If you’re ever trying to balance being productive with hanging out with your kids, it’s time to reevaluate how you’ve framed ‘productivity’. Being a good parent is one of the most meaningfully productive things you can do.
Now, it’s a different thing entirely to feel some tension because you have to choose between two different important activities, i.e. doing the things that put food on the table and hanging out with your kids. The distinction here is important because it’s not forking “being productive” from “being a good parent”; it’s just reflecting the reality that being a good parent entails providing for your children and spending time with them, among other things.
Let’s hang out here for a moment. When we’re thinking about it from a higher perspective, we all instinctively know that our children need our time, attention, and love more than they need anything else. But in the daily trenches, we forget this and make choices that end up trading that time, attention, and love for material things.
Your kids can wear clothes longer than you think they can. They can wear stuff from second-hand stores. If they could, they would ask you to spend more time with them instead of buying them more stuff.
They don’t have to go to Disneyland. They’d give it up for you, if they had a say.
Sure, teenagers will grow tired of you and rebel at some point. They may choose to go Disneyland or Space Academy rather than spend time with you. But when your son’s girlfriend dumps him, he needs you – not more stuff. When your daughter scores the winning goal, she wants you to see it.
Your relationship with your kids will grow and change. They react to how you interact with them. Cherish them as the sacred little beings they are from the time they’re born to the time they decide they need to do their own thing, and they’ll react accordingly. If you view spending time with them as a distraction and/or something you have to do, they’ll also react accordingly. Kids are far more intuitive and intelligent about social dynamics than most people realize.
You love them. Show them, with three understandings:
- They need your time, love, and attention more than anything else.
- You need and want to nurture your children.
- Being a good parent is being productive. There’s no real tension between the two.
That said, it’s okay if you need some time away from them, too. Your wants and needs are important, and if you neglect your wants and needs for too long, you won’t be able to tend to theirs without resentment. Yes, mothers, I’m talking to you.
In their waning years, no parent ever wishes they had worked more, but most wish they had spent more time with their kids. What will you do today and tomorrow to give your kids the presents that matter most?