesn’t even strictly apply to dads. Many moms work full time and struggle to make quality time during the week with their kids. Anyone who’s a parent can benefit from taking a little more time out of their day to spend with their wonderful kids. So next week, try carving out a little more quality time with your kids—it will be good for all of you.