There is no denying that in today’s fast-paced world, work pressures, deadlines and daily commutes take up a huge chunk of people’s time. And for parents, chances are that this routine grind leaves them with very little time for their children.
When both parents have full-time careers, it is quite possible for kids to feel neglected despite the best intentions of the parents. But hectic work schedules do have their cons; reaching home late and wading through peak-hour traffic, only to get back to kids who have already gone to bed denies the desired face time between kids and parents. Such a scenario could knowingly or unknowingly turn parents into weekend parents.
Feelings of guilt and anxiety that arise from not being able to spend time with their children could lead to emotionally driven parenting – a condition where parents either overcompensate by giving into the child’s demands or become overly involved in their kid’s life by taking responsibility for their child’s successes and failures.
“What parents must understand is that parenting is a skill that requires balancing with the appropriate approach, which goes beyond the hearsay modes of practice. The key to achieving this balance is to have good, healthy and reciprocal communication between parents and children,” says Mimansa Singh Tanwar, clinical psychologist and head, Fortis School Mental Health Program, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.
The struggle is real
Rashi Khan, a corporate professional and single mother to ten-year-old twins Ria and Sia, admits that the struggle to find a balance is real and eternal. “I had no idea that embracing motherhood and pursuing a career could feel like walking a tightrope. It’s been ten years, and yet every day I am trying to make time for my kids out of my work schedule. And sometimes on weekends too, it gets hard when I have to attend events or work parties,” says Khan.
So how do her kids cope with the situation? Khan says that earlier her daughters used to miss her, and that used to send her on a guilt trip. But now that they are older, they have learnt to ask her for things that she would not give them under usual circumstances, reveals Khan. “I don’t know how good a parent I currently am, but despite trying, things are back to square one and my guilt makes me overcompensate,” says the concerned mother.
Does weekend parenting amount to bad parenting?
While your curtailed time with your kids might lead you to question your parenting altogether, it does not necessarily make you a bad parent, says Satinder Kaur Walia, a child psychologist associated with BLK-Max Hospital, Gurugram, Haryana. “What really matters is that you are aware that you are spending less time with your child, so you will take the measures to make it matter. In the end, it is all about quality over quantity,” Walia adds.
Experts feel that spending time with kids doing meaningful things is often more important than spending the entire day and week with the child and not achieving anything substantial. So, if you find yourself having meaningful interactions with your child only during the weekend, don’t lose heart. Sometimes being a weekend parent could also be a good thing as you tend to focus all your attention on the kids instead of being unhappy around them 24/7 or staring at the phone or laptop screen when your child is vying for your attention.
Dr Karnika Tiwari, a gynaecologist at Motherland Hospital, Noida, and a parent herself, says, “forget being a weekend parent; sometimes I find myself working even on weekends. I’m a doctor, so my work is round the clock. So whatever little time I get, I make sure I spend it with my children. Of course, there’s guilt, but it also means that we give our undivided attention to the children and listen to them. That could be one positive way of looking at it.”
Bhuvan Mathur, a marketing professional, and his wife Mitu Mathur, an architect, parents to two kids, says, “we don’t have a very hectic work schedule, but if there are times when the both of us are busy, we make sure that one parent shoulders the responsibility of both the parents even during weekends. So we take turns to check the homework, take them for birthday parties or to the park, or visit our extended families on holidays.”
Maximising weekend parenting
There are multiple things you can do to make the most of weekend parenting.
- Make it count: Sometimes instead of being in a mad rush to do various activities, even if one stays at home and simply watches a movie with the kids or cooks them their favourite meal, it could be a lot of fun.
- Mission outings: The idea is to have some real good fun over the weekend that the kids will look forward to. So check up on activities that can be booked in advance and take them out on weekends.
- Family matters: Catch up with family and take them to meet their favourite cousin or grandparents. Even cooking or baking together, going on a hike, swimming or indulging in crafting activities together could help in bonding.
- Avoid fights and bickering: Raising the voice, bickering and fights must be avoided at all costs, because the kids must not feel that the parents are forced to spend time with them or that they are the cause of the friction.
- Discipline and homework: For weekend parents, it’s a tough call to set the rules and become the bad guy. But being consistent and setting rewards and boundaries could have a positive effect in the long run. That way, kids learn their limits and also become a whole lot more independent.
Quality time counts
“Give your child your complete attention. Avoid any distractions while you choose to spend that time with them. The way you interact with the child — through eye contact, active listening, verbal cues and group problem-solving — will show them that you are fully engaged with them. Try to learn more about their lives, experiences in the classroom, playground and on social media, as well as their interactions with peers. Children need tools to navigate and deal with many more social and emotional challenges that go beyond academics,” says Dr Singh.
Garima Bajaj, a lawyer from Delhi, says that initially, she used to feel guilty about not being able to prioritise her child. “But then I realised that spending quality time is better than just being together for the sake of it. Weekends are meant for my son; we are together from morning till night. Those days with him are spent in studying, chatting, reading, grabbing our favourite meal and having fun,” says Bajaj.
In a nutshell, work-life balance plays a crucial role in achieving this delicate harmony. “Once a child finishes studies and is on his/her path, parents should not end up thinking that they gave up too much, including their career growth for their child. So, working towards one’s passion and devoting quality time to one’s child is the ideal recipe for happy parenting despite the initial hiccups,” Bajaj sums up.