When you’re a parent, your “free time” comes in small windows. Maybe, if you’re lucky, your kids will sync up their nap schedules and you’ll have two uninterrupted hours to clean up, prep a meal and get a load of laundry going. It’s no wonder parents try to multitask so often. You know, check your smartphone with one hand while pushing the swing with the other?
What we’re getting at? Being a fully engaged parent at all times is about as mythical as unicorns. But being more connected to our kids is something parents should strive to achieve.
Jon Jon West, who writes about being a stay-at-home dad, published an essay in Fatherly relaying some tips on how he remains an engaged father. We’ve got to admit, some of these tips are pretty brilliant
Secrets To Becoming An Engaged Parent
What are some of West’s secrets to engagement success? Here’s just a few:
Plan ahead for the day
When there’s a plan, it’s easier to stay focused. West uses this trick to help him stay intentional with his day.
“Parenting is really reactive if you are not intentional,” he said in his essay. “And reacting all day can make you feel helpless.”
Get up before the kids
Ok, this might not be so easy, especially if you have early risers in the home. But, West claims when he gets up even a few minutes before the kids, he feels more in control.
Have people over during your child’s nap time.
“I’ve started this thing where I’m inviting friends over who have flexible lunches during his nap time,” West writes. “I make them food, they make me sane.”
For example, West says four of his former colleagues were coming over for beer-can chicken, potatoes and coffee. He can’t meet friends at a restaurant for lunch, so he invites them over instead. This gives him the adult conversation he needs to get through the day.
Keep people around when the kids wake up
When your kid wakes up and does something you’d usually find annoying (it’s OK, we can admit this), it can actually be funny with friends around.
“Having someone around when your kid throws an entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet makes it easier to see how laughable it is,” West wrote.
Turn the phone off
Even West knows turning off the phone is easier said than done. But, he also realized it pulled him away from his son.
“When I have my phone off, I’m more likely to be bored,” he said. “When I’m bored, I’m more likely to engage him.”
So, just turn off the phone, even if it’s only for a short period of time. The email and internet will still be there when you return. We promise.
Get enough sleep
Even if you want to stay up after the little one goes to bed, try not to stay up too late. Parenting kids can be an exhausting job. You need a good night’s sleep to keep up with them! Don’t start out the day already tired because you didn’t get enough shut eye.
Get some exercise
West also suggests taking time to work out because, after all, parenting is a physically demanding job. You need to stay in shape as much as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean join a gym. Just make some time in your day for some personal physical activity.
Plus, if we might add: Exercise is an all-natural, scientifically proven way to improve your mood and boost your energy, which are parenting superpowers.