Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Child Neglect in the Form of Self-Indulgence

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My two-year-old has long since learned to unlock deadbolts. I discovered this one morning when I got out of a prolonged bath to find my neighbor, Shirley, standing on my front porch with Liesl. Turns out, Liesl had taken her stuffed elephant, Mimi, on a walk with her Mimi-sized stroller. In her nightgown. With bare feet. And yes, Shirley found her walking in the middle of the road. *Sigh* Thank heavens for kind, watchful neighbors.

Needless to say, I no longer take baths while the kids are awake.

Alone time is difficult to come by the older children grow. Liesl is now over two years and a half years old. She definitely doesn't need a nap any more, and in lieu of the afternoon nap, she gets to watch a movie while her baby sister sleeps. If the movie's entertaining enough, Liesl only comes to pester me once for cheese and grapes, her favorite snack. But if it's not, I end up with a toddler climbing all over me trying to poke at the screen or the keys or "make" my hair, and nothing can convince her to stay planted before the tv. Better she pester me, though, than have her wake her sister an hour before naptime ends.

Like most people I polled, I almost always spend my free time on the computer. Even though I don't work from home, I find myself spending more time in the office than I do even in the kitchen. The last month, I spent at least half my days doing online research in preparation for buying a car. At the end of many of those days, I couldn't remember whether or not I'd made my baby laugh or read a story to Liesl.

As I spend my time blog-stalking, writing, reading the Drudge, or, recently, researching minivans, my daughters have been left to their own devices. How many messes (you can use your imagination) have I cleaned up merely because I wanted just one more minute reading or blogging? And what about the sweet pleas, "Should we read anudder story, mama"? will I ignore them just so I can read about Timothy Geithner? What's more important, anyway?

So while I struggle with my lost alone time, what have you done? How have you balanced children and those little self-indulgent activities?
Or for those of you who selected another option on the poll, what do you do to "neglect" your children?
What kind of activities give you a few more precious minutes to yourself?
What does your child do during quiet time?

I suppose this post isn't so much about sharing advice as it is about sharing stories. I presume most of us feel pretty guilty about these times we put our children on the backburner. I feel that I should spend time with my children every day, but I also feel it's unneccesary to spend every second with them. What do you think?

17 comments:

Liz, Karl and Madison said...

I definitely have to agree that I think it is important for our children to know how to play by themselves but I too sometimes feel very guilty when I neglect my daughter for too long. So I usually try to still interact with her while I am doing whatever it may be that I am doing whether it be blogging or working on some project I want to get done. I usually try to let her help me for a while and soon she grows tired of it and decides on her own to leave (which makes me feel better about letting her play on her own). But I do still try to make sure that I spend one on one time everyday doing what she wants.

Tannie Datwyler said...

Claire still naps, but I have the kids in separate rooms for that nap. What do I do during that time. . . Sleep. . . sadly, I have to. Lots of people give their toddlers quiet time in their room even if they aren't sleeping, I'm sorry you can't do that because Mira and Leisl share. :(

I think that the balance is just important. I check my blogs and interenet in the morning when Richard is here (and in the evening when they are alseep). I try to read my scriptures in the morning while Linus takes his nap and Claire watches a cartoon. Then we spent most of the morning together. During nap time I try to play the piano (if I get enough nap time). After nap time we usually try to play together some, but this is more often than not my "get something done" time. I work on a project and the kids play near me. But they don't always go for this and that is when I feel guilty - like you say for ignoring them. I think it is just important to take a step back and remember sometimes that you will miss them when they grow.

As a side note - I am the only one that said reading takes me away from my kids. I've read an entire book in less than 2 days and ignored Claire. She's been crawling the walls by the time I'm done. That is one of the worst ones for me. I spend quite a bit of time on the computer, but I always manage to get myself off if the kids need me. Books. . . that is my true weakness. If the book is really good I have a hard time stopping.

Tannie Datwyler said...

But, I think you must have them learn to play alone so you can have your time too. It's just so hard to find enough time for yourself and enough time with your kids.

Jared and Delia said...

What would my grandmother say? Not my mom. No. She worked full time until I was in second grade so she wasn't a stay at home mom with young children. My grandmother on the other hand had six children whom she stayed home with AND a sick husband to take care of. We were visiting her when my first was a toddler. She was asking me about how my days are going and after I told her how involved they are even with just one, I asked her what she did. She looked at me perplexed and said, I just did my own thing and they did theirs. She said she would just put her babies on the floor with toys and she would slave in the kitchen cooking for a family of eight without the modern conveniences we enjoy (she is 89 and they were not well off). Her babies would play for hours by themselves and the concept of feeling guilty about that was completely foreign to her. That has given me perspective. Yes...we know more about child development which helps us know that we should spend more time teaching our children. We also have to prepare them for a more academically competitive world than our forefathers had to face. But! I realized how much my oldest was missing out in getting bored and learning to figure something else by himself. They need to get bored to use their creativity and self sufficiency. Qualities that are quickly becoming harder to come by. We try to fit our children in a box instead of letting them take their own shape. Getting bored can help. So if that doesn't help you feel better about "ignoring" them I don't know what will.

Really though. It is good to balance. I try to make sure I make plenty of time for each of my kids so that when I take a moment for myself I don't feel guilty. I look at it as we are all taking our turn. My oldest hasn't napped for a year or more so TV becomes our quiet time too.

I have two computers so I voted twice :). I ignore them in a couple of ways: on the computer and crafting. With both I try to get my oldest involved. I let my him play on the other computer while I blog. When I am crafting he LOVES to sort my buttons for about an hour and it never gets old for him. On a good day this all works and on other days everyone ends up having a melt down...which makes me sigh and wonder as I sit and do NOTHING as I just watch my children play by themselves after said meltdown why everyone is happier when Mom is unhappy and bored. Does it have to be that way?

Thanks for the post. I hope my thoughts were cohesive.

Megan said...

I do feel guilty when I am trying to read a good book and don't want to get up do something with Lucas. However, I to try to make sure he plays on his own and learns to entertain himself. I have a pretty happy child who goes with the flow and doesn't really need me to play with him every moment. However, lately it seems like I am on the internet a lot; not only because I have one college class online, but just to pass time. I don't feel to guilty about my time on the internet because generally Lucas is in the room with me doing something that entertains him.

Tannie Datwyler said...

I love your thoughts Delia and I totally agree!! Claire is super imaginative and I think that is due to the fact that she has played on her own so much.

Jes said...

Ok, first off... I agree with Delia and Tannie about it being important that they learn to be and play by themselves. (especially when theyre where my daugher is now, at 8 months old, and freaking out if we're no in immediate sight *sigh*)So we are actually trying to work on more 'alone time with her' currently... but to answer your questions:

My things are blogging/internet and crafts/sewing/reading. My daughter is STILL what I call an 'over-sleeper'... she seriously is still only awake for few hours of the day and sleeps at LEAST 11(+) hours straight at night... alwasy has... needless to say I get bored sometimes at home by myself, so thats when I am on the computer doing the day... taking 'breaks' here and there to clean and 'get something done' around the house.
My 'craftiness' and reading are usually done in evenings when my husband is home because they are things that I get almost 'too' involved in and need full concentration (ie I get so involved in my books that I can take breaks and get back to 'real life' very easily, so I usually finish a book in one sitting) ... so this stuff I do when my husband is home and is spending time with her as well as during bedtime (she goes to bed between 7pm and 8pm). That way at least one of us is still around her and interacting a bit with her.


When she is awake (the few hours that she is!) they are spent bathing, changing, feeding, reading books together, tummy time (she still isnt remotely interested in crawling!) and playing 'games' with us. I always feel 'guilty' that my time 'should' be spent with her, as well as I really want to spend it with her (and sappy as it sounds, lol, I miss her when she's asleep)... but on the same hand, there can be too much of that too, and too little 'alone' time (for her)....
So, that all brings me back to the fact that she's gotten too used to ALWAYS having us there and now needs to learn to be by herself more.

(hope that made sense... I always just kind of ramble on!)

Chris and Laura said...

I don't know that I have anything new to add... I teach full time all day, and by the time I get home from school, cook dinner, get Jane fed and changed, I'm pretty much beat. I'd much rather sit on the computer or watch some mindless tv for a while. Jane, of course, is much more interested in Mom attention after spending all day with someone else.

I know that I only have a few precious hours with Jane between when we get home and when she goes to bed (giving us roughly 4:30-7:30 every day). While I recuperate from the day, Jane and I usually sit on the couch and read. She seems content quite often just to sit with me, even if we're not doing anything in particular. Sometimes I read, sometimes she "reads", and sometimes we just sit.

I think there's a lot to be said for plain old physical contact. There are a lot of good activities to help kids learn and have fun and grow and develop, but I think that some of our together time needs to be in closer range. When I know that Jane has had her hugs and loves for the day, I feel much better about letting her play on her own while I catch up on everything I can't do at home while I'm at work. I think she feels better, too.

I guess to sum up, everyone needs time on their own, Mom and kids. I would argue that it's a lot about the quality of the time, and not just the quantity.

Jes said...

I really like 'Chris and Laura's' (I assume Laura's :) )... comments about the physical contact too! I try to make sure, no matter what that we all (my husband included because he works a lot between 2 jobs and etc).. at least spends 5 minutes playing or just sitting and cuddling with our daughter as well as that we always 'give loves' and say I love you... both as often as possible.
A lot of the time I think Addie really just likes being 'near' us as well. It doesnt always have to be completely involved 24/7! -just make points that you do spend some time, if not as much time, as possible! :)

Jared and Delia said...

I have to apologize...my wonderful mother who HAD to go to work kindly reminded me that I was being insensitive to working mothers who probably struggle with this issue more than stay at home mothers. As Laura said, they work all day and then get home exhausted to children who want more of them. So...sorry that my comment was exclusionary and ignorant.

JeriLynn said...

Y'all might find it ironic that the blog I copied my picture from has a short discussion on working moms. Heh. Don't tell I stole the pic!

Tannie Datwyler said...

I don't think you were being insensitive Delia - you can't think of everyone's point of view. That's why there are so many moms who comment out there. I do love what you said about physical contact Laura. Working does make it harder to have that quality time - I know, I've been there. You said just the right things for working moms.

Tink said...

For some reason my comment didn't post, so I'll try again. Computer time is my neglect time. But I'm getting better. My 4 yr. old can play for hours at a time on his own. The baby is getting better too at playing, so I know when he's clingy it's because he's hungry or tired. So when my 4 yr. old asks me to play a game or do puzzles with him, I do. Yesterday we did about 7 puzzles w/70-100 pieces each. And you know what? It was really fun. My REAL alone time comes when my husband gets home from work. I either play my favorite word game on his i-phone or have a long, hot shower.

Kelly A. said...

Wow, I feel like I don't have much more to add to what has already been said! I agree that kids need to learn to explore and play on their own and I love what was said about physical touch!

In response to my answer on your poll, now that so many of my friends live in a different city or state than we do I love reading their blogs to stay caught up on their lives, but I really try to only do so when my daughter is down for naps or in bed for the night. She is transitioning from two naps to one now, so I do find myself with less time to myself and I am by no means perfect at balancing my own activities with hers. To answer your last question, my little one loves to look at books.

Tannie Datwyler said...

Oh yes, also to get more alone time (sometimes this is just so Claire isn't in my face while I'm nursing) I use art time. I set her up with playdough, paints, markers (whatever) at the kitchen table with a HUGE plastic table cloth and a bib on. It gives me a few sane moments.

Jared and Delia said...

Legos are great for older kids, if they are into them that is, for quiet time. My husband is really good at getting my oldest into thinking up something and then letting him run with it. If you don't want to use the TV I have heard of parents using books on tape to listen to while they color or play. My son hasn't been into them, but I haven't tried them in a while so...

I just wanted to add something. When my first napped I did all my cleaning, personal time, etc. when he was asleep for naps and at night. Once that nap is gone and more children come into the mix that is no longer realistic or desirable. I am not going to clean my house from 9-11 at night and make racket while I myself am too tired as well.

I have had to try to LEARN not to feel guilty about not giving my children 100 percent of my attention all the time. I still haven't mastered the balancing act and feeling good about it.

Forward With Fun and Faith said...

I feel like Kelly..So many great comments! Props to JeriLynn on the post. I think about this very topic all the time.

I totally agree with kids needing to entertain themselves and mom's needing to feel like they can indulge too.

I still struggle with this daily but here is my two cents...

Lately, I have tried to set a certain time or time limit to my computer time. That way I am not constantly bringing myself back to it throughout the day. It is when I am constantly on here and there throughout the day that I feel guilty. Especially when my little boy is pulling my hand of the mouse saying, "No check e-mail mommy. No computer." Sad but true. So personally I just need a little structure of when I get my time for myself and for my kids. That way I don't feel guilty! =0)

Tannie, I nap sometimes too! =0) I hope your little guy is doing better with sleeping...