Monday through Friday I get less than three hours a day of actual quality time with my only child: my three-year-old daughter. I’m up at 4:30 every morning. I take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast. My husband is up at 5:30 and he follows the same routine. By 6:00, my lunch is packed, I’ve taken all my vitamins and it’s time to wake up my daughter. I typically have her dressed and ready to go by 6:15, then we’re out the door. She’s dropped off at preschool around 6:30, then we’re off to work. Between the traffic to and from work, and the actual time spent working, we do not see her again until 5:00 PM. We’re home around 5:15 and the clock starts: quality time begins NOW.
But wait. What about dinner?
This is where I have realized that I must get creative when it comes to spending quality time with my daughter. She is usually in bed between 7:30 and 8:00. If I spend my evening making dinner, I’ve officially missed out on an entire day of her brief childhood all because of life’s routine. Man, it hurts to just re-read that statement. I can either hang out in the kitchen by myself, cooking a nice meal for my family and missing another hour of time with her, or I can get her involved, bring her into the kitchen with me and cook with her. Of course, there are times when I just feel like putting something in the oven that is a quick, 20-minute meal, and there are many times where I use my slow cooker to save on cooking time. But in all reality, I enjoy cooking. Sometimes I need to have some quiet in the kitchen after a rough day at work, and in those moments, my gracious husband will spend time with her watching a movie or showing her the guitar. But many days, more often than not, I simply long to be with her after being away from her all day.
As a working mother, I find I often struggle with the lack of quality time I get with my daughter. While she is at daycare all day, people unrelated to her get to spend more time with her than I do. They get to experience a lot of her firsts. It’s important to me that I get to spend quality time with her, building her trust, teaching her, loving on her. But it’s also extremely important to me that I feed her well and raise her to be an adventurous eater.
Very fond memories are often born in the kitchen. I think many of us remember baking cookies and pies with Grandma at Christmastime, or building our first lasagna with mom after church, or grilling burgers with dad in the summer. Fond memories in the kitchen don’t have to be saved for special occasions and holidays—they can be had year-round!
As soon as my daughter was stable enough to stand on her own, I had her in the kitchen with me, standing on a step stool, mixing homemade pancakes, putting cheese on top of our very own pizza crust, adding more cinnamon (and uh—oops, even more) to banana muffin mix. I have found that she enjoys spending time with me in the kitchen, and no matter what it is we’re preparing, she will eat it because she helped make it and she’s proud of her culinary creation. Dinner battle? Mom wins.
I am a working mother who gets less than three hours a day, Monday through Friday, of quality time with her daughter.
As a mom, I feel it’s my duty to nurture my family in many ways. I can maximize the nurturing quality time I get with my daughter if I simply get her involved in preparing our family’s meal at the end of the day. Even if I am cooking something that involves hot oil and boiling water, it’s my duty as her mother to find a way to spend more time with her. There are things she can do away from the danger to be a big help. She can help me mix our seasonings, unwrap some butter, pour pre-measured ingredients into a bowl. Or, she can just watch me and ask 56 questions, using her sweet little three-year-old voice to tell me that the basil is green and the tomato is red, and that alligators have big tails but the sun is hiding behind the clouds.
The countdown to bedtime starts the moment we walk in the door after a long day of work and daycare, and I think most working moms can relate. How we use that time is something we will either remember forever or regret the rest of our lives. If you find that you’re spending too much time in the kitchen after work away from your children, get them involved in dinner preparation. It sounds like such a simple idea, but I find that a lot of moms do not build this moment into their weeknight routines. Not only do you get to spend an extra hour or so of quality time with your children, you’re showing them how meals are prepared and they may be more likely to eat it because they helped create it. They get the quality time they (and you) thirst for, and you win the dinner time eating battle.
Less than three hours of precious quality time a day. Life is too short for regrets.
Jessi is the wife to her high school sweetheart Glenn (2007) and mother to Zoey Liz, AKA “Peach” (2010). She is a marketing professional by day and nurturing mother by night, determined to not sacrifice precious motherhood for too much work. A survivor of a rare vasa previa pregnancy and premature birth, Jessi is hoping to grow her family once again and blogs about her hurdles with PCOS and TTC at Life Abundant. You can also follower her on Instagram: mojojesso.