My son had a basketball game today for his middle school team. He’s on the C team (which comes after the B team which comes after the A team) so we’re not talking a glamorous, high profile game. But when I walked into the door, saw his face light up and then proceeded to witness his game and his constant looking over at me, I knew the 20 minutes of play time he got today were the most important 20 minutes of my day.
For working parents, being able to attend these events is hard. Looking around today, there weren’t that many parents at the game. I’m sure every parent who was NOT in attendance had very good reasons and it had ZERO reflection on how much they love their child.
My son has Autism so communication, verbal communication, is really hard. He doesn’t like to have conversations. He’s not capable of sharing his feelings verbally. When I try to tell him how I feel about him, he doesn’t want to have that conversation either. As I’m connecting with more and more parents of typical kids, I’ve learned that my teen with Autism isn’t so different than a typical teenage boy. My ACTIONS need to be the way I tell him how much I care about him. Today, I was able to tell him I love him by attending his game. And he was able to tell me that he’s glad I’m his mom.
But making this 20 minutes happen took a lot of planning and preparation. I’m hoping that sharing how I accomplished this helps another parent get the same 20 minutes I got today.
Block Your Calendar
When I got the basketball schedule, I added the games to my work calendar along with travel time. This way, when others are trying to schedule time with me, they know that I’m busy during this time so they can find a better time that works for both of us.
I’ve let my manager and my team know that attending these games is important to me. I try to structure my work so it’s about what I’m delivering each week rather than how much time I spend at the office. This helps. I set goals based on a full workload for the week and then juggle the time as necessary to meet all of my commitments for both work and home.
Carve Out Time
Even when you block your calendar and set expectations, it’s still hard to find the time to do it all. Sometimes I get up early so I can start on my work day earlier. Commute time takes up at least 45 minutes each way. Today, I worked from home and got 90 minutes back. I got my full workday in AND made it to the game. I also reduced travel time by staying closer to home for the day.
It Goes Both Ways
Often, spending time at a school event in the afternoon means I need to focus on work in the evening–and miss that time with my family. I try to use this to teach my kids about trade offs and balance. I want them to be hard workers when they have jobs. I want them to see that when I leave work early, that time needs to be made up somewhere. It’s a good lesson to teach them.
Let’s face it, we’re all very busy. It’s easy for the pressures of work, meetings, deadlines and commuting to cause us to miss opportunities to really connect with our kids. But with a little planning and preparation, we’ve got a better chance of catching some of the precious moments before we lose track of where all our time went and our kids grow up faster than we could have ever imagined.