Parenting: making the small stuff count – from flexible working to bedtime stories
It’s not the big stuff we do once, but the little things we do day after day that make a difference. And this is illustrated in no greater way than in parenting. Flexible working has really helped me see this.
It means taking time to stop and smell the roses – or at least photograph the daffodils.
I’m a great goal writer and list maker, but recently my goals have been less focused on the massive stuff (take family gap year and go round the world, buy our forever house, become a famous comedian, get that bloody book published) – and more on being focused on what’s happening here and now.
Last week I blogged about baking and kids, and how the slow act of baking (weighing, sorting, kneading, mixing) is a metaphor for life – where it’s the process and not the end result that brings the most joy.
That means celebrating the family moments – the games we play, the puzzles we do, the meandering walks we take – and instead of focusing on the top of the mountain (get that bloody book published), focusing on the next footstep I must take (it’s Friday – breathe, and sit down at your MacBook).
In interests of transparency I should say that the above is not a shot of my desk, but of my table at Valentina’s on Chiswick High Road. The beauty of modern day technology is now any friendly cafe can be your office, and any table your desk.
Flexible working – thank heavens for modern workplace policy
Thanks to modern policies around flexible working, I’m blessed to have Fridays “off” for blogging and writing (and housework).
I bang on about flexible working a lot on my blog, but it’s because without it my life would be so different. Just having these blessed few hours to myself, in between school drop off and pick up, has absolutely tipped the balance of my work life balance.
I work a full five day week in four days, and it’s completely worth it. I drop my son off at breakfast club Mondays to Thursdays and then carry on to the office. Chiswick Daddy picks him up, and I get back at about 7:30pm and eat dinner round the table with my family. This is our sacred family time. Chiswick Daddy makes amazing dinners, we always light candles, and we do a blessing at the start of the meal, and then talk about our days as we eat.
Most nights we have time for a game or puzzle after dinner.
You can’t beat a bit of Top Trumps (this is the Dr Who 12th Doctor pack)!
We also love this road block puzzle (official name is ‘Rush Hour’) from Think Fun. It comes with a set of cards showing pre-set puzzles that you set up and then work out (the aim is to get the red car out by moving the other vehicles). But Chiswick Boy has worked through those and now has more fun making up his own puzzles to set me.
Who uses a landline these days?
Do note the detritus of family life on the table above. I haven’t even bothered to try and hide the wine bottle, or the dirty bowl before taking the photograph!
Also of note is the rubbish phone. I’m not a big lover of telephones. We grudgingly have a landline, but no-one calls us on it apart from people pretending to be from Microsoft and offering to fix my computer.
In fact the sole use of our phone is for us to call our mobiles when we can’t find them in the house.
I do stay in touch with my mum multiple times a day, but by email. And we’ll use Facetime to speak to my brother and his family. If I want to contact a friend I always text. Human contact I like – it’s just landlines I can’t fathom.
The gift of reading
In our house, pyjamas and teeth routine starts at around 8:20 for the 8:30 ‘hopping into bed and having some reading time in bed’ step. After that, and we have done this since Chiswick Boy was a toddler, we (mainly me) read him a book in bed until he falls asleep.
What lovelier way is there to fall asleep than to the sound of someone you love reading you a great book? When I’m laid up with a cold and just too mind-racy to sleep, Chiswick Daddy will read to me – and it sends me off to sleep as surely as it sends Chiswick Boy off to sleep.
Chiswick Boy loves reading. I don’t take this for granted. I was a veritable bookworm at his age but I don’t think reading necessarily comes naturally.
I think that children need to have access to exciting and interesting books to fall in love with reading, and they need to see their parents reading too. I’m not an expert on children’s literacy – these are just my theories and I may be wrong.
No mooch up Chiswick High Road is complete without a potter around the bargain bookshop, which has a bursting kids’ section. You can get a Wimpy Kid chapter book for less than the price of a hot chocolate and cookie.
A book filled house
I was surrounded by books when I was little. (My parents were academically rich if financially poor – my dad was an Oxford graduate mathematician who fell into teaching, and my mother was and is an extremely well read, literary fanatic who didn’t go to university because it’s not what her father decided she should do with her life. Oh my parents’ lives, and the story of how they met, is really interesting, but I shall save those stories for another day.)
We only sporadically had a telly, and of course there was no internet or youtube or texting or playdates and after school clubs, and apart from a beloved beach holiday at Scarborough when I was six, and a couple of trips to Ireland to see my grandfather, there were no family holidays. What else would we do at weekends or over the gloriously long summer holidays but read?
(I quite loved my microscope set though, complete with working scalpel, that I got at age 5. I’d wander around the house happily with the scalpel looking for things to dissect and put under the microscope. And I was in love with my Sindy and Barbie. Oooh and there was the year I got into my Usbourne’s Spy Guidebook and took everyone’s fingerprints, and painted my chin black with a ‘five o’clock shadow’so I could be inconspicuous. And my chess puzzle book that amused me for weeks.)
Perhaps that’s the joy of reading – it’s not the act of reading itself (good as it is) that gives the most joy, it’s the things that it adds to your non-reading hours.
In essence, reading enhances your small moments. And that takes me back to where I started this blog post – that it’s the small moments that make up your life, particularly your parenting life.
What are the small moments that you relish? And have you ever tried flexible working?