As a working father, I often worry about getting enough quality time with my 1-year-old daughter. I work roughly 50 hours a week from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. If you tack on commute time then it’s really more like 53 hours. (Yes, I realize that I probably don’t commute as much as most people, and that’s very intentional.)
Lydia usually wakes up around 7:45 a.m. and goes to sleep around 7:30 p.m., which means I’m lucky if I get to spend a full two hours with her on a weekday. Because the time is so short, I always want those hours to be as meaningful as possible. I would never go so far as to say that I have found the perfect solution to creating meaningful time with my daughter, but because I am constantly conscious of my time with her, I have come up with a strategy that I think could be useful for others. If I had one piece of advice to give to fathers about how they can have meaningful time with their kids, it would be this: own a piece of your child’s routine. In our house, dad is in charge of breakfast and bedtime.
Being in charge of the bedtime routine is something I volunteered for, but I don’t really remember how I came to be in charge of breakfast. I think it had something to do with the fact that I wake up in the mornings to work out, so I am usually up and at it when Lydia wakes up (especially since Hannah is pregnant and could sleep for 12 hours a night). However it started, after a week or so of me getting Lydia out of bed, Hannah and I commented to each other about the developing pattern and decided to make it more official. As soon as we hear Lydia wake up, I go into her room, get her out of her crib, carry her into our bedroom so she can say hello to mom, and then take her to the kitchen for breakfast. After a few months, this routine has become ingrained into Lydia’s life, and when Hannah goes to get her out of bed for whatever reason, she can be heard saying, “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” until she sees where I am.
Ever since Lydia started sleeping on her own through the night, I have been in charge of the bedtime routine. Our routine is extremely simple (I’ve always wondered why some parents make their bedtime routine so elaborate. It just creates so much work for yourself any time you’re on a tight schedule and want to get the baby to bed!), but enough that she knows what’s going on. We brush her teeth, change her diaper, and get pajamas on. Sometimes we read a book or watch a video of herself that Hannah recorded earlier in the day. (She’s slightly obsessed with watching herself.) We pick up her stuffed monkey, Kiki, fill up her sippy cup with water, give mom a kiss and then head to bed. I sometimes read her another book or sing her a song before saying a prayer and giving her a kiss goodnight. All in all, the routine usually takes less than 10 minutes, but it’s valuable time I get with my daughter.
The reason I think owning pieces of Lydia’s routine is so meaningful is because she knows I am an everyday part of her life. She knows I am involved and expects me to be there for her. Sometimes work demands require extra hours, so I haven’t been perfect, but it makes me happy to know that she misses me when I’m not around. To all you fathers out there, I hope you have found a strategy to be involved with your kids at home. To all you mothers, if your husband doesn’t own a part of your child’s routine, give him something to do! You’ll get a break, and I guarantee he’ll thank you later.