Present but absent parenting is a real thing, but it can be hard to be present all the time, and should we be? Let’s tackle this today as like-minded moms who love our kids, want to be with them, and want to maintain good mental health as well. Post contains affiliate links.
I used to play softball outside in my yard by myself.
That is, I would hit the ball as far as I could then run get it and start over.
The life of a lonely only, people.
I read books, played Barbies, went swimming, and did any number of things without feeling abandoned, neglected, or disconnected from my mother. And I don’t think she was rattled with guilt about the whole affair. It was what it was.
According to this article, parents today spend more time with their kids than any generation before. And yet… we live in a constant state of guilt if we are anything other than fully attentive towards our children.
This comes from the desire to connect with our kids. To have strong relationships. To give them a sense of belonging and acceptance within our families. All good things. But if we aren’t careful, we can let those things drive us into a state of false guilt and condemnation.
How can striving to be a “present parent” drive us insane?
- By feeling like we’re never enough. That we don’t do enough, play enough, laugh enough, or talk enough with our kids. Even when we are spending ample time with them, we can let this false guilt make us feel like perpetual mom failures.
- By raising kids who expect our undivided attention any time they want it. This creates entitled children and parents who never get a minute to take care of their own matters.
So how can we practice present parenting in a healthy way?
Of course, our kids need our time and attention. Particularly if quality time or compliments are their love languages. And the good news is we can do it in a healthy way.
Listen to your kids
Sounds simple, and it is. But it’s often hard to put into practice. When the kids come up to you and ask a question, make eye contact. Give them a thoughtful answer. Smile at them. If they engage you, engage back. You don’t always have to print some fancy printable conversation starter to talk with your kids. Listen to their questions and get to know them.
This doesn’t mean every time they ask you something (especially if it’s for the 506th time) you drop what you’re doing, but you let your kids know you are there for them. You are willing, nay eager, to talk with them. Feeling heard and understood goes a lot way towards feeling accepted.
Have daily traditions
By having certain standard activities each day that give children time and attention, you don’t always have to plan something grandiose. Simple things like no screen mealtimes, reading before naps and bedtime, talking before bed, and asking questions at school pick-up demonstrate your love for your child. Add in regular hugs, cuddles, and roughhousing and you’re already giving your child a lot of affirmation.
Teach your children to wait
Sounds like the opposite of “present parenting”, but you don’t have to jump when they say jump. In fact, when you give your children a false sense of control over their own lives they become insecure, not more secure. By teaching your child to “give you a minute” they learn patience, self-control, and trust. Trust is built when you follow through with what you’ve said. Your child can wait until you finish talking with your spouse, unloading the dishwasher, or putting the baby to bed. Then, when you’re able, you can get eye level and refer to point #1.
Trust is built when you follow through with what you’ve said. Your child can wait until you finish talking with your spouse, unloading the dishwasher, or putting the baby to bed. Then, when you’re able, you can get eye level and refer to point #1.
Teach your children to use their imagination and play
Children who are used to playing alone regularly and using their imagination instead of being entertained are more content with their own company. They are less needy, whiney, and don’t create habits of acting out to get attention. Couple that with a mom who already gives daily attention they can count on and you have an independent child who is confident in their parents’ love and affection.
The less a child is able to entertain themselves the more they are at your feet all day. The more they are at your feet all day the more you try to escape them. The more you try to escape them the more guilty you feel and the worse your children behave in an effort to get attention. It’s the unhappy cycle at work.
Know Your Limits
One of the quickest ways towards the “I have to ignore my kids today or I will scream” phase is ignoring your need to be refreshed. Day after day of hyper-vigilance and night after night of night wakings, you are Past the Point. When we are emotionally drained and overwhelmed we simply don’t have the capacity to give our kids the attention we’d like. This is why it’s important to find time for ourselves in everyday life as best we can. The more centered we are the more we have to give our kids.
The more empty we are, the more we resent our kid’s cries for attention.
Recognize what false guilt is
In fact, you are likely suffering from false guilt. False guilt is when you are innocent of something yet feel guilty about it. You spent 4 hours with the kids, spent 12 fiddling with fondant for their minion birthday cake, then played tea party with your daughter and you go to bed wondering if it was enough. False guilt.
One of my most popular posts to date is The Dangers of Present but Absent Parenting. However, to be a proper present but absent parent you’ll have to create patterns of neglect that last years. This is not a one-time “I have a lot to do today” type thing. If you work hard to be with your kids and do things for them and with them, you are nowhere near a present but absent parent.
It is necessary to spend quality time with your child.
It is important they know they are loved and cherished.
But it’s okay if your kids play outside alone.
Or if you sit down to read a book – have mercy – in the middle of the day.
You are a loving mother, but you are not everything to everyone at every minute. And that’s okay.
The book The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Children When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups has made waves recently with a few viral posts quoting bits here and there. The reviews are interesting and I’ve put the book on my wish list!
I’ve created a free email series just for you! If you have a little one aged 1 to 8, this series will help transform your home environment. No, that is not a joke or false claim. You can let your kids express their emotions without raising back talkers who meltdown at the drop of a hat or throw a tantrum every time they are unhappy with something. After this free email series:
- your child will stop throwing tantrums for attention
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- you’ll feel more in control of the atmosphere of your home and will be able to operate out of a place of love, not frustration
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