Okay so let me just get this straight from the off. When I mean spoiling them, I don’t mean buying hoards of toys, clothes and anything else that involves spending ridiculous amounts of money on them. What I mean is that we should spoil them with our time and attention. As a lone working parent of 2 school aged boys this is a lot easier said than done. But it is possible, amongst the school drop offs/pick ups, cooking meals, after school activities, friends parties, work, exercise and everything else there is that makes up family life with young children. It does help that I like being organised and so most things are either scheduled into my diary or on my daily or weekly task list. My keeness to plan things means that every week I have time scheduled into my diary to spend with each of my boys individually. They both know about it and each week they look forward to their ‘daddy time’.
To most this will probably sound strange and maybe even a bit OTT or OCD but it works for us. But actually my diary helps me to not forget things or rather to not forget most of the important things. I used to have a great memory but in recent years circumstances have meant that as a lone parent I can’t remember or do everything. It’s simply not possible. Being Mum & Dad means that I have to stay on top of as many things as possible but also be prepared to accept that I also have to let some things drop. Lone or single parents will get this in particular. There isn’t the option of having a partner who can do the drop off, pick up or share any of the other tasks in raising a family. So I prioritise what I do and what we do as a family and one thing that is at the top of the prioirity list is time with my boys. This is time for them to choose something simple that we can do together. Go for a walk, out for a bike ride, a visit to the park, read some books, play with some toys or build a den etc. This is a non negotiable and other things are fitted in around this time.
As parents it’s easy to get things the other way around. Not through bad parenting but just through every day life getting on top of us. Work, running a home and raising a family is hard and each of these things have varying demands on our time. But for me prioritising my family always comes first. Back in 2012 I quit the city. I was in a well paid job and from the outside it looked like I was doing well for myself as I was able to afford to do lots of different things. The problem was that with a soon to be 3 year old, I didn’t see much of him during the week. My late wife and I rushed to fit things in at weekends and before the weekend barely started, it was over and we felt that we hardly had any time together as a family. So we had decided that one of us would give up the daily grind and freelance and/or set up a business. In the end it was a no brainer for me to give up the 1.5 hour commute each way which caused me to be out of the house at least 12 hours a day, including the time needed to take my son to nursery followed by a mad rush to get the next train into London.
Given that I’m now a lone parent, that decision proved to be even more significant than I could have ever imagined. Working for myself means that I get to plan what goes into my days and so I get to choose the balance between work and time with my boys. As I watch them while we build dens or chase each other with water pistols or we play ‘tickle monster’, I know that I won’t ever be able to get the time back with them if I don’t invest in building a solid relationship with them now. So I spoil them more than anything with lots of hugs, tickles and anything else that they enjoy us doing together. The key for us is plenty of quality time where they have my complete and undivided attention. No phones, tablets, laptops or any devices that would otherwise interrupt us. Although our lives are busy, just before the start of a new week when I’m planning ahead for everything that we’re doing, a big smile appears on my face when I see the entries in my diary for ‘daddy time’ and look forward to them in anticipation of what’s going to happen this week.
Written by Alec Grant