Dear Mama Drama:
I adore my three-year-old daughter and love spending time with her. However, I have so much to do and she always wants my attention. I am frustrated as I can’t seem to get anything done when she is awake, which is most of the day. It ‘s impossible to even make a phone call!
When I tell her I need ten minutes to take care of a few things she cooperatively says, “Okay, Mommy,” and then proceeds to check in with me every minute asking, “Is ten minutes over?”
I need a little sanity, but don’t know what to do. I don’t want to put her in front of the television, but am not sure what other options I have.
~Begging for a break
There are so many mom jobs to get done throughout the day that your frustration is understandable. It is also important for children to learn to spend time safely on their own without constant interaction of adults.
At three your daughter does not understand the concept of “ten minutes” and needs a more concrete definition of when that time is finished. Using a timer can be helpful in facilitating this understanding. A digital timer that she can watch count down and/or listen for the beeping is a good option. Other more expensive choices are visual timers that show a strip of red getting smaller or flash from green to yellow to red when the time is up.
Another idea to help her understand when you are done working (and she’s done waiting) is to give her a time limited task to do during the time you need to make a phone call or complete another task. If she is engaged and has a clear ending time, she is less likely to interrupt along the way.
- Have her listen to (and look at) a recorded book, which supports literacy and listening skills along with setting a clear ending time.
- Give her a stack of books to “read” and have her place them in a basket when she has finished each one. She’ll be able to see when the task is complete and the activity is all cleaned up when she is done reading.
- Put on a music CD and tell her she can come to check in with you when it reaches a particular song or is finished depending on how much time you need.
- Give her an independent project to do in the same room with you. She can have crayons and paper, blocks, beads to string, play dough, or any other toys or activities she can engage with independently.
The keys to success here are providing clear expectations, her being engaged in an activity, and setting a clear ending. Start with small segments of time, five to ten minutes, and stretch her ability to play independently over time. Keep in mind that five minutes to adults is a short time while to a small child it can feel like forever.
We all need our sanity and little break now and then, so be gentle with yourself and remember that a little educational television now and then won’t harm her.
How do you balance mom tasks and time with your kids?