When you are working full time, you begin to notice your children changing, but not before your eyes because you aren’t there. They spend more time with teachers and daycare providers than at home with you. This is the every day challenge of a working mom. You are short for time in all aspects of your life and want to give more energy and attention to your kiddos. Getting the most out of the time you have is a big challenge and I love a good challenge.
I do not want the 30 minutes between our dinner and bedtime routine to be anything but us time. Kindergarten homework is limited, but as they get older homework will dig into the precious time with your kiddos. So from one working mom to another (or working dad), I present 30 minutes matters. Once a month I will share five 30 minute projects or memory makers you can share with your kids. One for every night of your busy week. If you do one a night or one a week, you are creating opportunities to share and capture a moment and make a memory.
I like to follow the activity up with a story that stays on theme and a quick trip to the library is a momma’s best friend. Pinterest has a million different book ideas and Google is always there to come to your rescue if the perfect book doesn’t come to mind. Let their little imaginations lead the way. You give them the idea and they run with it.
#1 Creative Cooking: You have to be in the kitchen anyway, why not invite them in. Purchase some kid friendly utensils and put them in charge of the salad. Mine love spinning the salad spinner on taco night.
Once dinner is done and the bedtime routine is complete. Get snuggled in and find a great book that will encourage them to replay this 30 minute matters activity. Stone Soup by Marcia Brown is a favorite in our family. After a few creative cooking nights, give your kiddos a chance to create their own recipes and you can play sous chef.
#2 Flashlight Dance Party: There is always time when dinner must simmer and that is the time to turn up the tunes, turn off the lights, and grab a flashlight. We have a dance off until the dinner bell buzzes then the lights come back on or not! Light some candles and have a fancy meal to go with your fancy moves. We find grooves to John Fogerty, Keith Urban, and White Snake – just to name a few.
Laura Ingalls takes us back to a different kind of party with Dance at Grandpa’s. In this story the dancing is quite different than the moves in our house. I can’t imagine Laura and Mary break dancing in their little house on the prairie.
#3 Make a Reflection: Take a turn drawing faces on the mirror. Turn yourself into a space alien, a superhero, or googly eyed cowboy dragon. Clean it off and do it again. Take turns making each family member into a masterpiece. Plus, my kids love cleaning the mirrors so cleanup is part of the fun.
#4 Set your Alarm: Breakfast for dinner! I don’t know if any kids like getting ready for bed, but, on breakfast for dinner nights, the tough parts of bedtime are done before dinner. Pajamas on before pancakes take their first flip. Whoever makes the most creative pancake gets an extra story.
My oldest has recently decided that he will wear his robe over his pajamas like Annika and Tommy in Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren. I can’t decide if the look reminds me more of The Brady Bunch or Hugh Hefner.
#5 Sorting Socks: Lets be honest, when you have children, laundry never ends. Ever! Just the other day, my oldest had three different outfits on in 20 minutes and every single piece was a muddy mess. So there is always a basket of laundry in my room begging to be folded. I have determined, with great success, that Go Fish works with socks. Have your kids sit with you, chat about their day while they, unknowingly, help ease the laundry load. They sort, pair, and put away their socks and have a blast.
Finish this 30 minute matters with a fun story that will help teach responsibility, tidiness, and consequences.
Most importantly, manage expectations. Both yours and theirs. These projects and games are meant to enhance your time together, not invite more stress to the party. Whether you do one a week or five is up to you. Everyone takes advantage of pizza delivery every now and then – sometimes we just eat it in our homemade fort.
Pamela Lister highlights some great strategies to ‘win’ your weeknights. Her article titled 10 Secrets to Happier Weeknights shares real ideas that balance your expectations and reminds you that you are not alone in these parenting struggles.
Being a working mom comes with a roller-coaster of emotions. You can easily feel like a failure. Sticking together and building a support network that will have your back is important. You will continue to receive 24 hours in your day and the challenge of being an active role model to your kids will linger. 30 minutes can turn your weeknights into something magical. 30 minutes will matter to you and, more importantly, your kids.