When our kiddo started going to daycare (around 9 months old), I cut back my work hours so that I would get to see him during the week because of sleep schedules. Most moms (and dads) don’t like hearing that our kid sleeps a lot. We had a rough go the first couple of months as he was eating constantly and all throughout the night but once he got on solids he was sleeping 12 hours a night. He’s almost two and he still sleeps 12 hours a night and takes a 2 – 3 hour nap. So, that’s nice that he is a well rested boy, but if I worked an 8a – 5p shift I would only see him (awake) for about an hour a day.
The weekends are full of backyard fun, hiking, fun outings and trips to grandma’s but I have been trying to make the most of my limited time with him during the weekdays. When my husband is out of town on tour, I drop our kiddo off at about 9:30 and pick him up at 5:00. He goes to bed at 7:00 and we eat dinner at 6:00. In the morning we eat breakfast and slowly, but surely, get ourselves ready for the day – no one in my household is a morning person! So, those 2 evening hours are hectic – and precious.
To make the most of my weeknights, I’ve implemented a few routines.
THE RIDE HOME FROM DAYCARE: We have a short commute back home, but I try to make the most of that time, too.
- I bring a little snack or a drink (like chocolate milk) that he can enjoy on the ride home. A hungry kid is a grumpy kid and I do not want my evening routine to consist of soothing or scolding a cranky toddler.
- I turn off my music and put on some kid’s music. He’s not singing yet but once he starts to learn the songs I think it will be a nice part of our routine.
- I try to teach him to look for the things he knows: ”dog,” “bike,” and “airplane!” are heard frequently on the ride home from daycare and my husband has even taught him to call out the colors of the green, yellow and red traffic lights.
ACTIVITIES: I try to do an activity with him when we get home. Sometimes I’ve got the kiddie pool ready or we play with a ball in the yard. However, he’s been playing at daycare all day so he’s usually ready to sit a little and use his brain.
- Since he’s not in preschool he’s getting a lot of great life skills, but there’s not a lot of learning going on at daycare. So, I’ve used Hands On as We Grow for age appropriate activities that are teaching colors/shapes/textures. He can do some of these unattended (see below).
- Get out the playdough for a few minutes. Or a bucket of water and some water-toys on the kitchen floor. You only need 10 minutes to connect and your kid will feel extra special getting to do something fun with you.
- The easiest activity is just sitting and reading a book. You’re close, you’re quiet, you’re focused and it also doesn’t take long.
MAKING DINNER: This can sometimes be the hardest part if you have a clingy kid.
- When I’m prepping a meal that requires a lot of effort, I put on a TV show and leave him be. Simple as that. He knows now that when I’m busy in the kitchen he can watch Pocoyo. He doesnt have a huge attention span for TV but it helps having him not under my feet while I’m chopping vegetables.
- If he really doesn’t want to be alone I hold him or sit him on the counter while I prep. Your kids will enjoy being a part of dinner. Trust me. We talk about what I’m making and I try to teach him about the food we’re going to eat – what color it is, where it came from.
- Another option if the kid sticks to you like glue after work is what I call the Magic Drawer. It’s just a drawer in the kitchen that I fill with random toys. I try putting a few new (hello, Dollar Tree!) or different things in there every few days to keep it fun and he likes to dig through it while I cook.
BED TIME: Make your evening routines more enjoyable.
- Don’t wait until your kid is crazy tired to put them to bed. Just take your time. If kiddo is in a pleasant mood and you don’t have anywhere to be try to have some fun at bedtime. Make silly faces in the mirror while they brush their teeth, have a “tickle-fest” while you put on their pajamas and read all the books!
- Toddlers don’t have a lot of control of their lives so letting him pick out the books that we read before bed has been really fun for him. Let them choose which pajamas to wear or what stuffed animal to cuddle with.
It requires a little bit of brain power, but not a lot of energy to make the most of your limited weekday hours. How have you made the most of your time with your kiddos as a working mom?