Work-Life Balance: Making the Best Use of Your Time With Your Kids

July 18, 2019


“Getting dressed, getting undressed and going to bed. All of these things happen at least once a day. If we maximize those tiny moments, then we are supporting and connecting with our babies in very valuable ways.”

One challenge that working parents have is how to balance the time they need to be the best parent for their child while continuing to do well at work.

The solution that’s typically considered is to limit or even reduce the time spent at work to spend more time with the family. But this isn’t always possible. The question then is how working parents can more effectively use the limited time they’re able to spend with their kids.

In today’s episode, Ayelet Marinovich and I discuss what working parents can do and where to focus attention to maximize their daily interactions with their kids.

Ayelet is a pediatric speech-language pathologist who works with families with infants and toddlers. She is the founder of Strength-in-Words, a podcast and an educational resource for parents and caregivers so they can have peace of mind as they support their children to the best of their ability.

Highlights of Episode 104

  • Why maximizing the use of time with your young kids starts with reframing expectations
  • What play looks like for an infant or a toddler
  • The impossible parenting standards that social media create
  • Does ‘screen-babysitting’ work?
  • Finding the tiny moments to support your baby in the most valuable way

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You can listen using the audio player above or on your favorite podcast app. Or scroll down for the edited transcript of my conversation with Ayelet.

 

Mentioned in this episode


Edited Transcript

Lou Blaser I’ve worked with or know working women who are also new moms and they’re trying to balance having a career and also being a good mom or a good parent to their kids. I’m sure you’ve encountered this many times. Are there common misconceptions new moms have about parenting that make things more challenging?

Ayelet Marinovich I certainly think that women have them, but I don’t think that they’re at all exclusive to women for sure. Okay, first of all, we forget what we are very separated from what play is with a tiny person, a tiny human. Our conception of play is a generally very adult version. Logical and linear, right?

Like, books are for reading, you read it from front to back or back to front as the case may be. Or blocks are for stacking and this is what you do with this object. So when you have a baby who’s just starting to reach and grasp things or takes a book and mouths that book and doesn’t have a very long attention span we are like, “I don’t know what to do with this thing.”

Like what does play look like with an infant or even a young toddler? Especially since toddlers are not known for their ability to take turns and share things and follow rules, right? That’s not what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re supposed to be challenging all of those things. That’s how they learn about the world.

So how do we play with tiny people? We have to get down on their level and follow what they’re doing. That’s all. And so I think it’s a redirection of our own, how we are conceiving of what something is “supposed to be doing.” And I think a lot of times we start from the question of what do I need to get to stimulate my baby’s brain and help support her development. What are the things, what are the toys that will do that? And it’s actually a total reframing because it’s not about, it doesn’t matter what you’re playing with actually. It’s about the interaction. Babies, infants, and toddlers learn through observation, interaction with another human being and imitation. You can go out and grab and purchase the beautifully, organically stained wooden shaker or drum. But the developmental benefit of that drum versus the laundry basket that’s sitting in your house is exactly the same.

Lou Blaser I’m so glad that you said it. Cause I could just imagine like somebody who’s coming home from work who only so much time and they’re looking at the kid and like, “oh my God, I just bought this nice thing? Why isn’t he engaging with this toy the way that I want him to engage?”

The other thing that’s happening — and I certainly have seen this even within my family — we have all these… I guess it’s the impact of tools like Pinterest and Instagram. We are inundated with beautiful pictures of moms and how they’re doing with their kids and how their kitchen is pretty and how the kids are always clean and how their nurseries are always beautiful. And I’m sensing that there is this, I want to be a good person at work and I also want to be this perfect mom at home and the ideals are based on Pinterest ready and Instagram ready pictures.

Ayelet Marinovich Yes, absolutely. And we’re the worst at judging ourselves and comparing ourselves to others. And of course, that doesn’t stop at us. What our children are doing is also reflective of us. So, it’s an impossible standard also to live up to of course. Like you flip through Instagram photos for instance because I think this is such a good example right now. Pinterest is the same and of course Facebook, all of the social media is the same. We curate that bejeesus out of it. You curate the [bleep] out of your feeds, right? I mean, most likely, you’re not showing the tantrum that followed the beautiful family dinner that you’re having. Or you show the child’s sitting at his table but you’re not showing everything on the floor. I mean it’s just ridiculous.

We also are living in this period in which motherhood, parenthood is portrayed at either end of the spectrum. It’s like everything is beautiful. Motherhood is miraculous. I am so bonded to my baby from the minute I felt him kick. Or like I’m breastfeeding and it’s was perfect, and I feel amazing all the time and I’m glowing and my hair never fell out. Or you hear about the incredibly difficult things that can happen or like it’s so isolating. I’m so depressed, I’m so exhausted. Like it’s either of those things. When in reality, just like everything else, it’s all of those things all the time, sometimes from one minute to the next. No moment is without both of those polar opposites. So yes, I think there’s absolutely the pressure and it’s really hard and it’s impossible because we pretend that that’s the reality when absolutely it’s not. It’s everything.

Lou Blaser I had a friend when I was still living in New York and she had a baby, so they were living in the city. And so of course in the City, you had to get on a waiting list to get into this year, know preschool. I’m sure it’s like that where you are too. But anyway, she would tell me how sometimes she feels so guilty because, so she was a working mom, right? So she had her nine to five and then she would feel guilty because sometimes she feels as if there’s competition amongst the other moms in the daycare center. And they would compare the development of their kids and she would feel so horrible that her baby’s not where the others are.

Ayelet Marinovich Yeah, and I mean the only alleviation that we can get from that is by having an understanding of where our babies can or should be with regard to any part of that development and how to stimulate that, how to support it. And then the answer really is in the things that you are already doing. It’s the caregiving routines that you are performing, whether or not you work, you’re most likely seeing your baby at least once a day, right? Whether it’s in the morning and or in the evening, hopefully, you’re around for one of the following things, right? Let’s say, a waking up routine. You can get your baby out of the bed, go to the window, have a routine or a ritual that’s like going to the window and saying hello to the sun or singing a song.

It’s a very basic like hello song or whatever it is. What’s the weather like? If you do that thing every day, then you’re teaching your baby about language. You’re creating a pattern and a sequence of events that are within the realm of cognition. You’re holding your baby in a certain way and perhaps moving and helping them reach or whatever it is that they’re doing, this motor development and you’re supporting social and emotional development by interacting with you. Boom. Done. That’s it. Great. One tiny moment that probably lasted maybe two minutes at the very most. And then other caregiving routines that may happen throughout the day, of course with diaper changes, bathing perhaps or washing of some kind, whether it’s like a full bath or like wiping your face, right? Nursing or feeding or bottle or whatever it is that baby’s doing at that age, whether or not they’re on solids or whether they’re on the boob or a bottle, you know.

Getting dressed, getting undressed and going to bed. All of those things happen pretty much at least once a day. And if we maximize those tiny moments, then we are supporting and connecting with our babies in these very valuable ways. Supporting all areas of development and maximizing that time. Of course, we want more. We always, well, we don’t always want more. Here’s the thing, whether you work full time or home is your work or it’s somewhere in between. It’s not like a stay at home mom or dad is spending all their time staring at the baby either. Right? Like you’ve got to get done, you got to get your job done, you go grocery shopping, you go to the bank, you go do whatever. You have to get your work and your life done. So we’re all trying to fit that sort of connection piece in amidst the duties of real life.

Lou Blaser That is so true. It’s so instead of feeling guilty that you’re spending six, seven, eight hours of work, focus on maximizing those times that you are actually with your baby or with your kid.

So when I was growing up, it was Sesame Street, TV shows like that, right? But nowadays there are things like YouTube and things like that. Apparently, there are YouTube videos that sound like they’re for kids, but they’re not really very good videos for kids, but they’re being billed as kid-friendly. So, between that and the video games that are now all over the place, this may be a controversial question to ask you, but how effective are those or should we be staying away from those? But I could understand for the, for the mom or the Dad who’s very busy and it just got back from, or can I just sit Mike in front of the YouTube Channel and be done with it?

Ayelet Marinovich Yeah. Okay. So yes, there’s a lot to unpack in there. One thing that I want to be very clear about is you do you. You get your life done and whatever way that works for you, do that.

What I see as a clinician and as a parent educator is basically this misconception that “educational apps” or screens or even like button-pushing, noise-making toys that are often billed as learning activities and learning toys. And you know, your baby will learn about categories and colors and animals and blah blah blah. Okay, first of all, a button-pushing toy teaches one thing and one thing only cause and effect. If a baby pushes a button, something happens.

That’s how they learn how to do that. Now you can learn cause-and-effect by many other things including things like gravity, right? Experiments and gravity. If I take this piece of food and throw it on the ground, my mom will pick it up. That’s also cause-and-effect. Right? So that one thing that those toys teach can be and will be learned in many other ways.

Now, the other thing is with things like screens and those educational apps or toys or videos, there is a theory of, I believe it’s called the transference of learning where essentially kids under the age of 2 or 3, can learn.

Can they acquire language through looking at say a two-dimensional picture of a ball? Let’s say there is a ball bouncing up and down and there’s a character or a voice saying ball, ball, catch the ball, throw the ball, blah, blah, blah.

If that child has no direct experience with a three-dimensional ball playing with their caregiver or in their environment, they are not going to learn the word. They are not going to acquire vocabulary that they have no contextual learning and contextual experience with.

Now maybe over a period of time, maybe, and especially after a certain age, yes. But if we’re looking for efficiency and effectiveness, that’s not the most effective way to teach your baby anything.

If the baby knows the word ball, then they can receptively or comprehendingly recognize that that is a ball on the screen potentially. So I think the misconception is that “Oh, these educational apps and videos, they’re great for my kid and they’re going to teach them new skills.” Well, that’s actually not true.

Now, are you going to hurt your baby’s brain by sitting him in front of the TV while you make dinner or whatever? No, he’s going to be fine. Just make sure that you’re also doing together stuff, right. Also interacting, also providing opportunities for your baby to imitate and play and have actual physical learning experiences with that stuff.

Lou Blaser Don’t completely outsource it to the app.

Ayelet Marinovich And you know, we talk about screen babysitting. Hopefully, a babysitter would do more than that. Here’s the thing, when you go to a park in the middle of the day or a playground and you see a lot of the nannies are on their phones, parents are on their phones. I get it. We all do it some time. I do it too. But I also make sure to engage with my child as well. Because what they learn is through imitation.

So if you are on your phone and showing your child, if they’re trying to get your attention, that the phone is more important then they’re going to learn that the phone is more important and they’re going to be even more curious about it. They’re going to be more obsessed with it when they have the chance to engage with it. We’re talking about efficiency and maximizing our time, and that’s not the most effective way.

Lou Blaser I have a girlfriend who works from home and I think her daughter is under three years old or certainly under five. She tells me that when she had the baby, she made sure that she has a separate workspace and that she only does her work in that workspace. She doesn’t work anywhere else in the apartment. She hopes that she’s training her kid that when mommy goes in that room, mommy has to work for a little bit, but when mommy comes out, mommy will be with her 100%. Something like that.

Ayelet Marinovich That’s awesome. That’s a great way to do it.


 

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