It may be hard for some of us to admit, but some parents have a hard time spending time with their kids.
In a recent post for Scary Mommy, Joni Banks Hess wrote about how she sometimes doesn’t enjoy being alone with her 17-month-old child.
“I think about how I am her primary source for friendship and comfort right now. How important it is for us to bond whenever we have the time,” she wrote.
“We moms place so much pressure on ourselves to fit whatever mom description we’ve created in our minds. But the irritation I feel when I have to watch my own child all day alone fits nowhere in that description.”
Banks Hess added that her job is stressful and low-paying, and on top of it, her partner works later than she does.
“When I’m alone with my daughter for a long period of time, I feel trapped, irritable, impatient and resentful towards my husband,” she said. “Why this resentment? Because he goes to work early and comes home late. He isn’t responsible for daycare dropoff and pickup. He can zone out and play video games while watching her.”
Louise Clarke of Your Parenting Partner told Global News that not being able to enjoy alone time with kids is normal, but for many parents, it is even harder to admit or accept.
She said parents have an additional pressure (beyond their daytime jobs, household obligations and taking care of children) to be responsive at all hours.
“We’re pulled in a million directions, and it puts more pressure on us to have to deal with it when we have a child,” she explained.
Mastering alone time
Clarke said it’s not about parents not loving their children or not wanting to spend time with them — some parents have a hard time focusing on being present with their children.
In the blog, the author talked about the burden of being the “favourite parent.” She said while her partner can enjoy alone time, it’s hard for her to find an escape.
“The few times I’ve tried to lock myself up somewhere in the house, my daughter bangs on the door calling for mommy. Moms tend to be unable to ignore those calls and, if they can, guilt is sitting in the corner shaking its head at you,” she wrote.
“I realize how valuable the time I get to spend with her is, yet only 50 per cent of me is present. The other 50 per cent is agonizing over where my life is going and what I could be doing at this moment to get there instead of singing songs with her.”
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There’s often shame, guilt and fear attached to these feelings because parents can’t feel completely present with their kids, Clarke said. She added that setting boundaries is important for all parents.
“We have to be able to set healthy boundaries and be able to say no,” said Clarke.
Now, when your child isn’t able to do anything for themselves, this isn’t applicable. But when parents continuously do things for their children that they can do themselves, it becomes a habit.
“If we continue to tie up our child’s laces because it is quicker for us and less painful to watch, we undermine them,” she said, adding that even a simple task like this makes it hard for parents to truly disconnect with their child during alone time.
It is also useful to prioritize time. Alone time these days can mean flipping through emails or catching up on a TV show or laundry while your child sits next to you. Even if you are reading a book, some parents simply zone out and think about their to-do lists, she added.
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When it comes to alone time, learn how to prioritize your time. One suggestion Clarke has is allowing partners to choose which day and hour they want to dedicate to their child distraction-free.
For example, one parent can choose Monday, Wednesday and Friday where they can dedicate an hour of alone time to their kids.
“This is mommy-and-me time, and the phone goes away,” she explained.
Clarke also said parents need to learn how to be more mindful with their time.
“We have to take charge of our minds,” she explained. “[If] you are bitter, angry and frustrated and you’re entering the present with all that baggage, you can’t be present with your child. Children are so present in the moment that they know when you are not.”