And how was your day? Separation Through Distance and Time
Words by Katrina Urban, Services Support Manager at NABS
This week I attended the NABS Working Parents Masterclass on ‘Separation Through Distance & Time’ with Julie Johnson, who is a psychotherapist and PSHE consultant in schools. As a single, full-time working mum to Josh who is 8-going-on-15, the time I have at home with him is limited; we get home from school and by the time dinner, homework and house chores are done it’s soon bath and bedtime. I’m then left wondering where the evening has gone, followed by that guilty feeling of actually enjoying a few moments peace and quiet when it’s just me.
I attended this Masterclass as I wanted to learn how to make changes to enable Josh and me to have more quality time during the week and also how to stop feeling guilty for the time that I am not with him. I am that parent who often has parent’s evening consults via the phone and sees Christmas concerts via videos sent to my phone, so that guilt over separation goes hand-in-hand with the day-to-day rushing around from one thing to another and never feeling able to just stop.
There were nine mums and dads in the room for this Masterclass with children ranging from 6 months to 8 years. Julie encouraged us all to introduce ourselves and as we went around the table it quickly became apparent that all of us were feeling the pressures of time restraints and guilt along with the struggles of juggling work and home responsibilities. It is strangely comforting to know that you are not alone, but more importantly that this can change!
It was great to know that I am already doing a lot of things to stay connected with Josh and even better to learn new techniques and ideas from Julie to further enforce this. It certainly made me feel calmer and better equipped to handle attention seeking behaviour such as dinner time being a battle; I mean, does it really matter if Josh doesn’t clear his plate? No it doesn’t!
I loved the idea Julie suggested of sending postcards or letters if you are travelling away from home, or reading the same book together via Skype, it’s so simple to do and makes a huge impact on your relationship with your child. Keeping in touch with their likes and dislikes can be tricky as these can change all the time but I do try my best to keep up, as this shows your child that you pay attention to what is going on with their daily lives.
Julie also mentioned the importance of children learning to solve dilemmas themselves. It’s all too easy as a parent to want to jump in and fix everything for them. However we are, after all, raising children who will themselves become problem solvers one day and they are more capable than we realise, from a young age.
The session also made me more conscious of planning shared experiences with Josh, and it’s ok for this to include those in my support network too. It’s easy to just make plans and tell him what we are doing, however next time I’d like to let Josh take charge of our day of fun so that he really feels involved and connected from the start.
I learnt a multitude of tips and techniques to combat the guilt that all busy working parents feel and to maximise the precious time that I have with Josh. Here are just a few of them:
- Compassion: As parents we really do need to be more compassionate with ourselves instead of self-criticising
- Switch off: Put away the phone, iPad etc. and connect with your child! It’s easy for your mind to wander to those e-mails you know are waiting or everything else you need to do but even just 10 minutes quality time with your child develops intimacy
- Stop: No more “how was your day” questioning after school, kids are asked questions all day long. Try quiet time or telling them a little about your day on the journey home instead
- Bedtime: This is quiet 1:1 time so instead of wanting them to get to sleep quickly, sit on the bed for 10 minutes and ask what has made them happy, sad or glad that day and share what made you feel that way too
- Let them be their true self: We all too often try to shape our children according to our own ideals. One of my favourite quotes from the presentation was ‘Love them for who they are, not who you want them to be’
Ironically on the evening after the Masterclass, I had committed to helping the team at a NABS event so by the time I returned home, Josh was tightly tucked up in bed. However on the second day, instead of immediately asking Josh a million questions about what he did at school and how his day was I instead simply asked ‘how are you today’ and was very pleasantly surprised by the positive response which was closely followed by lots of details about his day.
At bedtime we read a book together for 10 minutes which Joshua enjoyed very much. I know I won’t always make it home for bedtime, but when I do these 10 quiet minutes will form part of our routine and I hope they will become something for Josh and me to look forward to.
The NABS Working Parents Initiative offers advice, support, coaching and information to industry mums and dads, their colleagues and their employers. The programme of Masterclasses, mentoring and upskilling opportunities exists not just for new parents, but parents of teenagers and even parents-to-be. Find out more on the Working Parents Portal.