Busy Families can create #GreatChildhoods

Analogue, classic, clock

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, which means Science of Parenting is thinking about what makes #GreatChildhoods. For me, I fondly remember singing in the car with my mom, standing on the end of the grocery cart, weekends by the lake, and doing lots of puzzles.

As much as we love our kids, sometimes it feels hard in the chaos of life to carve out good quality time with them. I find myself saying things like, “well it will be better after next week” or “we will have more time after we get through [fill in the blank]”. At times I feel like I’m just floating from one day to the next trying to get by. Whether it’s work commitments, transporting kids, trying to squeeze in some exercise, community service commitments, or finding time with your significant other, being a parent in this generation can feel like we are constantly trying to beat the clock. How do we have special moments with our kids when we come home from work exhausted and still have to get supper on the table before bath and bedtime? Does it always have to be big family vacations and long weekend trips to the lake? The answer….

No, you don’t have to have big chunks of time to have special moments with your kids. Though carving out large amounts of time for things like family vacations can be beneficial (check out a #throwback on this topic – Family Vacations Radio Show), great childhoods can be built in the midst of life’s other commitments and responsibilities. We can look for “little moments” or pockets of time throughout the day to just spend a few minutes talking with your child. In fact, a lot of the memories I have of my childhood came in between big commitments. The singing in the car often happened on short trips to and from a traveling sports team game in a neighboring town. The goofing around on the grocery cart happened while my mom picked up our food for the week. Those “weekends at the lake” sometimes were actually only two hours on a Saturday morning before a commitment that night. The puzzles often happened at the table while supper was being made.

As I think about my own parenting, learning about the benefits of little moments is great news! Focusing on creating #GreatChildhoods in the little moments is a saving grace, because at times I’ve felt like I’m being the best parent I could be because of other constraints on my time. So join me as I try to move beyond saying “it will get better after [blank]”, and let’s look for ways to create special moments now! Yes, things are crazy right now at my house, but I can sing songs with my daughter in the car on the ride home. Yes, we still have to make supper tonight, but maybe our school age kiddo can help stir the pot on the stove or we can ask our toddler about the magnet letters on the fridge while we cut up some veggies.

Take a moment right now, and think about a little moment with your child you can have today. Be intentional about making a plan that’s realistic for you, and then decide how to carry it out (get creative if you need to – e.g. video calls or writing notes). All of these moments can add up to #GreatChildhoods!

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Mothers are Busy People

I just read an interesting statistic from the Pew Research Center. Their data shows that between paid and unpaid work, the average mother works about 2 more hours a week than she did in 1965. But the mix of time spent on paid work, housework, and child care has changed dramatically. Today the average number of hours mothers with children spend each week are as follows: child care 13.5, housework 17.8, and paid work 21.4.

Yes, mothers are busy people. The findings from the Pew Research Center also point to 56% of paid work mothers saying it is very or somewhat difficult to balance work and family responsibilities. That’s not really a big surprise. Figuring out how to keep everything going at home and at work takes organization, flexibility, and commitment. I would also add a sense of humor and the ability to function on little sleep. 🙂

I grew up in a family where I watched my mother work hard. She took care of the home; tended a large garden and raised chickens; supported us kids in our school, church, and 4-H activities; orchestrated family functions; and taught school. I’m guessing there were many days she found it hard to manage work and family. But somehow she kept it together and taught us many life lessons. And most important of all was that we always knew Mother was there for us. What a wonderful gift to give your children!

How do you handle all the many roles of being a mother?


Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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