The most difficult thing about becoming a parent is watching the concept of free time evaporate. In the old days, “getting ready” was part of the fun of going out. Two luxurious hours could easily be invested in outfit selection and grooming. Your chart-topping responsibility along with your career and social life was looking good and having fun. Then came kids. Just like many other things in life, the simple pleasure of limitless free time is something that you took for granted. Motherhood is rewarding. But it is also riddled with responsibilities and a never-ending to-do list. From pre-dawn to post dusk you are consumed by the daily grind. Work out? Lunch with friends? Movie on a weeknight? Browsing store windows just because? Not Going to happen. You are on autopilot, taking care of everyone in the family. Often times, neglecting yourself.
That is why I live for bribery. In order to create the small chunks of “me time” required to pull myself together, I always have a slew of tricks up my kimono sleeve to keep my kids occupied so I can glam myself up in peace. Of course, the mode of bribery depends upon the age of the child. The iPad is, of course, crack for the pint-sized. Really little kids love Play Doh, anything Crayola, sticker books and coloring books. At 3, they like Disney Princesses and action figures. They also have the attention span to get involved in time-consuming craft activities like friendship bracelet-making and Legos. Once your kids hit 5 and understand if/then consequence scenarios, it is critical to have bigger ticket items to hold over their heads as bargaining chips. I am a fan of locking diaries, Hot Wheels, Etch-A-Sketch and Leapster.
I sock these items away in my closet. Then, I take a five minute bubble bath.
- Infants: videos are opium of the inert set. Stick on the Baby Mozart and go get glam.
- Toddlers: Art challenge. Have them make a poster or a five-page book that they get to present to the family that evening. Crayons and glue are required. Or, have a large dry erase board. Tell them a story and have them draw it. They win a prize if it is done well. Or, turn on some kid-friendly TV programming. A little mindless TV never hurt anyone.
- 4-6 years: “Favorite Things” board: A magnetic bulletin board is excellent for crafty projects. Give kid (s) some magazines and let them rip out all of the cool things that he/she loves. Then, have them perfectly cut them and put them on the board with magnets. Then, they can tell you what everything is and why they love it.
- 7-10 years: They can read, so they have to read a book. Or, let them play on your phone.