Balancing work with a child at home is difficult for any parent to manage.
As a working dad, I look forward to weekends with my son since I never feel like I have enough time to spend with him during the week. I usually leave for the office either before or soon after my son wakes up in the morning and return close to his bedtime.
But as a pediatrician, I know how important the bond between parent and child truly is to the healthy development of kids and families.
So here’s what I do to maximize one-on-one time with my child—and how you can, too:
1. Talk to your child while getting ready for work activities.
I typically have about 15 minutes each day from the time my son wakes up until I have to leave for work. I try to use this time to talk to him by asking him to help me choose my socks (which I wear even if they don’t always match!) and, at 19-months old, he even enjoys helping me find and gather my wallet, keys and everything I need to get out (almost) in time.
I also try to have breakfast with him whenever I can, even if it means occasionally having an unexpected smear of oatmeal on me when I arrive to work.
2. Come home early when you can.
Although this is not always possible when I have meetings or patients scheduled all day, on days when there is anything I can do at home after my son is asleep, I do. Leaving early gives me some extra time to see him at night and I can catch up on unfinished work after I put him to bed.
3. Put the phone away (or at least on vibrate.)
I have a tendency to take a lot of pictures of my son, which can often be distracting since he becomes more interested in touching the screen than with the activity we are doing together. I try to turn my phone off or leave it in another room altogether during this time I have with him, so I am never tempted to check emails or return texts that can wait until later.
4. Leave your work day at the door.
This one is a hard one for me especially after a stressful day at the office. Be in the moment, try to leave work at work and focus on the time you do have with your child. Just last week, we spent time in the backyard and he helped me water the garden. He loved blocking the flow of water from the hose as it caused the two of us to get wet. I only had 20 minutes to spend with him and it was a great way for us to have fun together before bath time.
5. Prepare dinner with your child.
When I have time to prepare dinner after work, I put my son in a highchair so he can help out and be included. He has his pot and spatula in his hand and plays along. I also find this helps him eat what we make—helping to forge good eating habits.
6. Bath time can be quality time.
Even bath time can be quality time. My son loves choosing a
bathtub crayon to draw with. I use it to draw letters and animals on the tiles and make up a silly story. My son loves to draw with them and they wipe off the tub and tiles easily.
7. Make bedtime a daddy and me routine.
After his bath, my son and I sit in his room. He chooses a book that I read to him while he drinks milk. He often wants to read the book again and again. We end the night by brushing his teeth and turning out the lights in the house. I find that he loves having a set routine which helps him wind down and know it’s bed time.
8. Include them in every day activities.
I have my son help me with daily activities including putting away the dishes, the laundry, or groceries, and cleaning up his toys. It’s a win-win situation because he loves to be dada’s helper and I get what I need done, while still spending quality time with him.