Time is the Currency of Parenthood
Why is it that time is so elusive when you’re raising kids and running a family? There is never enough time it seems, except maybe when your three-month-old starts crying in the middle of the night and you can’t get her back to sleep no matter what you try, from feeding to changing diapers to singing to her, and it seems to take forever before she finally closes her eyes. That is when time crawls. But for the most part, for those of us who have come out the other side of raising kids, those eighteen years fly by, way too fast.
There are three areas of life where your currency of time is spent while raising a family: on your kids, on your spouse or partner, and on yourself. Oh yeah and on work, so I guess that makes four areas. These all shift and change in order of importance from day to day, year to year, and depending on kids’ ages, state of the marriage, employed or unemployed, etc.
Starting with time for yourself. Imagine your neighbor, who has kids the same ages as your own kids, telling you that she will give you two hours of time during which she will watch your kids so that you can go and spend two hours doing whatever you want. Giving you two hours of time currency for some ‘me’ time for yourself. How valuable is that?! And sometime, you’ll pay her back.
Next, imagine your parents offering to take the kids for the weekend so that you and your spouse can head to the Vineyard for two whole days. Now that’s hitting the Mass Millions jackpot! How much currency is two whole days? A lot.
These are all important areas of spending your currency. But I believe that the time you spend with your kids is the most important and therefore the best investment you can make. Every bit of time you spend with your child, especially the quality time, is money in the bank - in their future. Of all things you can buy or give to your children, time is, by far, the most valuable.
Recently I moved my mother into a higher level of care assisted living place. She had to downsize from a spacious two-bedroom apartment to one room. That meant that most of her belongings had to go. She had twelve years of accumulation in this apartment which wasn’t so bad – it could have been thirty years. Some of it had sentimental value. But the amount of stuff we took to Savers thrift store, and the items we threw in the dumpster was ridiculous – over thirty large black garbage-bagsful alone went into the dumpster. Three carloads filled to the brim went to Savers. And we still have a large storage container to empty out through donations and selling. Much of the stuff in her apartment was meaningless. It didn’t come close to matching the memories of time spent with her and my Dad and my siblings.
Why do we spend so much energy and money on material stuff? We give gifts as a way to show a person we care about them. It can be because we don’t want to show up at their house empty-handed. It can be because we really think the person will enjoy the thing we picked out specifically for them. There are a number of reasons why we give material items. And for kids? Yiikes! They are always asking for the latest and greatest. Your daughter wants what Susie has, and your son wants the same cool model that Johnny has. And then there is Christmas. Of course, we don’t want to disappoint at Christmas time – that is a holiday commercially built just for kids. But no material item can hold the value and importance of time. Kids are not likely to ask for time with you over receiving a toy or a gift, but they do feel the value of time with you and your undivided attention. The attention they give to that new toy and the joy they receive from it, lasts maybe a week? But the value they receive from time with a parent lasts a lifetime. Think back on all the childhood memories you have. Most of them probably had to do with your family and the people in your life, not the toys and things in your life.
We don’t give ourselves or our kids the gift of enough time. Time together brings connection. Once this time, this moment, this opportunity for connection is gone, it’s gone forever. We are always running around, late for an appointment, speeding our mini-van to soccer practice, eating on the go. We race through our days like we are competing in a combination of “American Ninja Warrior” and “Survivor.” And all this to what end? Try spending some of your time currency on your kids. Give them some extra time with just you, no distractions. Whether it is for five minutes, or five hours doesn’t matter as much as simply taking the time. Spend some time with your child, make that deposit in their future.
Following is an excerpt from an article written by Michael Lazerow. He quite aptly makes the point.
Would you sell one of your kids for $100 million?
Surely few, if any, would say they'd accept this offer. An unscientific poll of several of my friends uncovered no takers.
One of my friends, James Altucher, commented:
"I would sell a leg or an arm or have a lobotomy. I would do anything to keep them free. I would be a slave on a ship. I would be thrown in prison. I would pray all day. I'd do anything, rather than have my kids taken away. I would be beaten to a pulp. I would take drugs. I would take cyanide. Nothing would take them from my side. My kids were given to me. It's been my honor since birth."
Since no one would make this trade, we must all value our kids much more than $100 million. Yet very few of us act that way.
Though silly in many ways, the question opens a window into our priorities. Our personal priorities. And our professional ones as well, as not spending enough time with our kids is often cited as the #1 parenting regret.
We work all day while our kids are at school.
We work at night while our kids play at home - next to us or in the next room - but without us.
We travel to "must-attend" meetings while our kids perform in recitals without us.
We take the dinner meeting while our kids eat without us at home.
We look at our phones when our kids want us to look at them.
We watch a meaningless game on TV instead of just playing a game with our kids, which would mean the world to them.
We get frustrated with our kids when we should be enjoying them.
We yell at them when they should be the ones yelling at us for being so selfish.
All the while, we secretly look forward to a day when our kids are in college, out of the house, and off our payroll.
Do most of us really act as if each of our kids are worth $100 million to us? A collective $300 million if you have 3 kids like me?
If $100 million were wired into your account today, you would sit down and spend a tremendous amount of time caring for it and thinking about what to do.
You would ask questions like, what do I need to do to protect it? What should I do to make sure it grows well into the future? How can it help me live a happier, more enjoyable life?
So why is it that we don't ask the same questions about, or spend the same amount of time thinking about, our kids, who we all seem to value more than riches?
Living like your kids are worth more than $100 million forces you to invest your time with them wisely. Just like you look for quality investments for your money, you need to find quality ways to spend time at home.
Ultimately, the best present you can give your kids is your presence. Your full and undivided presence. And, just like earning $100 million, that's not always easy.
What decisions would you make differently if you truly valued your children more than $100 million?
Time is the currency of parenthood.
I have worked as a pediatric nurse practitioner for 30 years and I have raised three awesome boys.
I started this coaching business called Mums on a Mission: Consciously Connecting with our Kids because I saw a big need for helping parents to understand and handle their kids’ behaviors. Parents are stressed, frustrated, and feeling like things are getting out of control. All the yelling, the time outs punishments, and even the bribery aren’t working anymore and they don’t know what to do next.
I understand because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to raise a child with ADD. I know what it’s like to be a working mother. I’ve gotten the calls from school telling me I need to come in for a meeting because ‘there’s a problem.’ I’ve raised three kids through a divorce. And none of it is easy! Parenting is not easy. But it doesn’t have to be a struggle.