This is the story of how I learned to balance time between my children. The year is 1991, my husband and I just had our fifth child, and the oldest is only seven. In the next seven years, we would add four more children to our family. I loved having all of our kids close in age; our home seemed like a constant party to me, and I love parties. What we lacked in peace and quiet, we made up for in planned chaos.
However, there was a certain problem that began to stand out in that memorable year of 1991: I began to notice that moms are always having to say, “no” in one form or another. Needless to say, when five young children were repeatedly asking for individual things such as wanting to go to a certain fast-food place, begging me to play Barbies with them, or asking if they can help me put gas in the car, I would have to reluctantly respond with, “not this time.”
Saying, “no” to five kids, all day long, was wearing on me, emotionally. Don’t get me wrong; we did fun things all the time, every day, but it was always in a group setting. I longed for the chance to create one-on-one time with each child so that I could be a “yes” mom. I needed to come up with an invention that would satisfy me.
Plato said that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and it was necessary that I invent something that would turn me into a “yes” mom instead of a “not this time” mom–something that would allow me to balance the needs of all nine children simultaneously. The day of invention came and there was no question as to what to call it. Out of desperation to be a “yes” mom and to be able to be alone with each child, I easily named my invention “special time.”
Once I had a name, I came up with a plan. The first thing I did was to choose a night of the week that our family could set aside for individual “special time.” The next step was to write on the family calendar, on that night, each week, the name of one of the five children, until each child had had a turn. My plan included the goal of each child getting to do something they wanted with each parent. I wrote the names of the children, in birth order; Stephanie, Brian, Chuck, Missy, and Emily. Then I alternated “mom” and “dad” with each child. Therefore, it would take ten weeks for all of the kids to have had a “special time” with each parent.
Commitment With a Game Plan
I was determined that this goal would not be like a New Year’s goal that would fizzle out within a few weeks. We needed simple “special time” rules so that we could continue this for the duration of raising our family. The first rule was that it could only last about an hour. The next rule was that “special time” would not become a “shopping spree.” This was a time to enjoy each others’ company and to be able to say, “yes.”
The last rule was that each child could choose where or what they wanted to eat and what they wanted to do for an activity. Many of our “special times” were spent driving to pick up whatever fast food they wanted and then coming home to watch one of their favorite videos. We had a room we could go in, to be alone, and the rule was always that the other parent would be sure to take care of the other four children so that “special time” would not be interrupted.
The End Result
It took no time at all to realize what a blessing this idea was. It was so peaceful to be in the car with just one child; I could ask all the questions I wanted and listen to everything they had to say, never being interrupted by either a more talkative child or a baby crying. And the best thing of all? If they asked to help me put gas in the car, I could say, “yes!” I immediately reveled in my new life of being a “yes” mom! It was perfect: I could balance the needs of all nine children without the dreaded “I don’t have time.”
One “special time” that stands out to me was the time my four-year-old son had chicken pox. It was his time for “special time” but obviously we could not go anywhere where there were other people. His choice for dinner was McDonalds and his choice for an activity was to drive around and look at the Christmas lights. We went through the drive-thru to get our food and then proceeded to drive around town enjoying the beauty of the lights everywhere. After about twenty minutes, he asked if we could go home. This night together was proof that “special time” could be as simple, yet stay in my memory for over twenty-five years.
What’s the Take-Away?
My “invention” was out of the necessity, for me, to be a “yes” mom. Your invention can be anything you need it to be. Everyone in your life deserves to feel special, whether it be immediate family, friends, small children, adult children, relatives, or colleagues. Choose who it is that you feel needs your extra attention and set aside some amount of time to be with them. I promise that you will quickly feel the blessing of one-on-one time. One day, you will look back and hold those memories in your heart as some of the finest in your life.