Finding time… for my girls

If you haven’t already, please meet Layla, Meaghan and Violet. My 3 beautiful monkeys/princesses/goofballs.

I’ve been a “Mom” for just over six years now. Sometimes… I’m not sure I really remember life before kids. I know I’m not the only one but still – is that weird or what?

Getting to where I am today – a youngish mother of three – the increased responsibility, the more mouths to feed, the extra demands, the multiplying hugs and kisses going around…heck… the sometimes overwhelming quantities of dirty laundry (!) – certainly didn’t happen overnight.

When we had Layla, everything was a first but I feel like we made the transition fairly easily. I don’t remember feeling like having a baby was turning my world upside down. Sure we didn’t “go out” as much anymore… but we never went out that much anyway so no biggie there.

When we had Meaghan, it was a little tougher. Juggling the baby’s schedule with Layla’s schedule didn’t always work the way I wanted it to. The transition was more difficult for me. Still, by the time we found out we were pregnant with little “blueberry” we were in a really good place – no more diapers, the girls starting to play really nicely together most of the time, a family of “4” that was easy to fit into… um…anything.

And when little Violet came along, she certainly didn’t make our lives easier… but she just kind of fit perfectly into whatever we were/are doing. Or maybe we simply had an easier time making room for her? Maybe we had a clearer sense of “this too will pass… too quickly” with our third child? I don’t know. Whatever it was – the transition from 2 to 3 was great.

When we were debating the whole idea of having a third child, Brandon’s main argument for NOT having another baby was time – how would we find the time to spend with each of the kids individually? Considering that our time is limited, that their schedules are busier as they get older and join more activities, his argument wasn’t completely ridiculous. Today – we spend a lot of time all together as a family, but to be honest, it’s a lot harder to get in those sweet (and important) one-on-one moments with each of the girls.

So… How do we make spending family time a priority? a reality? And how can we carve out more time for the girls individually?

So what about family time?

We meet up around the kitchen table twice every day (barring the rare exception) – for breakfast and for supper. Breakfast ALL together is made possible by Brandon’s very short commute to work (he can be there in 10 minutes or less on foot). It’s also much simpler for me right now, while I’m still on maternity leave. Supper ALL together is a family priority. Perhaps that’s easy to say right now, while the girls are still young but I really hope we are able to keep it that way as the girls get older and busier.

IMG_6932I mentioned our family dog walks when I was sharing how Brandon and I find time for our couple. They are also our family’s way of passing the evening together. Sometimes it’s the only way to keep everyone sane during that intense (for lack of a better word) time between supper and bedtime… You know what I’m talking about right? The kids are “on fire”, the parents are tired after a long day… ‘nough said.

IMG_7008We make a real effort to  get away together about 1 out of every 3 weekends. We made an investment in the nature and quality of our family time when we purchased a cottage last year. When we’re there, the distractions and demands on our time are drastically reduced. No internet. No television (except for movies that we bring with us in case of rain). Our only link to the reality back at home is our cell phones. When we are there we spend more time just enjoying each other, we go for long walks, we play, we nap… and despite the fact that there are less toys, no other kids to play with, and not that much to “do”… the girls are excited every time we go. Hope that lasts too!

Last but not least – we really try to make the choice to do less. We used to say “one activity per season” but frankly, that’s easier said than done. Still – when we are planning what we will do and what we’ll sign the girls up for, we tend to favour things that the girls can do at the same time (or together!), we do our best to avoid activities that are scheduled on the weekend (so that we don’t need to miss anything in order to go to the cottage). We haven’t mastered this yet though. This summer we’ve already got soccer, swimming, basketball and (gasp!) one of these falls on Saturday morning. Oh well. I guess.

And what about the one-on-one time?

I wrote recently about “spontaneous memory moments“. And I repeat. These moments are how I TRY to make up for every time I say “no”, “not now”, “just wait until”…  They are unplanned and they require that I consciously decide to put down what I’m doing or thinking about for a few minutes so that I can really focus on the little person in front of me… I make the choice to say “yes” right here and right now.

Part-time Daycare – Since I am home on maternity leave, I opted to send Meaghan to daycare part-time. Some would say that 3 days a week is too much. Some would say she’d be more than fine in full-time daycare. IMG_6600But this is the choice that we’ve made and it works for us. The days that Meaghan is at daycare help to give me some breathing room (not to mention time to get stuff done). But on Tuesday and Wednesday, after we drop Layla off at school and Violet is down for her first nap of the day, I really try to do something special with Meaghan. Sometimes we take out the paint and/or do a craft, sometimes we read story after story…. but most often it seems like we end up baking something together.

Engaging my little helpers – I have a confession to make. I am a terrible “player”… like… terrible. When we first had a little girl (and then another… and another…) I thought I was excited for Barbie’s and dolls because I loved playing with those toys as a child. But to be honest – getting older seems to have done a number on my imagination (and my capacity to do something as simple as “play”). It is much easier for me to do something WITH the girls.

One-on-one “Dates” – As I write this, Meaghan is sleeping away the afternoon after having a special lunch out with Brandon. He’s going to the same with Layla on Thursday. Meaghan was silly and goofy with excitement.We don’t do this enough… it just so happens that we thought to do it this week (nice timing, huh?). As the girls get older, I hope we make these dates (with Brandon AND with me) a priority. It may seem overwhelming, with three girls, with everything else we need to find time for… but I swear, if we just set aside the time, I know it will work and it will be really really worth it.

Yeah… But what about Violet?

IMG_7011Right now Violet’s one-on-one time is in transformation. She’s always there and we’re constantly together but at 10-months old, she’s really starting to play and “asking” us to pay attention to her. For now we just kind of bring her along for everything. And for now I’m going to appreciate that she is so easy going, so easy to please and not very demanding at all. Before I know it, she will be the toddler pulling on my hand and asking me to play, read, pay attention…

It seems like it all comes down to being intentional AND being flexible.

…and accepting that I’m not perfect… that I am selfish sometimes (and sometimes I probably should be!) that what I prioritize is deeply personal… that I won’t necessarily manage my time the way someone else does… and that I won’t always get it right (even when we’re trying really hard!).

I need to remind myself… that sometimes it only takes a couple of minutes of my focused attention… to make their day.

I need to remind myself… that a big part of finding time is planning it.

And I need to remind myself… to stop, to appreciate, to enjoy… because this time in life… when I have small kids who always want to pick me dandelions, hold my hand and be read to… will pass all too quickly.

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