Losing my job helped my kid in ways I didn't expect

I now realize my stressed-out routine was affecting her—here are the changes I'll make when I go back to work.

Photo: iStockphoto

When I was working full-time, our morning routine went something like this: I’d wake up at 5:30 a.m. (or earlier, on days when I’d exercise), get myself mostly ready and then prepare breakfast for myself and my two-year-old. If I was lucky, she’d sleep until at least 6 or 6:30, so I could get this all done before she got up. Then she watched an episode of Peppa Pig and ate her breakfast while I still scrambled to get out the door by seven, at which point my spouse took over to complete the less-than-graceful morning ballet with daycare drop-off by 8:30 a.m. Fast-forward to February of this year when I was laid-off quite unexpectedly, and our whole world was flipped upside down—for the better, as we’d later learn.

About a week into unemployed life, my husband and I noticed a shift in our daughter, Evelyn’s, overall behaviour. She went from being fussy, clingy and mischievous to happy, calm and more easy-going. She no longer demanded Peppa Pig in the mornings and she didn’t get into as much mischief—running up the stairs unsupervised, taking apart my handbag, stealing cheese from the fridge. It didn’t take us long to realize that this coincided with our morning routine easing up.

Now, I definitely plan on going back to work full-time, but I want to hold on to some of this smooth-sailing morning bliss when I do. I contacted Calgary-based parenting educator Gail Bell, who said it’s possible for parents to have calm weekday mornings, but it can take some effort. Here are some thing we can do:

Prioritize time management

Kids thrive on routine. “It’s comforting and makes children feel secure when things stay the same,” says Bell. “It’s on you, as the caregiver, to prioritize organization and time management.” Whether that means waking 30 minutes before your kids to get yourself ready or taking some time the night before to pick your outfit, pack your bag or make lunches, a little organization will go a long way toward ironing out the kinks in your morning routine.

Spend time with your kid

Illustration of a woman in an office looking out a office window at her reflection who is holding a baby Should you quit your job to be a stay-at-home mom? It seems counter-intuitive, but slowing down to hang out with your kid can actually save you time in the long run. That’s because the good feelings kids get from your undivided attention prompt them to be more cooperative. “When kids have had your attention, they’re more amenable to getting out the door on time or, in the evening, going to bed,” says Bell.

Be clear when you’re adulting/working/parenting

Of course it’s best to finish work at work. But sometimes you’ll need to check emails or take a call when you get home—and that’s okay—but let your kid know that’s what you’re doing. In other words, don’t sneak away (busted!). “Kids want your attentions,” says Bell. “When they don’t feel like they’re getting it, that’s when they act out.”

Have a family breakfast

Other than the fact that I’m no longer running out the door at the crack of dawn, having breakfast with my daughter (rather than a sad banana at my desk) is a highlight of my new routine. We’ll blend a smoothie together, eat our oatmeal and chat about what we’re bringing on our pretend picnic. Many people try to have a family dinner, but in some households, a family breakfast might work as a time to connect. Even if you simply drink your coffee while your kids eat their cereal, you may notice it staves off some of the stressed-out tenseness over the rest of your day.

Make special dates with your kids

If making over your morning routine isn’t feasible (maybe you’re out the door before the kids are even awake), plan a regular parent-kid date. This doesn’t need to be taking them out for a fancy dinner or buying them a special gift or treat. Take your kid on a neighbourhood stroll or a trip to the park where they have your undivided attention (and yes, you should leave your phone at home).

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