Giving Your Children 5 Minutes

It’s a cool-ish morning here in Williamsburg.  The sky is overcast and they’re predicting rain later this afternoon.  I’m home with Joe and Jack and all 3 of us have some variation of a cold.  Jack is – amazingly – taking a morning nap, a surefire sign that he’s not feeling 100% normal.  Joe is curled up watching “Daniel Tiger” while sniffing and coughing and occasionally asking for a “tiss-you” (tissue) for his runny nose.  I’ve got a cup of tea and it seemed like a good moment to sit down and update my blog.

Thank you to those of you who have prayed and sent well wishes regarding my job search and, ultimately, my struggle with whether or not to return to work.  I’m feeling more and more peace and confirmation that getting a job, either full- or part-time, is the right move at this point.  I’m waiting to hear back from some interviews and, in the meantime, continue to set up additional interviews for other interesting prospects.

It’s been a challenge for me to consider putting the boys in daycare, I’m not going to lie.  And I’ve also faced some less-than-attractive features of my personality when it comes to my relationship with Chris and the role that our frequent moves have played in our situation, both from a financial viewpoint as well as a professional, career-minded viewpoint for me.  I struggle with it daily, and Chris and I have definitely gotten upset, each with the other, about it.  We’ve both had to practice grace and forgiveness and remember that we’re on the same team 🙂

I was attending a MOPS meeting yesterday and the speaker that morning was a local pediatrician.  I’ve heard her speak before and really appreciated her insight into child development.  And as it just so happened, she touched on the topic of her returning to full-time work after having done part-time for several years.  She said that she would get home and, after facing an office of crying children, would face a home of crying children, all almost attacking her in their desire to have a piece of her attention.  She said that she felt overwhelmed and conflicted – she wondered if she was making the right choice in working full-time, but also realized that she had to work full-time (her boss was out of commission and she’d had to pick up the slack).  She was thinking about it on her way to work the following morning and popped in a medical CD about child development.  And, as it “just so happened”, the speaker was talking about a child’s desire for attention, their desire to feel special, and their desire to feel important.  The speaker said that giving a child “just 5 minutes” of undivided, uninterrupted attention where you let them choose what they talk about or what they do is enough to make that child feel wanted and loved.

The pediatrician shared with us that she thought this was baloney.  Only 5 minutes?  Yeah, right!  But she decided to try it because she was at a loss as to what else to do.  So, when she got home that evening she told each child that they were all going to have 5 minutes of Mommy’s attention but that they needed to take turns.  She started with her youngest (4 years old) and worked her way up to her 8 year old and 9 year old boys.  Her 4 year old wanted to talk to her non-stop about preschool.  Her 8 year old wanted to talk about Pokemon (and she admitted that 5 minutes of undivided attention to Pokemon was about all she could stand!), and her 9 year old wanted to draw with her.  She shared that those 5 minutes needed to be truly undivided – no TV screen on, no checking the phone, no talking while cooking dinner, and so on and so forth.

She shared that she kept up this practice, and her children learned that every day when Mom got home, they would have 5 undivided minutes of her attention.  They learned that they didn’t need to climb all over each other to get a piece of her focus.  And after awhile, one of her children told her that he didn’t need the 5 minutes.  She said that she simply told him, “OK – and if you ever do need 5 minutes, just let me know.”

One mom asked what she did when her children didn’t want to end their 5 minutes of Mommy’s time.  Good question, and one that I was thinking of myself.  She said that, while she didn’t advocate a lot of screen time for children, she felt like this was an appropriate moment to tell that child that they could pick out a movie or TV show to watch for themselves.

As I said, I really enjoyed her talk.  She touched on other issues (sleep routines, children waking in the night, children taking forever to get stuff done or needing their parents to follow them around the house to make sure that things were picked up, and so on and so forth) but what really stood out to me was the 5 minutes of undivided attention.  I often feel so busy during the day and I know that if I return to work it will introduce a whole new dimension to my multitasking abilities.  I confess, having enough time and focus for my children (and for Chris) has worried me.  I appreciated hearing her experience and also getting some tips, and it made me want to start putting it into practice now, to give Joe and Jack their own bare-minimum 5 minutes undivided attention from me.  I already do this on an informal basis (often when reading them a story) but for me to look at Joe and say, “What do you want to talk about?  What do you want to do?” and then not be tempted to do this while washing dishes, chopping vegetable for dinner, or folding laundry is tough!

Anyway, those are my thoughts for this Wednesday.  I hope that you’re all doing well and loving this beautiful October!

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One comment

  1. Valerie says:

    Hi, Jen! Just read your post and thought it was great. I’m glad you’re feeling more at peace with your job search. The 5-minutes idea sounds great! Think back to our childhood – running around in a house full of 9 siblings, all vying for Mom’s attention. I don’t think I ever felt neglected, but I can’t say that I always got Mom’s full attention some days. I do remember how special it felt when I did, however, and wish you all the best in carrying out your 5-minute plan with Joe and Jack. I know they’ll treasure it when they’re older. 🙂

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