1-on-1 time when you’ve got a brood

In my webinar on Wednesday (co-sponsored with CurrentMom), one participant spoke of wanting to find solo time for each child, given that she had children. This is a good question, and one I’ve been pondering myself. On one hand, I know that one-on-one parenting (past the nursing baby stage) has not been the historical norm. As I write in Chapter 6 of 168 Hours, Mrs. Meyer (of the cleaning products fame) rarely got time alone with any of her nine kids. On the other, these individual interactions are among the most pleasant of parenting. When you have multiple kids doing something together, there are always group dynamics, there is always competition for your attention, and there is always the desire to keep things from descending into chaos. Even if, in general, your kids do very well together.

So how do you carve out time for each kid? Here are a few ideas:

1. Evening book groups. If your kids are clustered together in age, they might enjoy the same books. But if they’re more spread out, you can read with the little one while the older one(s) is getting ready for bed, then go do another story reading appropriate for the older set. If you and your spouse are both doing this, you can read at the same time, or if you have four book groups, split them. Mark where you are in the book so your spouse can pick up where you left off. Then let the kids fill you in next time (a bonus reading comprehension exercise!).

2. Use older kids’ activities. This is a good time for hanging out with littler kids. Rather than chasing your 4-year-old all over the piano teacher’s waiting room while the 8-year-old has her lesson, think through what you’d like to do together. A walk? Put the Big Wheel in the car trunk so she can ride it? An art project you can both do? A nearby pond where you can go feed the ducks? Ask her what she’d like to do during this mommy or daddy time, too.

3. Commute together (if you can). Some parents in 168 Hours coordinated their work schedules so they could commute with the kid whose school was closest to the office. Yes, this is obviously just another way of saying “drop the kid off at school,” and may not sound exciting if you’re the parent normally doing that, but if you’re not doing primary parent duties during the week, it’s a nice way to put solo kid time into the day.

4. Find an activity you can do with each child. Maybe you and your 12-year-old train for a 5K together. Or if you’re training for a longer race, the child can bike along. You can volunteer at a food bank together with a 16-year-old, or in a church nursery with a 14-year-old. You can take a multi-age art class with a younger child.

5. Chore teams. If they have to get done (and you’re not outsourcing them), you may as well get some one-on-one time out of it. Mom and one child can always be responsible for changing the sheets together. Dad and another child can do the dishes together (or you can rotate which kid does this with which parent). Car washing and garden weeding are chores even a young kid can do with you; if you’re comfortable with it, a teen can help with bill paying (that’s one way to introduce them to the idea of personal finance!) A middle-schooler can maintain a grocery list and then serve as Dad’s Special Assistant during all grocery store trips.

For me, I can get some time with my 3-year-old after the baby goes to bed. Then, he is willing to be snuggly on the couch, for instance. The baby is still nursing, so he gets his own cuddle time several times a day, but this is definitely an issue I’m going to be working on as they get older.

In other 168 Hours news:

  • MomsRising runs a post from me called “Not All Moms Want to Work Less.” One major obstacle with work-life issues is that when employers hear “work-life balance” they think it means “working less.” And when you are trying to chase a profit in this competitive world, there is not a whole lot of upside to your employees wanting to work less. Flexible work, on the other hand, is great. Often it means people work more!
  • The 168 Hours Challenge is on for next week, Sept 13-19. I’ll post my time logs here. I invite you to post yours in the comments (I’ve turned the comments back on) or on the Facebook page. You can also tweet (#168Hours) or post on your own blog. It will be fun.


3 thoughts on “1-on-1 time when you’ve got a brood

  1. Love this post Laura! The “use older kids activities” is very effective. While one daughter is in dance class, that’s often coffee/treat time with the other, or reading a book and getting calm one on one homework time.
    I used to try to schedule them in after school activities at the same time, but learned this way was better and made for more quality time with each.
    Happier kids even though it means an extra trip for classes.

    Chore teams is a great one too. Going to do that more. Emptying the dishwasher is much more fun with four hands and some mother daughter conversation.

  2. Although this article is interesting, it doesn’t apply when we’re talking about a “brood”, unless brood is now limited to 2 children.

    If one child has activities, and you have more than 1 on your hands, it’s not very easy to have alone time. Same goes for commuting if you have more than 1 child going to a school/daycare at a time.

    Reading might work, but if it’s a group of children close in age, again, it’s not 1 on 1 time 🙁 and if you read to each one separately the routine can take the whole evening.

  3. I believe allowing for one on one time takes a partner relationship that makes this feasible. The other parent must be willing and able to take over 2 or 3 kids, while mom or dad spends time with one.
    Unfortunately, some men aren’t that capable or are easily overwhelmed. LOL
    Sometimes, in our house, that one on one is mom in one room with child, dad with other and listening to them read or reading to them. Then we rotate.

    Rotate a staying up 30 mins later schedule on a weekend.

    I knew a couple of military wives whose husbands were away. They worked together to hold play dates for a group of kids while mom spent time with one. It was really quite amazing how these women made it work.

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