My 672-hour Challenge, part 3: Kids

photo-341There are a lot of parallels between the workplace and the family. Since January, I have had four “direct reports,” as it were, whose development I am trying to manage. Like any manager, I’m realizing that managing a team takes a lot of time, and unfortunately the management you have to do often crowds out the management you want to do.

This week I’ve been running posts on my “672-hour Challenge.” I tracked my time from April 20-May 17 to see trends in my life. For my next book, I Know How She Does It (out on June 9!) I had well over a hundred women log their time for 7 days. You see a lot in 7 days, but you see even more in 28. I wanted to know what I’d discover.

Here’s what I found on the kid front. One reason I’m working fewer hours than I have in the past is that four kids generate a lot of activities, many of which occur during the workday. Any given child didn’t have that many requirements (well, except for the baby, who needs to nurse every few hours), but when you add them up, it adds up. For instance, my daughter had an eye doctor appointment and my baby had his 4-month-old visit. I drove for a field trip, went to another child’s school breakfast for moms, and had two parent-teacher conferences. I read to my 2nd grader’s class for his birthday. This was fun, and it’s great that I get to do it, but as I look to my future, I see that I will likely have at least one kid thing during the workday every week. Some will feel optional, but a great many will not.

That is what it is. But here’s an issue I find slightly more problematic. Looking at my logs, I realize that a lot of the kid stuff I’m doing is supervisory or attending to their medical or educational needs (nudging on homework and the like). I am not necessarily doing much fun stuff with the kids. I’m not spending much time playing with them, reading with them, and having interesting conversations.

There are reasons. When you have 4 kids, there’s a lot of herding people around. Time I might have available to play with a child gets consumed by soothing a fussy baby. I intervene to stop fights and insist on civility. At the playground I’m flitting from one kid to the next. This is one of the trade-offs of being in a large-ish family. You have more siblings to play with, but less parental time. I know my kids would like to play with me, and I would like to play with them. I’d like to build Lego creations with my 5-year-old, and I’d like to practice biking with my 8-year-old. On the other hand, they seem OK with the trade off. Indeed, they’ve asked for more siblings (Kid #1: “I’ll pray to God really hard.” Me: “Um, please don’t pray that.”)

As I’m discovering from this 672-hour time-tracking exercise, though, just because something doesn’t happen as much as you want doesn’t mean it never happens. This is an important distinction. I did spend a bit of time kicking a soccer ball with the boys, and I did spend some time in the pool with them. I played Legos for a little bit. I spent some solo moments with the baby just playing with him. I am aware of trying to make time to do that as I know babyhood is fleeting. I just need to work to seize moments when I can enjoy light moments with the other kids, too. I need to note when it’s happening, so I can appreciate it as well.

How do you make space for fun kid interactions?

If you like my blog, you might also like my next book, I Know How She Does It. Pre-order by June 2 and you can join my book club with perks including a signed bookplate, advance excerpts, and access to two webinars around launch. Pre-orders help me by showing the bookselling community that there is interest in this book. Thanks for reading!

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